A Parting Shot at a Silly Issue

It seems that the claim that President Obama is not a natural born citizen and therefore ineligible to be President of the United States will not die among some persons. That is unfortunate, however, the question remains as to why is this could be an issue in the first place?

I know from a long study of history and Constitutional law that the “natural born citizen clause” was one of the compromises the Convention delegates came to when drafting Article II. The executive was given broad and considerable power, and that concerned many of the framers. The executive model in those days was that of a hereditary monarch. Various alliances were obtained by the intermarriage and between and among the various European royal families. The result was that the executive, that is, the king, because of his lineage, might be of a different nationality.  This sometimes caused unhappy results.

The example the colonists were acutely aware of was Britain. King James I, who was Scottish, but descended from Henry VII through his daughter Margaret (sister of Henry VIII), in 1613 formed an alliance with Frederick V, Elector of the German Palatinate, through the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth Stuart to Frederick. (Elizabeth was also known as the Winter Queen of Bohemia during the first phase of the Thirty Years War, another interesting story too long to tell here.) Their daughter Sophia married Ernst Augustus, Elector of Hannover. Sophia’s son, as the nearest Protestant relative to the British royal family, became King George I when Queen Anne (James I’s great-granddaughter) died in 1714. His great-grandson George III was the designated villain to the American revolutionaries. The King’s perceived despotism and disregard to the “rights of Englishmen” was attributed in part to his German – foreign – ancestry. After all, he was also the Elector of Hannover, one of the principal German states.

Some of the framers we also concerned that perhaps a European prince could come to America bringing great wealth and a retinue capable of buying his way into high office, even the Presidency, with its considerable powers. How plausible this was is open to question, but the delegates decided to assuage fears by putting the natural born citizen clause in the Constitution — they had other matters to worry about.

Whether this concern is relevant today is really beside the point. The Constitution says what it says. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, perhaps motivated by the then popularity of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is a naturalized citizen, proposed in 2004 a Constitutional Amendment that would permit a naturalized citizen to become President after 20 years. This proposed amendment has so far gone nowhere.

Nevertheless, logically, a “natural born citizen” is one who is a citizen when he/she is born. A person born to a citizen is a citizen at that moment. Thus, if a person is born to a citizen, he is a natural born citizen, even if he was born on Mars.

President Obama’s mother was unquestionably a citizen at the time he was born.  Therefore, he is a natural born citizen Constitutionally eligible to be President. End of story.

Whether he should be is a different question entirely. I can think of a half-dozen reasons why Obama  should be defeated in his re-election bid, and will work to that end. None of those reasons have anything whatsoever to do with his ancestry, skin color, or identification with a racial or ethnic group.

There is a rhetorical device called “sandbagging” or “hustling” in which one sets up an opponent by appearing to given them an argument that seems unassailable on its face.  When they pursue it, it becomes irrelevant, patently fallacious, or petty. Maybe President Obama refused to release his birth certificate (or at least the “long form”) for so long so as to allow those who seized upon that issue to make fools of themselves.

Those who would like for the President to have early retirement should forget the natural born citizen issue, and concentrate on those with substance.

By bobreagan13

My day job is assisting individuals and small businesses as a lawyer. I taught real estate law and American history in the Dallas County Community College system. I have owned and operated private security firms and was a police officer and criminal investigator for the Dallas Police Department.

I am interested in history and historical research, music, cycling, and British mysteries and police dramas.

I welcome comments, positive, negative, or neutral, if they are respectful.

5 replies on “A Parting Shot at a Silly Issue”

Well said. However, Rubio and Jindal, both of whose fathers and mothers were not US citizens at the time that they were born, are also Natural Born Citizens.

That is because they fall under the original definition of Natural Born, the place of birth.

“Under the longstanding English common-law principle of jus soli, persons born within the territory of the sovereign (other than children of enemy aliens or foreign diplomats) are citizens from birth. Thus, those persons born within the United States are “natural born citizens” and eligible to be President. Much less certain, however, is whether children born abroad of United States citizens are “natural born citizens” eligible to serve as President …”—- Edwin Meese, et al, THE HERITAGE GUIDE TO THE CONSTITUTION (2005) [Edwin Meese was Ronald Reagan’s attorney general, and the Heritage Foundation is a well-known Conservative organization.]

“What is a natural born citizen? Clearly, someone born within the United States or one of its territories is a natural born citizen.” (Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on OCTOBER 5, 2004)–Senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT).

Here are sources to turn to for further research:

The principle of just soli, sometimes referred to as “birthright,” establishes natural born citizenship based on location within the sovereign's territory. The Constitution (14th Amendment) makes that clear. It does not exclude person's born abroad to a United States citizen, and, logically, cannot.

In an interesting related matter, Mitt Romney's father, George was born in Mexico to U.S. citizens. The issue of whether he was a “natural born citizen” was raised when he ran for President in the 1960s (twice, I seem to recall). It became moot when George failed to get the nomination, but the consensus at the time was he was eligible.

The proposed Hatch Amendment, referenced in the main post would solve the issue, as it should. It puts a reasonable length of citizenship and/or residency requirement.

Another interesting aside is that in modern history, which I offer only as information, and not to draw conclusions or policy argument from is this. There were three immigrants who became the chief executives of their adopted countries: Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler, and Joseph Stalin. The results for the people they ended up ruling were less than happy.

Bob, don't you know the newest batshit to come from the Right is his “sealed grades at Harvard”. If Rush said “Magna Cum Laude” meant “Foreign Exchange Student”, you'd find yourself watching Clint Eastwood yelling at an empty chair…oh, wait.

Leave a Reply