Birther bills: Swing and a miss

Maybe I’ve been wrong.

I’ve rhetorically asked before, why has President Obama not shown us his long-form birth certificate?

Maybe there’s something embarrassing in that documentation. Maybe he was actually born somewhere else, and he’s thus ineligible to be president, as a growing portion of Republicans have convinced themselves. According to a CBS/New York Times poll, 45 percent of Republicans believe Obama was born in another country, and another 22 percent aren’t sure.

My theory has always been that it’s not worth the president’s time, because no matter what he submits, it won’t be enough to meet his opponents’ shifting burden of proof. Hawaii’s shown a certificate of live birth. A pair of Hawaii newspapers have shown birth announcements for Obama. Once they get the long-form birth certificate, there will be a movement to submit something else.

But I might be wrong. Perhaps the president is keeping his “long-form birth certificate” out of public view because doing so helps him politically. Every minute a Republican talks about a birth certificate is another minute they don’t argue how their policies would improve our country.

“They’re happy to have this conversation continue,” former Bush adviser Karl Rove said, “because every moment that the conservatives talk about this, they marginalize themselves and diminish themselves in the minds of independent voters.”

Just look at how ridiculous “birther” legislation is looking so far, after all:

• Tennessee state Sen. Mae Beavers introduced legislation in her state requiring a long-form birth certificate to get on the state ballot. But when asked what a long-form birth certificate was, she responded, “Now, you’re asking me to get into a lot of things that I haven’t really looked into yet.” What, you mean like the details of laws you want to create?

• In Arizona, a long-form requirement passed its Legislature. Gov. Jan Brewer deserves credit for vetoing House Bill 2177 and calling it a “distraction.”

But, let’s go a little further. Nothing’s more American than baseball, so let’s give it the old “three strikes and you’re out test.”

Strike 1: Arizona no longer issues a long-form birth certificate. Imagine the irony of an Arizona-born candidate unable to get on his or her state’s ballot.

Strike 2: It wouldn’t hold up to a constitutional challenge. In lieu of a long-form certificate, the state would accept other records, including a baptismal certificate or circumcision certificate. Brewer said she felt uncomfortable with such a requirement, and the Constitution agrees. A lawyer could argue such documentation constitutes a religious test for elected office, note that Article XI of the U.S. Constitution states, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office,” and be home in time for lunch.

Strike 3: If that lawyer somehow fails, another can step in and read Article IV, Section 1 of the Constitution: “Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.” That means if Hawaii says a certificate of live birth proves citizenship, Arizona has to concur, no matter what its state Legislature passes.

So, I might be wrong on the reason we haven’t seen the president’s long-form birth certificate. But I doubt I’m wrong on this: Republicans are best to take Brewer’s lead in this case. If they continue to press the birth issue, they’ll go down swinging, and they’ll be watching another Obama term from the dugout.