By Michael Johns September 24, 2009. One of the most constructive developments of the past eight months is that tens of millions of Americans appear to be reawakening to the critical importance and relevance of the U.S. Constitution. The brazen growth of the federal government, which now controls sizable portions of the economy (automobiles, banks, health care, mortgages and other industry segments), violates the tenets of free market capitalism, the system that has been the foundation of our nation’s globally unprecedented growth and prosperity. But this debate is not merely a policy one. Increasingly, as millions of Americans associated with the burgeoning Tea Party and 912 Project movements are demonstrating, the debate is about whether such expansions of federal powers are even Constitutionally permissible.
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the dangerous disregard for our nation’s founding legal document began. It certainly predates this administration. But the culture upon which it rests might be best exemplified in the apparent Congressional and media groupthink that our 44th President holds no obligation to respond to questions about his Constitutional eligibility, under Article II, Section I of the Constitution, to hold the office to which he ran and was elected. This Constitutional provision states unequivocally that no person except a natural born citizen shall be eligible to the Office of President.
Is Barack Obama a natural born citizen of the United States? Probably. But because Obama is going to great lengths to conceal the documents that would settle this issue definitively, it is impossible to say for sure. Since October 2008, Obama has spent in excess of $1.35 million in legal fees to file protective and privacy motions in at least eight federal lawsuits to avoid releasing the documents–his mother’s hospital admission record, his Hawaii certificate of live birth, his educational records during his four years of residence in Indonesia, his Indonesian citizen status at that time and the time of his subsequent reentry to the U.S., and his college and law school admission records–that likely would definitively establish his Constitutional eligibility. Congress, the media, and even many Obama opponents, meanwhile, have failed to exert any pressure on him to halt his pro-active legal measures to avoid disclosure of these documents.
Quite obviously, the question of a President’s Constitutional eligibility is serious business. It was serious business when, in February 2008, The New York Times called into question Senator John McCain’s eligibility for the office because McCain was born on an American Naval base in the Panama Canal Zone, which was then under U.S. control. “It is certainly not a frivolous issue,” The Times quoted Atlanta attorney Jill Pryor as saying at the time. The questions also were serious enough for the U.S. Senate to investigate them, with the Senate ultimately concluding in a unanimous vote that the U.S. administration of the Panama Canal Zone at that time meant that McCain was indeed a natural born citizen and eligible for the Presidency.
Whatever these records might reveal, Obama’s extensive, year-long efforts to conceal them are now inexplicable, inexcusable and harmful to the nation. There is no innocuous explanation for his extensive efforts to conceal them, especially since their release is easily authorized and would settle the controversy, permitting the nation to move on with full confidence in his Constitutional eligibility and the Constitutional foundations of our nation in 2009. But Obama has refused to do this and, as a result, a frightening and growing number of Americans now understandably ask the question: What exactly is he hiding?
Let me stipulate that, despite following this issue for a year, I am utterly unable to answer that question. But logic dictates that one would not incur several million dollars in legal fees, as Obama is doing, knowing that the only likely result is that a certain percentage of the American people will view such efforts as non-transparent, or even malfeasant. Conversely, it also is wrong to conclude, in the absence of these documents, that Obama has necessarily misrepresented anything about his birth location or Constitutional eligibility, as some critics of Obama’s concealment of these documents continue to do. Under pressure to settle the issue during his Presidential candidacy, the Obama campaign ultimately produced a Certification of Live Birth in 2007. But that document, skeptics argue, is manufactured by the state and is not an unequivocal authentication of his birth location.
The most important point is this: No national interest is served by permitting these important questions to linger and persist. To settle them, Obama should cease blocking release of the documents sought by the plaintiffs in the various federal cases over his eligibility. And going forward, it seems reasonable to insist that our nation’s Federal Election Commission (FEC), which is charged with regulatory oversight of Presidential elections, require Presidential candidates to submit, along with their candidacy filing, the documents that clearly establish their natural-born eligibility for the office. Americans’ confidence in our Constitutionally-rooted democratic political system requires no less.