Liberally Speaking1/8/09

A conspiracy of the truth

Jan. 8, 2009

By Steve Mount

Some people still believe that any day now, a terrorist attack orchestrated by the Bush administration will be Bush’s entré into a third term of office. Others, even a decade later, still believe that Bill Clinton ordered the death of Deputy White House Council Vince Foster.

There is little that one can do to counter such conspiracy theories, because even if you provide evidence to the contrary, the theorists suspect the evidence.

The Internet is already rife with Barack Obama conspiracy theories. I have had some personal interest in one in particular, not the least of which because I’ve been accused of helping cover up the conspiracy.

These theorists believe there is something amiss with Obama’s status as a natural-born citizen. Being a natural-born citizen, according to Article 2, Section 1, of the Constitution, is a requirement for being president.

The requirement is an original part of the Constitution, not added to nor altered since 1787. The concept is so basic that it appears to have been added to the Constitution in committee, and never questioned nor modified by the Philadelphia convention. So basic, in fact, that the authors of the Federalist Papers felt no need to expand on the topic, as they did, copiously, on so many others.

The Obama natural-born theory actually has two main prongs.

The first says that Obama was not born in the U.S. at all, but instead in Kenya or Indonesia. His Hawaiian birth certificate is a fraud perpetrated on us by his parents, who, like seers, predicted his rise to power. Or a fraud perpetrated by Hawaiian officials desperate to see a native son assume the office.

The Obama campaign sought to put this theory to rest back in August, when it released copies of Obama’s state-certified birth certificate to the press and to specific organizations, like The state-certified copy, of course, is suspect because state officials are suspect.

Though it is impossible to prove a negative, the theory does not pass the smell test. While any parent might have aspirations that their child might grow up to be president some day, to begin a conspiracy from the day of birth is too far-fetched to bear scrutiny; and I have no reason to doubt the honesty and veracity of Hawaiian state officials.

The second prong of attack goes along these lines: Even given that Obama was born in Hawaii, his father was a British subject. As such, international law says that Obama’s citizenship follows that of his father, and so Obama was born British, not American.

The sum of the true parts, however, do not add up to a true whole.

First, Obama’s father was a British subject — Kenya, in 1961, was a British territory. Second, Emerich de Vattel’s “Law of Nations,” first published in 1758, does state, at section 212, “The country of the father is … that of the children.” Third, Vattel was well-known and distributed by the time of the drafting of the Constitution, and the Framers knew about it.

All truths, but all irrelevant. The Constitution, for one thing, was a repudiation of many of the “laws” put down by Vattel. His work spends a great deal of ink explaining a prince’s responsibilities to his subjects, and those of the subjects to their prince. If these parts of Vattel are ignored by our Constitution, why not section 212 as well?

Further, and more importantly, Vattel was never the law of this land, and certainly not in 1961. In 1961, U.S. law stated what it states now — that a citizen at birth is “a person born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”

Finally, the theorists take issue with me and my Web site, which treat the constitutional phrase “natural born citizen” and the law’s phrase “citizen at birth” as synonymous. In doing so, I’ve been told, I am deliberately lying to the Web-using public.

I defend these charges as best I can — in 1 out of 10 cases, my correspondent is willing to listen. Most of the time, however, it is quickly apparent that the conspiracy theory has taken over all sense of reason, and I abruptly end conversation.

Barack Obama is a natural-born citizen of the United States of America. With our vote in November, the Electoral College’s vote in December, and the counting of the votes in Congress scheduled for today, Obama’s status as our president-elect is in no reasonable doubt.

Call it a conspiracy of the truth.

Steve Mount has been a Williston resident since 1996. He is a software engineer at GE Healthcare and is devoted to his family, his country and his Constitution. You can reach Steve at or read his blog at