Monday, December 8, 2008

Obama, the Immaculate Conception of Americans, and Natural Born Cookiness

Obama looks cool in shades exiting from limo
President-elect Barack Obama is probably keeping his cool as always on this twisting of natural born citizenship nonsense, but I've been following the story of claims that the first African-American to be elected as President of the United States of America has no right to claim the office. An East Brunswick, NJ, man, Leo Donofrio, charges that Obama is not a natural-born citizen as required by The Constitution of the United States and so is ineligible for executive office. I suppose Donofrio has time on his hands and fancies himself to be a constitutional scholar because he also challenged the right of Sen. John McClain to run for the office and Socialist Workers candidate Roger Calero's right to run as well.

News sources report today that the U.S. Supreme Court has denied Donofrio's case a hearing. The court did not offer comment about why, but really, how did Donofrio v. Wells get that far?

Don't get me wrong. I think it's good that the case went to the Supreme Court. Part of me wishes the court would have heard the case just to shut up the conspiracy theorists and people who claim cover up. But I suppose the court didn't want to waste its time and taxpayer money.

Think about it. Donofrio does not deny that Obama's mother was an American and that Obama was born in the United States in Hawaii. He objects to Obama's father's status as a Kenyan and British subject. Obama has dual citizenship and so cannot be a natural-born citizen seems to be part of Donofroio's logic as though the word "dual" cancels "native born."

As might be said in the backwoods, "that dog don't hunt." I think the term "natural born citizen" in Article II of the United States Constitution means that the soil on which the child is born must be "native" to the United States or one of its territories to qualify as a "natural-born citizen." Here is the quote from the U.S. Constitution, Article II:
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.
Citizenship based on being born on American soil is a regular issue with illegal immigration cases. Mexican mothers have babies on United States soil and so the babies are considered American citizens while the mothers are not. We don't dispute the children being American citizens, and when they grow up, they can run for president if they wish as long as they have lived in the United States for at least 14 years and reached the age of 39, I figure.

The Immaculate Conception of Americans?

It seems some folks want to further confine the U.S. Constitution's definition of natural-born citizen to mean that a person's parents must also be American citizens, which is how one Wikipedia contributor seems to see it.
It is generally agreed that these constitutional provisions mean anyone born on American soil to parents who are U.S. citizens is a “natural born citizen” eligible to someday become president or vice-president, whereas anyone whose citizenship is acquired after birth as a result of naturalization "process or procedure" is not a "natural born citizen" and is therefore ineligible for those two positions.[1] In between these extremes lie gray areas and controversy.[2]
Perhaps the writer forgot the word "or" between the words "soil" and "to," but it's this extra-dose-of-American interpretation that "anyone born on American soil to parents who are U.S. citizens" is a "natural born citizen" that creates the controversy not the actual words of The U.S. Constitution. Furthermore, the contributor makes a broad statement that his/her understanding of natural born citizen is the "generally accepted" definition.

That definition sounds like a nationalistic, secularized version of the Catholic Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which goes something like this, Jesus was most definitely born without sin and is qualified to be Lord because not only was he conceived of a virgin by the Spirit of God but the Virgin herself was exempted from sin by God. (see the Catholic Encyclopedia). I grew up Protestant, but my analogy here is not a swipe at Catholicism. It's an attempt to show that some folks want Obama and others running for the Oval Office to be doubly-American.

The Wikipedia contributor who seeks to explain natural born citizenship also cites a a paper at The Michigan Law Review that addresses John McCain's citizenship status and discusses "originalism" and interpreting the the constitution. Originalists base their understanding of "natural born" on British law and "natural born subjects," it seems and try to interpret the U.S. Constitution according to the framers' original intent within the context of their colonial world sensibilities, and so, the constitution becomes a fixed contract until the people change it and never open to the subjective interpretation of activist judges with agendas.

I get the feeling originalists in one sense are the types to go back and declare, "Hey, the framers of The U.S. Constitution were by and large Christians and so when they said God they meant Jesus. So, the U.S. is a Christian nation and prayer in schools in the name of Jesus should be allowed until the people vote and say "no in the name Jesus" because and declare the phrase to favor one religion and be unconstitutional.

I dunno. This type of originalism with no room for evolution of culture strikes me as a way to hold up common sense so people who don't want change don't have to change. It's rigid.

All this debate about natural-born citizens reminds me of how people mess with the Bible to make it seem that it agrees with their opinions (Not saying The Constitution is like the Bible, but that some folks mess with it the same way they mess around with the Bible). It's clear the writers at the constitutional convention did not conclude that "natural born" means born simultaneously to American parents and on American soil because they wrote "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." Hmm, nothing about parents.

If you read the quoted clause above in context with the first requirement that says "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," then it's clear that at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, a person could have run for President of the United States that year who was not a natural-born citizen as long as he'd lived in the country for at least 14 years. It's clear when you consider that the framers were naturalized citizens and made themselves citizens of the United States via process. Until they did that, created this nation, there was no United States of America, and they were most likely all British subjects.

These men didn't want to eliminate themselves from possibly being president and so had to recognize that it's possible to have been born under someone else's flag and yet love America as they conceived it. Nevertheless, they erred on the side of caution and national security, maintaining after they, the original patriots, passed on, future presidential candidates should be born in the U.S.A. They needed to do that to ensure a British-born loyalists to the King of England didn't come to power and sabotage the young nation.

In essence they said "We're here. We know we're loyal to this nation, and we might want to run for the presidency, but we're not natural born citizens born under the American flag. We're natural born British subjects who were born on this soil before it was the United States of America. After we make this constitution, America will be America; so, any of us alive when the nation was born are like natural born citizens and can run for president if we've been living here at least 14 years. In the future, however, folks who were born after this constitution is adopted, will have to be born in America."

They don't say "and folks born afterward must also be born to citizens" to be called "natural born." Later in The Constitution we see only two types of citizens: natural born and naturalized. Naturalized means you were born someplace else and become a citizen through legal process. By contrast, the only definition for natural born as the other type of citizen is born in the United States of America (born here vs. not born here). The definition broadened farther down the road to include born to American parents to cover babies born abroad to American citizens. It's assumed American citizens will raise children who love America and not compromise Commander in Chief duties should they be elected to the Oval Office.

Why would the framers place an additional burden on citizens who came later who had obtained the age of 35 years, had been born on American soil but not to native-born or naturalized parents to not be eligible to run for President? It's as though they'd be saying, "You could have been born on American soil, lived in America all your life, but you can't be trusted unless your parents were also American citizens. In fact, we trust you less than we'd trust someone who stepped first on American soil the day before we adopted this constitution and then later lived here 14 years, far fewer years than you have." Unlikely.

At most you could say the framers wanted a person born on American soil who'd spent at least 14 of his/her 35 years in America. So much for folks born outside the U.S. and its territories, right? But we don't do it that way. We also include children born to Americans far from home, and we don't tell people that one negates the other. American parents or American soil, either way American.

Like I said, this double American or citizenry by both parentage and native soil is immaculate conception thinking. Just my two cents. I'm not an attorney, and while I was stuck on that one portion of the Wikipedia post, the majority of the entry presents evidence to support that Obama is eligible to be president and doesn't mention the Donofrio challenge explicitly.

To deny Obama's right to be called a "natural born citizen" based on his father's citizenship would negate his mother's status as an American citizen even if the court went insane and wanted to narrow the definition of natural born citizen to mean simultaneously born on American soil and born to American parents.

Ordinary people could solve this natural-born citizenship puzzle on their own using examples of babies born in America to illegal immigrant parents, but in case we could not, Audrey Singer, an immigration expert interviewed by Afro News, explains Mexican babies born on American soil are "natural-born citizens" in an article at this link. The article is about Justice Clarence Thomas approving Donofrio's case to move forward to the Supreme Court. I guess Thomas had to do that so he couldn't be accused of being black and favoring Obama if he didn't let the case proceed. I get the impression that Justice doesn't like being reminded that he is in fact a black man.

The other challenge to Obama's eligibility to be president comes from a man in Pennsylvania, who claims Obama was born in Kenya not America, and it's one of two cases unrelated to the Donofrio v. Wells case.
This (Donofrio denial) hardly means the lawsuits are over. There are two other cases at the Supreme Court, neither of which has been scheduled for consideration. The most celebrated is filed by Philip J. Berg of Lafayette Hill, Pa. There are others still at lower court levels.

Berg argues that Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii as Obama has said and Hawaii officials confirm. Alternately, Berg argues that Obama may have renounced his citizenship as a boy in Indonesia, where he lived for a time with his mother and stepfather.

Those supporting Berg do not believe a birth certificate Obama's campaign has produced. (The Washington Post)
WaPo is directing its readers to a investigation of Obama's birth. "Update, Nov. 1: The director of Hawaii’s Department of Health confirmed Oct. 31 that Obama was born in Honolulu," reports FactCheck, and you can read more at this link.

You know Pennsylvania borders New Jersey. Maybe something's in the water up there causing paranoia.

NaBloPoMo Day 8.


Ted said...

Obama inaugurated 1/20/09? No way. No how. Read this:

Vérité Parlant said...

I posted your link, but I think the claims are ridiculous. Obama's birth certificate has been certified by the proper authorities. End of story.