Byron York and Birth Certificates: Wrong About the Law he Tells People to Read

Posted: May 25, 2012 by ShortTimer in Barack Obama, Media

Byron York posted this smug piece about how birthers should read nationality law concerning Obama’s citizenship.  He makes the point that even if Obama were born in Kenya and not Hawaii, it still wouldn’t matter, because he’d be a US citizen through his parentage according to nationality law anyway.

First, there are people born inside the United States. No question about that; their citizenship is established by the 14th Amendment.

Then there are the people who are born outside the United States to parents who are both American citizens, provided one of them has lived in the U.S. for any period of time. And then there are the people who are born outside the United States to one parent who is a U.S. citizen and the other who is an alien, provided the citizen parent lived in the United States or its possessions for at least five years, at least two of them after age 14.

Since they are all “citizens of the United States at birth,” the question is, does that also mean they are “natural born citizens” in the constitutional sense?

“My conclusion would be that if you are a citizen as a consequence of your birth, that’s a natural-born citizen,” says Theodore Olson, the former Bush solicitor general who defended John McCain in a 2008 lawsuit alleging McCain was ineligible to be president. McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 while his father served in the U.S. Navy there. Even though the area was under American jurisdiction and both McCain’s parents were U.S. citizens, some Democrats alleged McCain was ineligible to be president. McCain won the case, if not the presidency.

The law is really quite lenient, especially for those born outside the United States. If a child were born today in, say, Kenya, to a Kenyan father and an American citizen mother who had lived in the United States for at least five years, at least two of them over the age of 14 — that child would be a “citizen of the United States by birth” and be eligible for the White House.

You see, Byron, this is where you’re wrong.  You should read the law.  Maybe you should’ve asked about it to someone who deals with that law.  You really should have at least read it before you cranked out that pretentious column.  A simple glance at nationality law charts would tell you you’re wrong.

See that column on the left?  That’s for the time of the child’s birth.  If a child were born after 11/14/1986, then what Byron says is correct.  Except, if a child was born August 4, 1961, like our president was, then he’d fall into this category:

On/after 12/24/52 and prior to 11/14/86

One citizen and one alien parent
Citizen had been physically present in U.S. or its outlying possessions 10 years, at least 5 of which were after age 14

See, Stanley Ann Dunham, Obama’s mama, was born November 29, 1942.  On August 4, 1961, when Barack was born, she would be just a few months shy of her 19th birthday.  The requirement to transmit citizenship requires 5 years residence in the US after age 14.  Since she would’ve been 18 and several months, she wouldn’t have been eligible to transmit citizenship.  Well, Byron, would you like to apologize?  Or are you going to ignore how the law works?

Oh, and because this is the internet, a place where writers are known to try to erase their mistakes, thus the law “pics or it didn’t happen”:

Now, assuming Barry was born out of wedlock, Stanley would only need a year of residence, and it wouldn’t be an issue at all.

You see, Byron, when you tell people to read the law, you might find that some of them already have  – and telling them to go read the law as you put out factually wrong information by ignoring the difference in time periods – is how the birther thing continues.  You might have even noted it by saying “today”, but you omit the law as it applies at the time of the president’s birth.  So the whole point of your column is moot, a smug attempt to tell people they haven’t read the law while you either intentionally screw it up and mislead them, or are just ignorant of the law and displaying yourself as such.

As to birtherism, people fill in the gaps, they look for holes, and they wonder why they don’t get answers.

People want to know about Obama’s past, since his college records, the Annenberg Challenge files, and all kinds of other records of his are sealed.  For the conspiracy-theory minded to expound on it isn’t a surprise – after all, birtherism was started by Democrat Philip J. Berg, noted 9/11 truther.   Every time someone spouts something not quite right, or leaves a blank, rather than filling in that information, they fill it in themselves.  For conspiracy-minded folks, it’s not a great leap to start making absurd judgements.

For others, it’s a question of “why did we have to wait so long to see the birth certificate?”, “why didn’t they release it if it’s no big deal?”, “isn’t the Constitution a big deal?  so why not show us?” and for others, it’s “why haven’t we seen his college transcripts, thesis, and the Annenberg Challenge files?”  Unanswered questions sometimes result in people filling in the blanks themselves.  Especially questions that are dismissed offhand, and especially when those questions are rejected by the “most transparent administration ever”.  He doesn’t act like someone from the US, he didn’t grow up like most US citizens (going to school in Indonesia and Hawaii and such), his background is filled with suspicious characters (like terrorist Bill Ayers), he eats arugula and dogs, and people fill in the blanks since so much of his history is obscured or downright strange.  For some, birthers seem to be looking for a “reset” button – as though proving he’s not a US citizen would undo all the damage his administration has done in the last few years.  For others, it’s just asking questions that seem to get dodgy answers, which arouse more suspicions, rather than quell them.

The most plausible explanation (accepted by most folks who look at it) is that the Obama campaign has cleverly played the birther movement for suckers, stringing them along by not releasing information, and by using it as a distraction from other things they’re doing.  He was born in Hawaii, after all, but it sure is easy to keep obfuscating that just to distract people.  Every line written about birtherism is a line not written about real shady activities, like about the Obama administration’s ATF Fast and Furious plan to let felons buy guns, then walk guns into Mexico and recover them from murder scenes, thus “proving” the need for increased crackdown on US citizens’ 2nd Amendment rights.  Every line about birtherism is a line not written about systemic debt and unfunded entitlements and how quantitative easing works.  But it’s easier to write smug columns about nationality law without even looking at the law you want people to read, isn’t it, Byron?

Update:  I’ll add that I know a bit about nationality law, and I have a friend who brought up the whole birtherism thing back in 2008.  I called BS on it, and went to the charts to disprove that even if Obama was born in Kenya (or on the moon, or wherever) that it still wouldn’t matter.  With an unwed US citizen mother with residence time, he was a US citizen, even if born overseas.  But with one US citizen and one alien parent, if born overseas, and with his mother’s age and lack of residence time, there was that sliver where he wouldn’t be.  That made me realize that the “silly birther” question was one worth addressing.  He was born in Hawaii, but he or his campaign did let the question get strung along for a long time, and with the actual chance that he could be ineligible, why wouldn’t they just prove it?  As noted above, it’s accepted by most folks that look at it, that it was and has been a distraction from his provable background.  Folks on the right had stopped talking about the birth certificate because Obama was born in Hawaii, but folks on the left used it as an excuse to change the subject from actual issues, like the economy or Fast and Furious.

And now a columnist is rehashing a dead issue and getting the law wrong at the same time.  So what’s the distraction from now?  Why would someone want to feed the bug-report conspiracy theory pattern?  Or is he just another incredibly lazy clown in the media going after low-hanging fruit?  Or is he just misinformed and made a mistake?  And who is John Galt?

Update 2: I don’t like the birth certificate controversy.  I don’t like that it throws otherwise inquisitive minds into the spiral described in the XKCD comic.  I don’t like that it acts as a distraction from issues that are provable, today, right now.  I don’t like wasting electrons on it – I’d rather write more about how badass Milton Friedman and Henry Hazlitt and F.A. Hayek are and how Keynesians are idiots and the Oversight Committee is getting things done.  But I really don’t like when someone smugly insults people who are asking questions, and does so while getting things wrong in the process.  I don’t like how media outlets spouting wrongness like that makes the inquisitive into the conspiracy-theory-minded, and the conspiracy-theory-minded more entrenched, rather than less.

Update 3: HotAir has this piece on the birther nonsense.

Exit question via Byron York: Have Birthers read the law?

Again, Byron York doesn’t know the law.  If he did, he would’ve written the column considerably differently.  Do I need to beat this dead horse again?  Can we talk about the economy or Fast and Furious now?

  1. […] York at Washington Examiner (who’s been wrong in the past, but not this time) points out that this isn’t the first time a president’s been made […]

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