Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Questions About Obama's Citizenship: Part II

In “Questions About Obama’s Citizenship: Part I” (see below) I wrote that there are at least five important questions surrounding his citizenship, and thus his constitutional eligibility to be President of the United States.

That Part answered Question 1: “Is the question of President-elect Obama’s citizenship important and, if so, why?”

Part II now addresses Question II: What is the meaning of the Constitution’s Article II, Section 1, Clause 5’s requirement that the President be a ‘natural [not “native] born citizen’?”

That provision mandates that “No Person except a natural born Citizen . . . shall be eligible to the Office of President . . . .” The operative words regarding Obama’s citizenship are “natural born.”

It has been said that “[t]he Framers established [this qualification, along with age and residency] in order to increase the chances of electing a person of patriotism, judgment, and civic virtue.” Indeed, the constitutional history is clear that by means of the “natural born” clause the Framers were insisting on dyed-in-the-wool loyalty to the United States of America.

The Heritage Guide to the Constitution notes also that “During the Constitutional Convention, John Jay wrote to George Washington, urging a ‘strong check to the admission of Foreigners into the administration of our national Government; and to declare expressly that the Commander in Chief of the American army shall not be given to nor devolve on, any but a natural born Citizen’.” In the same vein, in his Commentaries on the Constitution Supreme Court Justice Joseph wrote that the requirement of natural born citizenship “cuts off all chances for ambitious foreigners, who might otherwise be intriguing for the office.”

While there’s no serious doubt that someone born in the United States (with very narrow exceptions) is a “natural born Citizen” no matter who his parents are, and while from time to time Congress has enacted statutes which define (and even create) American citizenship, the Supreme Court of the United States has never ruled as a matter of constitutional interpretation whether one can be an Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 “natural born Citizen” if born outside of the United States to parents one of whom was not a United States citizen.

This means that if—repeat, if—the unproved allegation is true that Barack Obama was not born in Hawaii but in Kenya as some have alleged, even to an American citizen mother, his constitutional eligibility to be President is an open question.

Nothing Congress has legislated about citizenship, or could enact, changes that fact because the Constitution trumps statutes. “Natural born Citizen” is a constitutional requirement!

Thus, given the apparent original intent of Clause 5, the questions which have been raised about Obama’s place of birth, and the lack of any Supreme Court definition of “natural born Citizen,” whether the President-elect satisfies the constitutional eligibility requirement for that office is far from clear.

As such, the question does not deserve to be summarily dismissed, or attributed to right wing conspiracy theorists.

To be continued ……………………