The Obama Eligibility Question Analyzed
The Obama Eligibility Question
Never in American history has a national leader served under a darker cloud of suspicion than Barack Hussein Obama. Was he born in Hawaii or in Kenya? Did he become an Indonesian citizen in 1967? Where did he spend the summer of 1981? Did he actually attend classes at Columbia? Did he write Dreams from My Father? These are all interesting questions, but not the most critical ones. The most critical question relates to his eligibility. Is he eligible to serve as President of the United States, or is he a usurper? Let’s analyze what we know to be true.
First, we have the absolute and unequivocal requirements of Article II. Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which states that, “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; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”
We know that Obama was not a citizen of the United States at the time the Constitution was adopted, we know that he was at least thirty-five years of age when he took office in January 2009, and we know that he has been a U.S. resident for at least fourteen years. But is he a “natural born” citizen? What is a “natural born” citizen, and how do we prevent an individual who is not a natural born citizen from ever becoming president or vice president?
To answer these questions we must examine how our political leaders, from the Founding Fathers through the present day, have defined the term “natural born;” we must understand U.S. government policy on dual citizenship; we must examine the circumstances of Obama’s birth and citizenship; and finally, we must examine the vetting process that was designed to prevent an ineligible person from ascending to the presidency or the vice presidency.
What is a “Natural Born” Citizen?
In drafting the U.S. Constitution, the Founders relied on the work of Swiss philosopher Emerich de Vattel. In his 1758 legal treatise, The Law of Nations, Book One, Chapter 19, in a section titled “Of the citizens and natives,” Vattel defines the term “natural born Citizen” as follows:
“… The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens… The country of the fathers is therefore that of the children; and these become true citizens merely by their tacit consent. I say that, in order to be of the country, it is necessary that a person be born of a father who is a citizen; for, if he is born there of a foreigner, it will be only the place of his birth, and not his country [emphasis added].”
When the Founding Fathers met in Philadelphia in September 1787 to approve the final draft of the U.S. Constitution, the physical scars of the War of Independence from Great Britain were still visible all around them and a deep-seated animosity toward all things British colored every aspect of their daily lives. So is it conceivable that, just five years and eleven months after the British surrendered at Yorktown, the Founders would have presented to the states for ratification a Constitution that would allow an individual with divided loyalties – e.g. an individual with dual US-British citizenship – to serve as president or vice president of the United States? Not likely.
Expressing the prevailing concerns of the time, and as an expression of the fear of foreign influence that gripped the hearts of the Founders, Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers, “These most deadly adversaries of republican government (cabal, intrigue, etc.) might actually have expected to make their approach from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this than by raising a creature of their own (a “Manchurian candidate?”) to the chief magistracy of the Union?”
What is likely, even probable, is that the Founders drafted Article II, Section 1 so as to reflect Vattel’s definition of a “natural born” citizen. That is precisely why the Framers found it necessary to include in Article II, Section 1 the often overlooked and little understood words, “or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution…”
At the time the Constitution was adopted there were three types of citizens: 1) The former British subjects who, having renounced all foreign allegiances and having pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, became citizens of a sovereign American nation when the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776; 2) The post-Declaration children of those who became U.S. citizens on July 4, 1776, the first “natural born” citizens of the United States, and all less than twelve years old at the time the Constitution was ratified on June 21, 1788; and 3) A class of citizens comprised of those who were naturalized citizens by act of law, requiring a loyalty oath and renunciation of all foreign allegiances, and those who were dual citizens by automatic operation of foreign laws.
To fully understand the importance of the words, “or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution…,” it is necessary to recognize three significant dates. Those dates are: 1) July 4, 1776, the date on which the Declaration was signed, making all citizens of the thirteen colonies citizens of the United States; 2) June 21, 1788, the date on which ratification by the State of New Hampshire made the Constitution the official law of the land; and 3) July 4, 1811, the date on which the first “natural born” citizens… those born to U.S. citizens after the signing of the Declaration on July 4, 1776… became thirty-five years of age. (It was not until the thirty-fifth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration that the first natural born citizens became eligible to serve as president or vice president of the United States.)
Since the Founders intended that only “natural born” citizens should ever serve as president or vice president… excluding naturalized citizens and those with a history of dual nationality… it became necessary to provide an exemption of limited duration covering those who were born prior to July 4, 1776. For example, presidents Washington, J. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, J.Q. Adams, and Jackson were all “citizens,” but not “natural born” citizens because they were born prior to July 4, 1776. All were “grandfathered” and made eligible under the phrase, “or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution…” Martin Van Buren, born to U.S. citizens on December 5, 1782, became the first “natural born” U.S. president.
It was the simplest and easiest way of creating a body of candidates during the earliest years of the republic, unconstrained by the requirement that they be “natural born” citizens, at least 35 year of age. Every U.S. president since Van Buren… with the exception of Chester A. Arthur, whose father was a British subject at the time of his birth, and Barack Obama, whose father was also a British subject at the time of his birth… has been a “natural born” U.S. citizen.
The Constitution limits candidates for president and vice president to “natural born” citizens and to those who were citizens of the United States at the time the Constitution was adopted. There can be no exceptions… not even for Barack Obama.
In 1866, John A. Bingham, chief framer of the 14th Amendment, which granted citizenship to the freed slaves, wrote as follows: “Every human being born within the United States of parents not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty [emphasis added] is, in the language of the Constitution itself, a natural born citizen.”
In subsequent years, as modern transportation systems were developed and international travel became commonplace, the term “natural born Citizen” evolved to include those who were born to American parents outside the continental limits of the United States… as was the case with former Michigan Governor George W. Romney (born in Mexico to American parents) and Senator John McCain (born in Panama to American parents.)
Clearly, those who drafted the U.S. Constitution and subsequent amendments knew what it meant to be a “natural born” citizen, but what of our political leaders of today?
In the early months of 2008, at a time when Hillary Rodham Clinton was the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination and only those in the “tin foil hat” brigade of the party were taking Barack Obama seriously, a number of lawsuits were filed questioning whether Senator John McCain, having been born in the Panama Canal Zone, was a natural born U.S. citizen.
Former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson, a conservative Republican, and Harvard Law professor Laurence H. Tribe, a liberal Democrat, were assigned the task of researching the issue. In a March 19, 2008 memorandum, Olson and Tribe concluded that, “based on original meaning of the Constitution, the Framers’ intentions, and subsequent legal and historical precedent, Sen. McCain’s birth, to parents who were U.S. citizens serving on a U.S. military base in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936, makes him a ‘natural born Citizen’ within the meaning of the Constitution.”
Weeks later, in an April 10, 2008 statement, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, “Based on the understanding of the pertinent sources of constitutional meaning, it is widely believed that if someone is born to American citizens anywhere in the world they are natural born citizens. Because he was born to American citizens, there is no doubt in my mind that Senator McCain is a natural born citizen [emphasis added].”
This was followed by an April 30, 2008 Senate resolution, approved by a vote of 99-0 (Senator John McCain abstaining). The resolution declared: “Whereas John Sidney McCain, III, was born to American citizens on an American military base in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That John Sidney McCain, III, is a ‘natural born citizen’ under Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution of the United States.”
It is important to note that all four references… the 1866 Bingham statement, the Olson-Tribe Memorandum, the Leahy statement, and the U.S. Senate Resolution… all utilize the plural terms “parents” or “American citizens,” strongly suggesting that the “natural born” question rests, in large part, on the necessity of both parents being U.S. citizens.
While the Constitution itself does not define the term “natural born Citizen,” the legal precedent referred to in the Olson-Tribe memorandum cited above is taken from Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162(1875), the only defining precedent established by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court concluded in Minor that, “At common-law, with the nomenclature of which the framers of the Constitution were familiar, it was never doubted that all children born in a country of parents who were its citizens became themselves, upon their birth, citizens also. These were natives, or natural-born citizens, as distinguished from aliens or foreigners.”
It is also important to note that, during the past decade, a number of resolutions have been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives aimed at amending Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, completely altering the traditional interpretation of the term “natural born Citizen.” For example, in support of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stated presidential ambitions, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), introduced House Joint Resolution 104 on September 15, 2004. The resolution proposed to amend Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution by adding the following language:
“A person who is a citizen of the United States, who has been a citizen of the United States for at least 20 years, and who is otherwise eligible to hold the Office of the President, is not ineligible to hold that Office by reason of not being a native born citizen of the United States.”
H.J.R. 104 was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution, where it remained through the end of the 108th Congress. Then, early in the 109th Congress, on February 1, 2005, Rohrabacher made a second attempt with the introduction of H.J.R. 15, which contained essentially the same language as the failed H.J.R. 104 of the previous Congress. And while it is understandable that Rohrabacher would attempt to amend the Constitution to make it possible for his own governor, a naturalized citizen, to seek the presidency, similar attempts by Democrats during the same decade are not so easily understood or explained.
For example, on June 11, 2003, during the 108th Congress, Rep. Vic Snyder (D-AR) introduced H.J.R. 59 which would have totally eliminated the “natural born Citizen” requirement in Article II, Section 1 by substituting the following language:
“A person who has been a citizen of the United States for at least 35 years and who has been a resident within the United States for at least 14 years shall be eligible to hold the office of
President or Vice President.”
The Snyder proposal was followed by H.J.R. 67, introduced on September 3, 2003 by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). The Conyers proposal would have added the following substitute language to Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution:
“A person who has been a citizen of the United States for at least 20 years shall be eligible to hold the Office of President.”
On January 4, 2005, early in the 109th Congress, Conyers made a second attempt with the introduction of H.J.R. 2, proposing the same language as contained in H.J.R. 67 of the 108th Congress. And on April 14, 2005, Rep. Vic Snyder made yet another attempt, introducing H.J.R. 42, containing amendatory language identical to his H.J.R. 59 of the 108th Congress.
All of the above resolutions, proposing to send constitutional amendments to the states for ratification, suffered the same fate. All died in committee without being acted upon.
Any member of Congress is free to introduce a resolution proposing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. However, what distinguishes Rep. Rohrabacher’s resolutions from those of his Democratic colleagues is that his motive was clear… he was interested in making it possible for his governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to seek the presidency. The motivations of his Democrat colleagues, on the other hand, are a mystery; they only serve to raise important questions.
In other words, if the “natural born Citizen” requirement had not represented a major problem at any time in U.S. history, why were Democrats suddenly concerned about it in 2003, 2004, and 2005 when a young black man, the son of an American mother and an African father, was emerging as a rising star in the Democratic Party?
So the question arises, what did Congressmen Snyder and Conyers know that caused them to offer proposed constitutional amendments in the House of Representatives? More specifically, what did they know about Obama’s presidential ambitions and his inability to meet the “natural born Citizen” standard, and when did they know it?
U.S. Government Policy on Dual Citizenship
The official U.S. government policy regarding dual citizenship is found in publications of the Consular Affairs Division of the U.S. Department of State, as follows: CONTINUED HERE: http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/42350
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