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Tennessee birther bill draws attention

My Google news alerts have shown an uptick in articles about the so-called “birther bill” in Tennessee. The Tennessee law would require “long form” birth certificates and the names of hospitals and doctors.

Today I see that WREG TV, Memphis, and The Knoxville News-Sentinel picked up an Associated Press story saying:

State Sen. Bill Ketron told The Tennessean he proposed the bill because he thinks President Barack Obama might be hiding the fact that he was born in another country.

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41 Responses to Tennessee birther bill draws attention

  1. avatar
    Black Lion February 28, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

    2 Tennessee GOP lawmakers want presidential candidates to prove citizenship

    MURFREESBORO — Two Rutherford County legislators are sponsoring a bill that would require U.S. presidential candidates to prove to the state of Tennessee that they were born U.S. citizens to run for the nation’s highest office.

    State Sen. Bill Ketron said he proposed the bill because he thinks President Barack Obama might be hiding the fact that he was born in another country.

    “Why can’t he (Obama) come forward and show he is a citizen?” Ketron said Friday, adding that he has read articles stating Obama has spent $2 million from his campaign fund fighting lawsuits to keep from showing his birth certificate.

    Ketron and state Rep. Rick Womick, both Murfreesboro Republicans, filed the bill that would attempt to force those running for president to file a sworn affidavit with Tennessee’s secretary of state proving they meet “constitutional residency requirements.”

    Ten other states are considering similar legislation. Ketron said when the bill was brought to him for sponsorship, he decided it would give the state of Tennessee a chance to vet the matter and determine if it needed legislation.

    But he added that if Obama has spent $2 million protecting his birth certificate from lawsuits, “I would lean on the side of he’s trying to hide something and he’s not a citizen.”

    Ketron’s doubts mirror those of “birther” activists who believe Obama has refused to show the long form of his birth certificate because he was born in Kenya, the homeland of his father, and isn’t eligible to be presidency.

    Critics of the movement say birthers are fanatics whose claims have been repeatedly disproved and who won’t accept any evidence that Obama is a U.S. citizen.

    Womick said he decided to sponsor the bill in response to some 250 requests. He likened the requirement for seeking the presidency to requiring children to show their birth certificates to participate in youth sports such as football or Little League.

    Following mandates

    The bill is designed to make sure candidates for the nation’s highest office are following constitutional mandates of Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution, Womick said.

    “We don’t have the federal government enforcing it or the Supreme Court upholding it,” Womick said.

    Article 2, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution says: “No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President.”

    Womick said the bill is not targeting any particular candidate.

    “I believe President Obama has a birth certificate,” Womick said. “He says he does.”

    An investigation by snopes.com determined claims were false that the Obama campaign provided a forged certification of live birth three years ago.

    It notes that the certificate from the state of Hawaii made available on the Internet in 2008 shows his full name as “Barack Hussein Obama II” and lists his father’s race as “African” and his mother’s race as “Caucasian” while reporting his birthplace as Honolulu.

    Womick noted that U.S. Sen. John McCain, Obama’s Republican opponent in the 2008 election, was born in Panama.

    “Whether it’s John McCain or Barack Obama, you have to prove you meet Article 2, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution,” Womick said.

    Questions about McCain’s natural-born citizenship also surfaced in 2008 because he was born at a U.S. military installation in the Panama Canal Zone where his father, a Navy officer, was stationed in 1936, according to a New York Times article.

    He qualified for the presidential race because statutes grant citizenship to the children of U.S. citizens born abroad and other laws recognized that Americans would be stationed in the Panama Canal Zone.

    http://www.tennessean.com/article/20110227/NEWS0201/102270372/2-GOP-lawmakers-want-presidential-candidates-prove-citizenship?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|News%20Government%20-%20Metro%20Nashville|s

  2. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy February 28, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    Black Lion: An investigation by snopes.com determined claims were false that the Obama campaign provided a forged certification of live birth three years ago.

    I think there is a “not” missing somewhere in there.

  3. avatar
    elid February 28, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    This guy not only sounds like a full-tile birther, he’s regurgitating the same talking points that were debunked years ago. Are the people of Tennessee *that* stupid?

  4. avatar
    Black Lion February 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: I think there is a “not” missing somewhere in there.

    Yeah…It seems to not flow correctly….

  5. avatar
    richCares February 28, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

    “you mistyped Tennessee”
    not misspelled, just a play on “dissed”

  6. avatar
    Stanislaw February 28, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

    The first time I read that article I misread “Ketron” as “Kreton” (pronounced cretin). That’s probably my subconscious trying to tell me something about the birther movement.

  7. avatar
    euphgeek March 1, 2011 at 12:27 am #

    Dr. Conspiracy:

    I think there is a “not” missing somewhere in there.

    Nope, read it again. It says that the claim, “the Obama campaign provided a forged certification of live birth” was determined to be false.

  8. avatar
    US Citizen March 1, 2011 at 4:58 am #

    I still want to know how one keeps records sealed by spending money.
    All of the lawsuits were dismissed without any trial.

    The birthers seem to think that Obama’s records are like a parking meter where one has to continuously pay money or the time expires.
    $800K, $1mil, $2mil… it just keeps growing and never a word on what specifically said money is actually buying or going towards.
    It’s always “He’s spent x money keeping his records sealed” and that totally makes sense to them, no questions asked.

    Even his lawyer has said he’s working for free.
    Considering he’s not had to do much, if anything, that’s entirely reasonable too.
    Having the honor of being the president’s lawyer is great advertising that money can’t buy anyway.
    Obama has probably made his lawyers more than $2 million simply via the distinction that he’s a client.

    I’d love to know the total amount that birtherism has cost to date.
    The billboards, flights, postage, phone calls, donations, advertising, filing fees, car rentals, court parking, marches, Orly’s $20K….all of those expenses added up.
    What a huge waste of money.

  9. avatar
    Reality Check March 1, 2011 at 9:08 am #

    Tennessee Senator Mae Beavers has sponsored two bills. The most recent one is SB 1091 which is identical to a bill sponsored by Rep. Elam. She was a guest on my show last week. I discussed her lack of knowledge of her own bill in a blog post. http://rcradioshow.blogspot.com/2011/02/senator-mae-beavers-from-tennessee-is.html

  10. avatar
    Dr Kenneth Noisewater (Bob Ross) March 1, 2011 at 9:15 am #

    US Citizen: I still want to know how one keeps records sealed by spending money.All of the lawsuits were dismissed without any trial.The birthers seem to think that Obama’s records are like a parking meter where one has to continuously pay money or the time expires.$800K, $1mil, $2mil… it just keeps growing and never a word on what specifically said money is actually buying or going towards.It’s always “He’s spent x money keeping his records sealed” and that totally makes sense to them, no questions asked.Even his lawyer has said he’s working for free.Considering he’s not had to do much, if anything, that’s entirely reasonable too.Having the honor of being the president’s lawyer is great advertising that money can’t buy anyway.Obama has probably made his lawyers more than $2 million simply via the distinction that he’s a client.I’d love to know the total amount that birtherism has cost to date.The billboards, flights, postage, phone calls, donations, advertising, filing fees, car rentals, court parking, marches, Orly’s $20K….all of those expenses added up.What a huge waste of money.

    Because its like the whole foreign student claim they saw an article that was posted on April Fools day that someone tagged as an AP article when it wasn’t and that’s their basis. They see Obama spent x on lawyer fees for the campaign and somehow that means all that went to “hiding records”.

  11. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy March 1, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    Reality Check: She was a guest on my show last week.

    You do a great job, RC. I’m adding your blog to the links down below.

  12. avatar
    Reality Check March 1, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    Thanks Doc! I will do likewise.

  13. avatar
    misha March 1, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

    elid: Are the people of Tennessee *that* stupid?

    Yes. Remember, if it’s not in the bible, it’s not true.

  14. avatar
    sunkawakan March 1, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

    Rep. Mark Hatfield has filed a birther bill in the Georgia House today, HB 401. It’s as repellent as all the others. This one has the support of 94 republicans.

  15. avatar
    misha March 1, 2011 at 6:18 pm #

    sunkawakan: Rep. Mark Hatfield has filed a birther bill in the Georgia House today

    No surprise. That’s where Leo Frank was lynched.

  16. avatar
    Bob Weber March 1, 2011 at 11:12 pm #

    US Citizen:
    I still want to know how one keeps records sealed by spending money.
    All of the lawsuits were dismissed without any trial.

    *********************************************

    It’s quite possible that the marginal expense for Obama is zero. I asked a lawyer, and she said that she couldn’t see any reason why routine filings for dismissal of crackpot lawsuits wouldn’t be included in a legal retainer agreement, as actual cost of production to the law firm would be minimal.

  17. avatar
    obsolete March 2, 2011 at 1:19 am #

    In a lot of the lawsuits, Obama wasn’t even sued- instead various Secretaries of State had to respond, I believe. Obama spent no money in those cases.

  18. avatar
    nc1 March 2, 2011 at 3:50 am #

    sunkawakan:
    Rep. Mark Hatfield has filed a birther bill in the Georgia House today, HB 401. It’s as repellent as all the others. This one has the support of 94 republicans.

    There is nothing wrong with the law requiring candidates to prove eligibility prior to being listed on the ballot.

    Are you worried that Obama did not tell the truth about his birthplace?

  19. avatar
    obsolete March 2, 2011 at 5:04 am #

    nc1 is pretending that she doesn’t understand that these bills far exceed merely proving eligibility. I think every Obot on this site has said they are ok with a law that requests a certified birth certificate. It’s when they overstep the constitution and ask for doctor’s names and hospital witnesses and parents info and eye exams etc.

    Don’t you support the constitution, nc1?

  20. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy March 2, 2011 at 8:58 am #

    nc1: There is nothing wrong with the law requiring candidates to prove eligibility prior to being listed on the ballot.

    There is nothing wrong, so long as the definition of eligibility doesn’t exceed constitutional requirements and the standard of proof isn’t goofy. The Tennessee bill fails on both points.

  21. avatar
    Horus March 2, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    US Citizen: It’s always “He’s spent x money keeping his records sealed” and that totally makes sense to them, no questions asked.

    We’re not talking geniuses here.
    We’re not even talking IQs above retarded.

  22. avatar
    Horus March 2, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    nc1: There is nothing wrong with the law requiring candidates to prove eligibility prior to being listed on the ballot.

    I beg to differ.
    Yes, it is wrong to demand proof beyond what the constitution requires.
    Any such law will be struck down by SCOTUS long before the election of 2012.

  23. avatar
    Black Lion March 2, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    Majority of Georgia House demands proof of Obama’s citizenship
    3:01 pm March 1, 2011, by Jay

    I would like to shake the hands of 21 Republican members of the Georgia House of Representatives and thank them personally. They have apparently shown wisdom and bravery by refusing to join an effort that is guaranteed to make this state a laughingstock. (It could also be that they just weren’t asked to join the cool kids’ club, I don’t know. But for the moment, I prefer to believe it was a conscious decision on their part.)

    Unfortunately, the remaining 94 93 House Republicans (and one very lost Democrat) have lost their minds, backbone or both. They have signed on as co-sponsors to House Bill 401, a bill that purports to require that all candidates for U.S. president and vice president prove their citizenship before being allowed to appear on the Georgia ballot. And since the 94 co-sponsors comprise a clear majority of the 180-member House, the bill has a good chance of passing unless House leadership intervenes.

    As the bill states:

    The bill also makes it a crime for any Georgia presidential elector “to cast his or her electoral college vote for a candidate who is not approved by the Secretary of State as having submitted adequate evidence of eligibility. Any person who violates this Code section shall upon conviction be guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature.”

    Ladies and gentlemen, this is just nuts.

    UPDATE: The chief sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Mark Hatfield, says he’s not a birther, he’s a “constitutionalist.”

    Baloney. Here’s what the 14th Amendment says:

    “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States….”

    States do not have the power to decide who is and is not a citizen, born or naturalized. A true “constitutionalist” would know that.

    http://blogs.ajc.com/jay-bookman-blog/2011/03/01/majority-of-georgia-house-demands-proof-of-obamas-citizenship/

  24. avatar
    Adam March 4, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    Horus: I beg to differ.Yes, it is wrong to demand proof beyond what the constitution requires.Any such law will be struck down by SCOTUS long before the election of 2012.

    While I agree requiring a document listing doctors and hospitals is goofy, I’m not so sure it is unconstitutional. The Constitution gives the state legislature the power to determine how electors are selected. If demanding long-form birth certificates is part of the process that the state legislature selects, I don’t see how the constitution forbids it.

  25. avatar
    sfjeff March 4, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    The Constitution only requires that the President be a natural born citizen- it doesn’t require a specific criteria of proof.

    I think the court will reject any definition which requires any specific document. The Constitution doesn’t require that a President have a birth certificate, and for the first hundred years of our country or more, no President had one.

    I can see the Court perhaps allowing that States require proof of eligiblity but not a narrow definition of what proof is acceptable.

    For example- a birth certificate requiring listing the hospital and doctors would have made Dwight Eisenhower ineligible, but clearly under the Constitution he was a natural born citizen, and eligible. I do not see the Supreme Court allowing States to disqualify candidates that can establish their eligibility through other means.

  26. avatar
    dunstvangeet March 4, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

    Read the Full Faith and Credit clause, Adam. The Constitution requires that the documents and records of one state be accepted in every other state. It also gives Congress, not the states, the power to supply how to prove those documents.

    The states themselves cannot state that “Oh, the Short-form birth certificate isn’t enough proof to say that you were born in the United States, when the Federal Government and the state where it was issued says that the short-form document proves it.” They can require proof. They cannot restrict that proof to a subset of what is acceptable to the Federal Government. Get my drift.

    If the Short-form is acceptable to prove your birthplace to the Federal Government (as obviously it is), then a state cannot require another document to prove your birthplace to them.

    That’s only one issue. The second is adding additional requirements past the constitution on Federal Office Holders. The citizenship status of Father and Mother are additional requirements, as they do not fall in the definition of Natural Born Citizen. The Supreme Court has already ruled that you cannot add requirements for a Federal Office. I seriously doubt that they’ll rule that the State’s ability to select electors overrides that ruling.

  27. avatar
    charo March 4, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    Adam: While I agree requiring a document listing doctors and hospitals is goofy, I’m not so sure it is unconstitutional. The Constitution gives the state legislature the power to determine how electors are selected. If demanding long-form birth certificates is part of the process that the state legislature selects, I don’t see how the constitution forbids it.

    This a copy of a Georgia bill that allows for other forms of proof. There is a declaration to be signed about dual citizenship, but if that part is struck down, I would guess the other parts could stand.

    http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20112012/111422.pdf

  28. avatar
    charo March 4, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    It looks like the electors would have standing to challenge the legislation because of the penalty that could be imposed (if it is passed), as well as any candidate who believes his/her constitutional rights are being violated.

  29. avatar
    Adam March 4, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    Black Lion: States do not have the power to decide who is and is not a citizen, born or naturalized. A true “constitutionalist” would know that.

    But they do have the power to decide how electors are decided. I don’t see what in the constitution would restrict states from declining to select electors who have pledged to support a candidate who hasn’t presented whatever documents the secretary of state demands to see.

  30. avatar
    misha March 4, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    Adam: whatever documents the secretary of state demands to see.

    How about a gift card for Applebee’s?

  31. avatar
    JoZeppy March 4, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

    Adam: But they do have the power to decide how electors are decided. I don’t see what in the constitution would restrict states from declining to select electors who have pledged to support a candidate who hasn’t presented whatever documents the secretary of state demands to see.

    So do you believe that a state can “delin[e] to select electors” who have refused to pledge not to cast a vote for a black, jew, or woman? Of course not. States don’t have a blank check. Requirements that electors can’t support a candidate for reasons not in the constitution is adding requirements to hold the office. The SCOTUS has already stated clearly that a state cannot add requirements or restrictions to Constitutionally defined offices. There’s no way around that.

  32. avatar
    Greg March 4, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

    Why don’t you do some more research Adam? Why don’t you read the cases where the SC has said the states’ power in this arena is not unlimited. Get back to us about why those limits don’t apply here.

  33. avatar
    James M March 4, 2011 at 7:44 pm #

    charo: This a copy of a Georgia bill that allows for other forms of proof.There is a declaration to be signed about dual citizenship, but if that part is struck down, I would guess the other parts could stand.

    http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20112012/111422.pdf

    It is possible for a person to have dual citizenship and not be aware of it.

  34. avatar
    Expelliarmus March 4, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

    charo: This a copy of a Georgia bill that allows for other forms of proof. There is a declaration to be signed about dual citizenship, but if that part is struck down, I would guess the other parts could stand.

    http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20112012/111422.pdf

    No. The text of the Georgia bill reads like a birther’s wish list in terms of forcing disclosure of all the irrelevant and private background stuff birthers wish they could force Obama to disclose: “birth records, adoption records, baptism records, Social Security records, medical records, school and college records, military records, and passport records”.

    If the law was written broadly to say that proof “may” be made by “any” of the specified records, “including” those limits — it might stand scrutiny. But the law first requires a “certified exact copy of the candidate’s first original long-form birth certificate” with all the information (hospital, doctor, witnesses) listed — and then specifies that if that cannot be obtained, the candidate is mandated (“shall”) to attach “certified exact copies” of all the other stuff.

    The courts would rule at the outset that this set of requirement unduly burdens access to the ballot. It still comes down to the full faith and credit clause. Whatever document the candidate’s state of birth currently issues in the form of a birth certificate is going to suffice.

    The first candidate to run afoul of this law potentially is probably not going to be Obama — it’s going to crop up in the primaries, and there will be a bunch of Republican candidates scrambling to come up with documents to meet the letter of the law. If the Secretary of State accepts anything less from, say, Newt Gingrich — then there would be an equal protection claim on top of everything else.

    And Newt is going to run into an issue with the birth certificate thing — like Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford, he has a different name than the one on his birth certificate. (McPherson; Gingrich is the name of his stepfather). So he’s not only going to have to try to dig up an original birth certificate from 1943 (which possibly could have been sealed as part of the subsequent adoption), he’s also got to dig up adoption records from 1946.

  35. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy March 4, 2011 at 10:09 pm #

    James M: It is possible for a person to have dual citizenship and not be aware of it.

    Absolutely. A number of Americans have had nasty surprises visiting the country of their ancestors.

  36. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy March 4, 2011 at 10:11 pm #

    US Citizen: I still want to know how one keeps records sealed by spending money.
    All of the lawsuits were dismissed without any trial.

    Birther John resolved this question: Obama sealed his records by not releasing them.

  37. avatar
    charo March 4, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

    Expelliarmus: No.The text of the Georgia bill reads like a birther’s wish list in terms of forcing disclosure of all the irrelevant and private background stuff birthers wish they could force Obama to disclose:“birth records, adoption records, baptism records, Social Security records, medical records, school and college records, military records, and passport records”.

    If the law was written broadly to say that proof “may” be made by “any” of the specified records, “including” those limits — it might stand scrutiny.But the law first requires a “certified exact copy of the candidate’s first original long-form birth certificate” with all the information (hospital, doctor, witnesses) listed — and then specifies that if that cannot be obtained, the candidate is mandated (“shall”) to attach “certified exact copies” of all the other stuff.

    The courts would rule at the outset that this set of requirement unduly burdens access to the ballot. It still comes down to the full faith and credit clause. Whatever document the candidate’s state of birth currently issues in the form of a birth certificate is going to suffice.

    The first candidate to run afoul of this law potentially is probably not going to be Obama — it’s going to crop up in the primaries, and there will be a bunch of Republican candidates scrambling to come up with documents to meet the letter of the law.If the Secretary of State accepts anything less from, say, Newt Gingrich — then there would be an equal protection claim on top of everything else.

    And Newt is going to run into an issue with the birth certificate thing — like Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford, he has a different name than the one on his birth certificate.(McPherson; Gingrich is the name of his stepfather).So he’s not only going to have to try to dig up an original birth certificate from 1943 (which possibly could have been sealed as part of the subsequent adoption), he’s also got to dig up adoption records from 1946.

    Your analysis has a lot of “ifs.” We don’t know for sure who is running, whether they will actually make challenges, what documents they will submit, if they choose not to challenge, whether the documents would be deemed acceptable, and whether one person’s documents would be accepted over those of another. It could happen that no Republican challenges the law (if such a law passes somewhere) and submits documentation. We simply don’t know.

  38. avatar
    charo March 4, 2011 at 11:47 pm #

    James M: It is possible for a person to have dual citizenship and not be aware of it.

    I suppose opposition researchers will have another task.

  39. avatar
    G March 6, 2011 at 3:07 am #

    charo: Your analysis has a lot of “ifs.” We don’t know for sure who is running, whether they will actually make challenges, what documents they will submit, if they choose not to challenge, whether the documents would be deemed acceptable, and whether one person’s documents would be accepted over those of another. It could happen that no Republican challenges the law (if such a law passes somewhere) and submits documentation. We simply don’t know.

    I would argue that at this point, all commentary on what would happen on these “birther bills” is nothing but a bunch of “what ifs”, which is why I’ve wasted very little time commenting on them so far.

    Right now the news on these is nothing more than a bunch of states submitting a bunch of wacky proposed bills. Definitely worthy of reporting on and commenting on.

    However, I’m not convinced that ANY of these will actually make it all the way through their processes to be signed into law in their states. Once one does, THEN we’ve got a discussion on both what this means for candidates and for the courts. Until then, its all nothing but a bunch of “what iffing”…

    I viewed the whole Abercrombie thing the same way, if you recall. More hype and a lot of “what iffing”…but in the end, a non-story in terms of any changes to the status quo. These “birther bills” could end up mainly going down in flames the same way. Even if a the few of them that have fairly sane and simple language that merely require some form certifiying birth pass…well, those will be fully satisfied by his HI COLB, so that’s really status quo as well.

  40. avatar
    Sef March 6, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    Maybe an outcome of these birther bills will be that some people who should know better will get a lesson in Constitutional Law.

  41. avatar
    y_p_w March 13, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    ExpelliarmusAnd Newt is going to run into an issue with the birth certificate thing — like Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford, he has a different name than the one on his birth certificate.(McPherson; Gingrich is the name of his stepfather).So he’s not only going to have to try to dig up an original birth certificate from 1943 (which possibly could have been sealed as part of the subsequent adoption), he’s also got to dig up adoption records from 1946.

    A little late to the show, but this came up in a search.

    I don’t know if his original records would be sealed, but Pennsylvania doesn’t issue “long forms” any more. Even if he happened to have one, the Georgia bill (as well as others) suggests that the documents are filed and doesn’t mention if they’re returned. So you have an irreplaceable older “exact copy” lying around and have no assurance that you’re going to get it back.

    The other thing is that at the time of his birth, photocopying equipment was pretty crude and prohibitively expensive. I’m guessing that a lot of birth certificates at the time were transcribed by hand or typing. There was probably a window of time where Pennsylvania used photocopying for their certified birth certificates.