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Arizona birthers: No clue, but plenty of company

I mentioned it briefly in Last Call Tuesday, but the Arizona bill that would require 2012 presidential candidates to offer proof of citizenship in order to make the state's ballot has really sparked another mini-boomlet of "birther" chatter. This after Arizona voters have watched Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) mock his challenger, JD Hayworth, by tying him to the birther "movement" for his early indulgence of their theories. (When Hayworth was a radio host, he invited some birthers on to chat.)

But two things are going unsaid. The first is that even if this Arizona bill is signed by Gov. Jan Brewer (R-Ariz.) it answered by a certification of live birth from Barack Obama. The second is that Arizona is one of six states with "birther bills" moving through the legislature -- others include Indiana, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

So here's the bill.

Within ten days after submittal of the names of the candidates, the national political party committee shall submit an affidavit of the presidential candidate in which the presidential candidate states the candidate's citizenship and age and shall append to the affidavit documents that prove that the candidate is a natural born citizen, prove the candidate's age and prove that the candidate meets the residency requirements for President of the United States as prescribed in article II, section 1, Constitution of the United States.

And here's the document that's been online for 22 months that answers those questions about Barack Obama. While the birther movement has generated numerous annoying, false theories about Hawaiian birth documents -- one claims that a child born abroad could get "Honolulu" listed as his "place of birth" -- this is the kind of document that, if given to a passport office or an employer, would prove one's citizenship. And there's nothing in this section of Arizona's bill that creates a different standard than the one other government offices use to verify citizenship.

There is, however, a second section of the law.

The secretary of state shall review the affidavit and other documents submitted by the national political party committee and, if the secretary of state has reasonable cause to believe that the candidate does not meet the citizenship, age and residency requirements prescribed by law, the secretary of state shall not place that candidate's name on the ballot.

So does that get birthers past the "Obama has already provided proof of citizenship" problem? Well, not only does it throw a nuclear weapon into the hands of a partisan elected official -- it's unlikely that the official could ever use that weapon. What is "reasonable cause"? What is the precedent for this? The legislation serves less to provide birthers with a way to nail Obama, and serves more to embarrass legislators in Arizona -- as the birther bills in other states have embarrassed their sponsors.

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By David Weigel  |  April 21, 2010; 9:25 AM ET
Categories:  Fringe  | Tags: Barack Obama, Barack Obama citizenship conspiracy theories, John McCain, New Hampshire, President, President of the United States, South Carolina, United States  
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