Foreign Policy: Born In The U.S.A. The weirdly persistent belief held by many Americans that President Barack Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the United States has been back in the news lately thanks to Major Stefan Cook, the "birther" soldier who was granted has requested conscientious objector status because he refused to fight for a president he believes is illegitimate. There's also a bill gathering some support in the House that would change election law to require candidates to prove their citizenship.
NPR logo Foreign Policy: Born In The U.S.A.

Foreign Policy: Born In The U.S.A.

The weirdly persistent belief held by many Americans that President Barack Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the United States has been back in the news lately thanks to Major Stefan Cook, the "birther" soldier who was granted conscientious objector status because he refused to fight for a president he believes is illegitimate. There's also a bill gathering some support in the House that would change election law to require candidates to prove their citizenship.

The birther phenomenon is predictable form of paranoia given the president's unusually exotic (for a president, anyway) background. But isn't the larger scandal that the anachronistic natural-born citizenship requirement in Article II of the constitution still even exists?

Let's imagine that Barack Obama had been born in Indonesia or Kenya or anywhere else for that matter, and hadn't become a citizen until moving to Hawaii to live with his grandparents. Is there one good reason why that would make him less fit to be president?

Put another way, is there one good reason why foreign-born governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jennifer Granholm can't legally run for president but Mark Sanford and Sarah Palin can?

Naturalized citizens like Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Madeline Albright have been allowed into the highest positions in the U.S. national security establishment without anyone questioning their loyalty. Why shouldn't voters be allowed to decide whether a foreign-born candidate is American enough to be president? New York voters didn't mind the fact that Hillary Clinton had never lived in the state before running for its senate seat.

The fact that children of immigrants like Barack Obama, Bobby Jindal, Colin Powell and Rahm Emanuel were born in the United States rather than their parents' home countries seems like a pretty arbitrary distinction. A person can't help where they were born any more than they can help the color of their skin or their gender.

The last election saw the first person of color elected president and a woman get closer than ever before. Pretty soon, more than 15 percent of the U.S. population will be foreign-born. It's time that they had same shot.