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Published: Thursday, 12/11/2008

Born to controversy

THERE was never much likelihood of the lawsuit challenging President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. citizenship going forward.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined the opportunity to hear arguments by a New Jersey man who claimed that Mr. Obama is ineligible to become president because he doesn't fit the definition of a "natural born citizen."

Right-wing foes of the president-elect had pinned their hope of invalidating the Nov. 4 presidential election on the Supreme Court finding favor with their bizarre argument that Mr. Obama is a mystery man sitting on dual British and U.S. citizenship.

Former U.N. Ambassador Alan Keyes, a three-time presidential loser and the candidate Mr. Obama beat for his U.S. Senate seat from Illinois in 2004, is among the most prominent skeptics of the president-elect's citizenship. He filed a suit in California that has gone nowhere.

Fellow travelers in the "Obama is not a citizen" club include those who insist he was born in Kenya and a few who argue he is a citizen of Indonesia. A federal court in Pennsylvania dismissed one such suit, but it was appealed to the Supreme Court.

Because Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas circulated an East Brunswick, N.J., man's complaint among his court colleagues, it generated hope among conspiracy theorists that the high court was prepared to intervene if the argument was found to have merit.

A few anxious citizens imagined a scenario in which a constitutional crisis generated by such a suit would give the high court permission to "pick" the next president.

Ironically, Leo Donofrio, the man who filed the suit the court dismissed, believes Sen. John McCain, Mr. Obama's opponent, is also ineligible to serve as president because he was born in the Panama Canal zone.

Under that premise, it would have been up to the Electoral College, which meets to vote next week, to choose between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin - or whomever had the least controversial birth certificate - as the 44th president of the United States.

For the record, Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii to an American mother and a Kenyan father. Hawaii was a state at the time, so the president-elect fits all of the qualifications to hold the office he has been elected to. He is not "foreign born."

Like Bill and Hillary Clinton, Mr. Obama has collected a posse of eccentric foes who see dark conspiracies in every corner of his rich and interesting biography.

While Hawaiian officials have certified that Mr. Obama's birth certificate is authentic, those who have filed lawsuits all over the country insist it is a fraudulent document.

Now that the Supreme Court has declined to hear Mr. Donofrio's lawsuit, conspiracy theorists are free to move on to other novel objections to Mr. Obama.



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