In defense of the so-called ‘birther’ bills

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Expect to see a media explosion of criticism pointed at as many as a dozen governors including Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal if they — unlike Arizona Governor Jan Brewer — sign bills requiring presidential candidates to provide a copy of their birth certificate.

These so-called “birther” bills are obviously being tied to the fringe movement seeking to question whether or not President Barack Obama was born in America, and thus, is eligible to be president.

I have long pushed back against birthers — whom I believe to be both factually wrong — and also harmful to conservatism. Having said that, if you had asked me ten years ago — long before anyone had heard of Barack Obama — if a presidential candidate should have to provide their birth certificate in order to get on the ballot, I would have responded: “Don’t they already have to do that?”

It’s worth noting that Jindal isn’t pushing the bill in his state, but as his press secretary said: “It’s not part of our package, but if the Legislature passes it we’ll sign it.”  This, of course, won’t matter to the chattering classes who are sure to pounce on these governors, accusing them of birtherism.  Perhaps the context makes it impossible to separate this bill from questions about Obama, but it strikes me that these are really two separate issues — even if some of the folks pushing these bills have ulterior motives.

After all, shouldn’t a governor decide which bills to sign or veto based on the merits of those specific bills?  And wouldn’t this provide a coherent legislative solution in response to the paranoia which has sadly infected the current political debate?

It strikes me as absurd to question President Obama’s citizenship, considering the evidence points to the fact that he was, in fact, born in America.  But the notion that future candidates ought to be statutorily required to present a birth certificate in order to get on a ballot seems like common sense.

Matt K. Lewis