Barack Obama and Dave Letterman

A professor emeritus at the Law School of Notre Dame says he doesn’t know whether Barack Obama “achieved election by misrepresenting, innocently or by fraud, his eligibility for that office.”

But Charles E. Rice, who has authored “What Happened to Notre Dame?” said the U.S .House of Representatives should be the leaders stepping forward to resolve the question.

“The House of Representatives is an appropriate body to inquire into the facts and legal implications of a president’s disputed eligibility for office,” he wrote on a blog, called The Steady Drip,” today.

“The House itself has a contingent but potentially decisive role in the election of a president,” he wrote.

The issue of Obama’s eligibility has been disputed since before his election. Hawaiian officials earlier said they have seen Obama’s documentation but they have not revealed what it says – although new Gov. Neil Abercrombie was unsuccessful in his announced plan to find and produce the state’s documentation about the birth.

There have been a multitude of legal and other challenges because of the requirement in the Constitution, Article 2, Section 1, which states, “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President.”

Some of the lawsuits question whether Obama was actually born in Hawaii, as he insists. If he was born out of the country, Obama’s American mother, the suits contend, was too young at the time of his birth to confer American citizenship to her son under the law at the time.

Other challenges have focused on Obama’s citizenship through his father, a Kenyan subject to the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom at the time of his birth, thus making him a dual citizen. The cases contend the framers of the Constitution excluded dual citizens from qualifying as natural born.

Further, others question his citizenship by virtue of his attendance in Indonesian schools during his childhood and question on what passport did he travel to Pakistan three decades ago.

“The lawsuits have presented a bewildering array of claims,” wrote Rice. “There is no reason to analyze those lawsuits here in detail.”

But he added, “It is fair to say that the Obama controversy involves significant issues of fact and law that deserve some sort of official resolution.”

“I suggest no conclusion as to whether Obama is eligible or not. But the citizens whom the media and political pundits dismiss as ‘birthers’ have raised legitimate questions,” he said.

“That legitimacy is fueled by Obama’s curious, even bizarre, refusal to consent to the release of the relevant records. Perhaps there is nothing to the issues raised. Or perhaps there is,” he said.

“This is potentially serious business. If it turns out that Obama knew he was ineligible when he campaigned and when he took the oath as president, it could be the biggest political fraud in the history of the world,” he said.

“As long as Obama refuses to disclose the records, speculation will grow and grow … the first step toward resolving the issue is full discovery and disclosure of the facts,” he said.

While courts should have an interest, he said, a House committee investigation could “ascertain the facts, compelling by subpoena the production of all the available records relevant to Obama’s eligibility, including the complete Hawaiian records of his birth, his passport records to ascertain whether he traveled to Pakistan in 1981 on an American or other passport; the records from Occidental College, Columbia University and Harvard Law School to determine whether Obama described himself as a foreign student; and such other records as may be relevant.”

He said Congress also could consider requiring candidates for a federal elective office to produce evidence of their eligibility, and the define the term “natural born Citizen.”

He said it would be a “public service” for the House to “determine those facts and to recommend any indicated changes in the law or the Constitution.”

In the last Congress, U.S. Rep. Bill Posey suggested a law that would require documentation of eligibility from presidential candidates, but in a House controlled then by Democrats, it was not allowed on the schedule for debate.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.