The Constitution meets Politics in Tennessee

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by Sharon Rondeau

Tennessee Speaker and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey

(Feb. 3, 2010) — According to via the AP, when Maclin Davis, a former Tennessee state representative, Legal Counsel for the Tennessee Republican Party and practicing attorney asked  State Speaker and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey  whether or not he believed Barack Obama is a U.S. citizen, Ramsey responded:  ““I’ve got a table full of advisers sitting over there, and they’ll probably start cringing right about now when I start talking about some of this stuff…I don’t know whether President Obama is a citizen of the United States or not.  I don’t know what the whole deal is there.”

The question arose at a meeting of the Nashville Republicans’ First Tuesday Club held on February 2, 2010.  According to the Nashville Scene, Mr. Davis began the exchange by suggesting that a state law be passed requiring that “in all future elections no candidate for president can be put on the ballot in Tennessee unless they produce positive proof they are a native-born citizen.”

Mr. Davis is a partner at the Waller Lansden law firm in Nashville, where he practices in the areas of real estate, business, election law and “constitutional cases.”  He has been admitted to argue in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, according to the firm’s website.

Ramsey, who is running for governor of Tennessee, then said, “But I’m going to tell you something.  When you walk out on the street down here, people don’t really care about this issue.” He contended that state Republicans should concentrate on “jobs, education and fiscal conservatism,” but  then addressed Mr. Davis, “”I’m not saying you’re not right, Mac, I’m not saying you’re not right – but that’s not how you win elections.”

Also according to the Nashville Scene, Davis then commented, “It seems like it would be really good if somebody would file a suit against our present president to get back all the money he’s been paid as president on the grounds he’s not a legitimate president since he’s not a native-born citizen. The great preponderance of the evidence is he’s not a citizen…”

The Democrat response labeled Ramsey’s remarks “a ludicrous idea.”  Chip Forrester, the Democrat Party Chairman for the state of Tennessee, stated, ““Ron Ramsey would rather pander to a far-right wing group of conspiracy theorists than govern in a pragmatic approach that most Tennesseans expect from their political leaders.”

Brad Todd, an adviser to Ramsey, answered the Democrat charge by stating, “You can’t be serious.  That’s totally taking his answer out of context.  The state of Hawaii has already answered that in no uncertain terms and [Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey] made it clear in his remarks that conservatives need to focus our efforts only on POLICY differences with this administration…”

The Post & Email published a related story on the state of Hawaii’s refusal to verify the statements of its own Health Department Director regarding whether or not Obama is a “natural born citizen.”

EDITOR’S NOTE:  A native-born citizen, after the Supreme Court Ruling, Kim Wong Arc in 1898, is understood commonly to be anyone born on U.S. Soil who was by some statute a citizen of the United States at the moment of his birth.  But a “natural born citizen” according to the  Supreme Court is one born on U.S. soil and who has 2 parents who were citizens of the United States at the time of his birth.  The attempt to pass a law which would merely restrict offices to native-born citizens is probblematic: in regard to all offices other than the President and Vice-president of the United States it would probably be unconstitutional, since every U.S. citizen has the same rights to hold office as any other; but in regard to those 2 offices it would be constiutionally inadequate, since “natural born” is a subset of “native-born”, and requires more than the latter.

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