Bloggers and pundits of every political stripe are calling for Barack Obama to just release the long form birth certificate and end the controversy once and for all. Among those calling for the document are Carol Swain, Andrew Sullivan and even Chuck Norris. All well and good. Obama certainly should put the conspiracy theories to rest before the issue gets any further out of hand.
But I think there’s a larger question here than just where the president was born. For the sake of argument, if nothing else, let’s just say we accept that he was indeed born in Hawaii and is, in fact, a US citizen by birth. This means we also accept that his father was Kenyan and his mother was a full-fledged American citizen, period. Accepting all of that, does it automatically follow that Barack Jr. is a natural-born citizen? That, I think, is the question that needs to be answered.
HuffPo blogger Chris Kelly posted the following today:
I’m sorry, but I don’t think we can get Obama on the “natural born” part. I don’t know what it means and neither do you, and neither did the Founding Fathers. I think it had something to do with not letting Louis XVI be president or black people vote, but your guess is as good as mine. And guesses don’t count.
Read the rest…
And there’s the rub. Natural-born was not defined in the constitution nor has it ever been clarified by constitutional amendment or supreme court decision. It seems to me the supreme court has a duty to hear any case based on this question and provide a ruling. If none of us can definitively say what it means, how can we know when the requirement has not been met?
Obviously it was important enough to the founders to include the phrase “natural-born” as something other than “citizen” alone. If it mattered enough to make it stand out linguistically then, it matters enough to decide what it means to us today when we lack the context of the revolutionary times and any written legal definition.
My humble opinion is that “natural-born” means born of two parents who are themselves both US citizens. Anything else involves multiple citizenship standing of the child and the potential (which was of utmost importance to the founders) of divided loyalties. Anything else does not really make sense.
UPDATE: A clarification – This post isn’t meant to be trying out a different approach to invalidating the 2008 presidential election results. Even if the supreme court or congress decided tomorrow that “natural born” means both parents must also be US citizens, it would only apply from that point onward. Obama couldn’t be held responsible and thrown out of office over an eiligibility requirement that up till now at least has no legal definition.
Is natural born something different than garden variety citizenship?
If we don’t ask and answer the question today we could be asking this question again someday… with a candidate who happens to be the US-born child of illegal immigrants, perhaps.
I think it’s a valid question and we better figure out an answer soon.