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Boyles: birther grudge match

KNUS talk radio host Peter Boyles telephoned Kapi’olani Hospital a few years back, pretending to be a tourist coming to Hawaii to show his family the birthplace of Barack Obama. He asked if the had the right hospital, and was told that he did. Nevertheless, Boyles continues to be a birther, frequently giving platform to the likes of Orly Taitz, and today Boyles had a lollapalooza of a show with:

  • Carl (straight from the lips of Mike Zullo) Gallups
  • Lawrence (“flipped Obots”) Sellin
  • Brian (saw the Zullo behind the curtain, and didn’t like what he saw) Reilly

Cold Case Posse critic Reilly is the only one of the three who was a member of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Cold Case Posse and who actually knows what was going on. The others just try to find hidden meaning in Zullo’s obfuscation.


An open letter to the Sonoran News

You do a disservice to your readers and the country by publishing Lawrence Sellin’s Guest Editorial unless you publish the other side. Put bluntly, Sellin’s article is nonsense. There is no constitutional scholar, no civics text book, and no court decision that supports his claim that persons born citizens on US Soil must in addition have US citizen parents to be President of the United States.

Sellin relies on the US Supreme Court decision in Minor v. Happersett, but a judge in your own State of Arizona, in Allen v. Obama (2012), ruled:

Most importantly, Arizona courts are bound by United States Supreme Court precedent in construing the United States Constitution, Arizona v. Jay J. Garfield Bldg. Co. , 39 Ariz. 45, 54, 3 P.2d 983, 986(1931), and this precedent fully supports that President Obama is a natural born citizen under the Constitution and thus qualified to hold the office of President. … Contrary to Plaintiff’s assertion, Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162 (1874), does not hold otherwise”

In fact, no fewer than 11 court decisions since 2008 have said the same thing.

But it is more than Sellin just being wrong; he is also trying to trick the reader, for example, when he says:

Why has every President since Martin van Buren been a US citizen at birth of two citizen parents except Barack Obama and Chester A. Arthur, who lied about his personal history?

He is leading the reader to think that Arthur lied about his father’s citizenship, but that is not true. President Arthur never said or even hinted anything relating to his father’s citizenship. (Arthur apparently lied about his age by one year.) The scant information available about Arthur suggests that his opponents were aware of his father’s naturalization status, and didn’t think it an issue. In Arthur’s own state the New York Chancery Court had previously offered the opinion in the case of Lynch v. Clarke (1844):

The term citizen, was used in the constitution as a word, the meaning of which was already established and well understood. And the constitution itself contains a direct recognition of the subsisting common law principle, in the section which defines the qualification of the President. “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,” … The only standard which then existed, of a natural born citizen, was the rule of the common law, and no different standard has been adopted since. Suppose a person should be elected President who was native born, but of alien parents, could there be any reasonable doubt that he was eligible under the constitution? I think not.

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, a branch of the Library of Congress, produced a comprehensive report on presidential eligibility, in response to queries from members of Congress. That’s where one should go if they want authoritative information on this topic, not to some guy on the Internet:

Qualifications for President and the ‘Natural Born’ Citizenship Eligibility Requirement

Lest anyone claim the CRS report is some modern political revisionism, I would point you to the book, A View of the Constitution, by William Rawle, the first civics textbook in the United States, used at the US Military Academy at West Point. Rawle is a noted jurist and historian, and was appointed by George Washington as US Attorney for Pennsylvania. Rawle wrote in 1825:

Therefore every person born within the United States, its territories or districts, whether the parents are citizens or aliens, is a natural-born citizen within the sense of the Constitution, and entitled to all the rights and privileges appertaining to that capacity….

Under the Constitution the question is settled by its express language, and when we are informed that, excepting those who were citizens, (however that capacity was acquired,) at the time the Constitution was adopted, no person is eligible to the office of the president unless he is a natural born citizen, the principle that the place of birth creates the relative quality is established as to us.

Sellin is the one trying to rewrite history.

Kevin Davidson

Further related reading at Obama Conspiracy Theories:

Lawrence Sellin, PhD, spreads disinformation about presidential eligibility

The Sonoran News, a right-wing news site in Arizona, has published a guest editorial by Lawrence Sellin, PhD (in physiology), in which he says that we should discount what the politicians and the journalists say about presidential eligibility, and listen to him instead. I might add that one would also have to ignore no less than 10 court decisions (plus appeals) over the past 7 years and a truck load of Civics books and legal commentary as well. Listening to him would be a big mistake, because Sellin is a crank when it comes to the topic.

Sellin is a Vattelist, saying:

The term "natural born citizen" was well-known during the time of the writing of the Constitution from Vattel’s "Law of Nations" (1758), which stated "natural-born citizens are those born in a country of citizen parents" (Volume 1, Chapter 19, Section 212).

Of course no Framer of the US Constitution ever said that the phrase was based on Vattel. In fact the edition of Vattel available to the Framers, didn’t even contain the words “natural born citizen” – that came a decade later. Vattel was never mentioned in the context of citizenship or eligibility for office in the debates of the constitutional convention, or the debates over ratification in the state legislatures. The Supreme Court says (US v. Wong) that the term comes from English Common Law. Sellin is just making stuff up.

Sellin then plays the second birther card, Minor v. Happersett, a voting rights case from the 19th century. He claims that this case defines “natural born citizen” when in fact it states unequivocally that it was only considering the status of persons born in the US to citizen parents, and not others. Judges (see Allen v. Obama) and law professors (e.g. Associate Professor Joseph Hylton of Marquette University Law School1) are both on record that the Minor decision does not define the term for all classes of persons.

So why does Sellin’s view get so little traction with the courts, the Congress, the news media, Law Professors and historians? Sellin offers a conspiracist explanation:

Why is there a controversy? Because, I repeat, politicians and journalists are driven by political expediency in order to protect and enhance their own financial interests.

You might attribute this motive to some politicians and journalists, but all of them? I think not. And what about the judges, historians and law professors? What about ones writing 100 years ago?

The conspiracy started, according to Sellin, with a disinformation campaign that started in February of 2008 with a “fake” controversy about John McCain started by Obama supporters. The controversy was hardly fake as it had arisen decades before when George Romney (born in Mexico) was considered a candidate for President. The Hollander v. McCain lawsuit was filed in March. 2008, but Fred Hollander stated that he was a McCain supporter just trying to settle the issue. Other McCain lawsuits (e.g. Robinson v. Bowen) were from third-party supporters who didn’t like McCain or Obama, and sued both. Sellin also repeats the false rumor that McCain was born in a Panamanian hospital, rather than his true place of birth on the Coco Solo Naval Base in the Canal Zone.

Sellin thinks that S. Res. 511, declaring John McCain eligible, was some sort of back-door deal where Democrats got a tacit waiver for Obama. Here Sellin breaks with birther tradition that says (falsely) that S. Res. 511 declares Obama ineligible (making the same mistake confusing sufficient with necessary conditions that they make with Minor). What Sellin doesn’t appreciate is that the question of McCain’s eligibility is not completely settled, while Obamas’ is. Cruz is in a weaker position than McCain because the Panama Canal Zone, while not an incorporated US Territory, was under some sort of US jurisdiction.

Sellin continues the disinformation campaign theme by saying:

Complicit with the Democrats in violating the Constitution, the Republicans joined them in a deliberate campaign of disinformation to hide the truth about Obama and the natural born requirement; an effort that continues to this day.

That disinformation campaign actually started at least as early as 1776. Historian George Bancroft writing in the 19th century about the period between the Articles of Confederation and the adoption of the US Constitution said:

Every one who first saw the light on American soil was a natural-born American citizen.

And it continued with the first major work of exposition of the Constitution by jurist, historian and confidant of Franklin and Washington, William Rawle, who wrote in his A View of the Constitution of the United States (2nd Ed. 1829):

…he who was subsequently born a citizen of a state became at the moment of his birth a citizen of the United States Therefore every person born within the United States its territories or districts whether the parents are citizens or aliens is a natural born citizen in the sense of the Constitution and entitled to all the rights and privileges appertaining to that capacity.

Mr. Sellin is the disinformation campaigner. What are his motives? He claims that racism is behind his imaginary disinformation campaign for Obama; perhaps that’s what is behind the real disinformation campaign against Obama. Or maybe he’s just repeating something he heard in a chain email.

1Hylton wrote:

To cite Minor v. Happersett as the definitive statement of the meaning of the phrase “natural born citizen” is to exhibit an unfortunate lack of understanding of the Supreme Court’s 1874 decision in that case.

Birther Summit names names

According to a press release from Dean Haskins of The Birther Summit, a combination birther strategy meeting, rally and march, and a game of “pin the tail on the Congressman” scheduled for March 29 – 31 2012, the list of initial dignitaries is now available. They are, ta da:

Hyperlinks point to articles on this site. Some names are familiar to me, and some not. Fortunately the Birther Summit web site has some brief biographical information on each. If they all show up, this could be the biggest birther rally of all time.

I’d be willing to pay BIG BUCKS for a bootleg video tape of the strategy session where they work out their “unified, cohesive message.” Conspiracy theorists don’t usually get along well together.