WHAT IS THE MEANING OF “NATURAL BORN CITIZEN?”
by Tracey M. Grissom, blogging at Pushing Back
(May 8, 2011) — As you might or might not know by now, before the US Constitution was finalized, John Jay wrote a letter to George Washington, (who was the presiding officer of the Constitutional Convention), giving the opinion that “whether it would not be wise and seasonable to provide a strong check to the admission of Foreigners into the administration of our national Government, and to declare expressly that the Commander in Chief shall not be given to, nor devolve on, any but a natural born Citizen”.
And that phrase natural born Citizen is, of course, how our Constitution reads, …”No person except a natural born Citizen…”, more than likely, if you’re reading this you know that sentence by heart and the questions that naturally follow –
– but what exactly IS a natural born citizen? Born on American soil with ONE (or both) American parents or born on American and absolutely requiring BOTH parents to be American citizens or something else altogether? Was the reason the Founders included the phrase to remove any chance the POTUS would have dual citizenship? OR to put it in other words, is there a difference between native-born and natural born or are they one and the same?
But it seems to me the discussion of the natural born/native born Citizen dilemma has suddenly in the past few days become off-limits and “too hot to handle.” Fellow Patriot, have you noticed that if you say to a left-leaning friend, “okay, so what Barack Obama was born in Honolulu?, I always suspected the 18 year old mother didn’t take a trip all the way to Kenya to have a baby anyway, but the issue IS and has ALWAYS been whether or not native born and natural born mean the same thing. We all know it’s always been about the Constitut…”, chances are your friend’s eyes will glaze over, you’ll be cut off in mid-sentence and with a rather snarly “YOU BIRTHERS NEVER GIVE UP!”, your friend will walk away.
Over the last few days whether it be in a face to face exchange, or posting on various forums, or in the national conversation, the debate about native/natural born that never really got started and certainly has never been definitively clarified by the Supreme Court is now considered by many to be over- dead- done with- and marked “END OF STORY, DON’T BRING IT UP AGAIN.”
If you doubt that, bring it up tomorrow in the break room at work! What changed? The release of the Barack H. Obama II long form birth certificate? You got to be kidding! Should not the long awaited long form birth certificate with the proof his father WAS FOR ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY a citizen of a foreign country intensify the debate, not end it?
Yes it SHOULD! But if you have both feet planted firmly in the real world you know all too well that what “should be so” and what “really is so” are many times 1000 miles apart. Here is a question I think needs to be thoughtfully considered: If we are going to defeat Obama in 2012 do we continue putting an argument to the forefront, that no matter how much merit it SHOULD have, is NOT considered by the general public to be a viable argument? An argument that the average American is tired off because the general consensus is that the case is closed? OR DO WE SWITCH TACTICS?
I vote for switching tactics. I vote for temporarily putting the eligibility issue on the back burner!
Now Fellow Patriot, please notice I did not state I thought we should totally discard it forever. Nor do I think we should concede the war, for I have seen the Presidental eligibility issue as being only one battle in a much greater war. The greater war, in my opinion, is over how the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted.
On one side of this war are those who view the U.S. Constitution as a living document (1) that if looked at literally, they believe, has out-dated words that are no longer used in the old archaic way in our modern world. They argue that the framers purposely wrote it in broad terms so it would constantly evolve and is meant to be interpreted in light of the times. So in their estimation that means many times, if not most times, the Constitution can be changed from times past without amendment. The original principles are fine and their meaning for today can be ascertained by looking to see the general consensus of what certain phrases and words mean. If the American public seems to think natural born simply means native born, well then according to their doctrine, darn it thats what it means! Well, actually, they say, what it means NOW. Maybe it did not mean that back in the 18th century but it evolved you see.
On my side of the war we say evolved-schmevolved,–to interpret the Constitution it’s crucial to look at what the framers original intent was. Crucial because the United States is a Constitutional Republic, not a Democracy and is meant to be guided by the rule of law not the whims of society. And that includes the whims of society as to what words mean irregardless if the majority sees the meaning as having changed through the years. You can’t look at what natural born means to most people today but what did it mean when the Constitution was written. On my side of the debate we say a Democracy, which is rule by the majority is nothing more than another word for mob rule and who needs it? The Constitution has been the bedrock of this country through easy times and through the toughest of times and yet, through it all, as a nation we prospered and we grew. One could say my side is kind of on the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” team, or the “Original Intenters” and the “Evolver’s” are on the “lets keep tinkering with it” team.
The saying goes “choose your battles wisely”– don’t invest your time and energy in a battle you can’t win. Some of us chose the natural born Citizen battle because, well, quite frankly, because we thought if we camped here and fought here we could win this one. Surely eventually everyone would see the utter necessity of the Supreme Court ruling once and for all on who is or is not a natural born Citizen. And so all we had to do was work to educate ourselves and the American public, keep applying the “squeaky wheel gets the grease principle” and the battle could be won. Maybe the SCOTUS would rule one way, or perhaps they would rule the other way, maybe I personally would be pleased, maybe not, but at least the country would finally have a definition a person could bank on! see #(2)
Maybe someday! But for right now in my opinion the subject is simply TOO HOT TO HANDLE!
So what do we do now? Where do we go from here? If we are going to fight for the rule of law as we see it, what course do we set?
I suggest we start by engaging in a little heartfelt self-assessment. Did we make mistakes? If we did we must acknowledge them so we can learn from them. Did “they” defeat us, or did we, at least in part, defeat ourselves? Did we get in our own way sometimes? I think it would be useful if we ask ourselves what would we do differently if we could go back to the spring/summer of 2008?
*(1) for further reading see wikipedia article on the Living Constitution: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_Constitution
*(2) if you think there is not a 50-50 chance either side could win please check out the Obama Presidential Eligibility – An Introductory Primer which is written by someone named Stephen Tonchen. I do not know who Mr. Tonchen is, but he must be brilliant, because this is the most comprehensive, complete and exhaustive piece on the subject on the internet. (IMO of course :)) Read over the site and I think you’ll agree an argument can be made for the SCOTUS ruling to go either way IF and WHEN they ever look at it.
Sharon Rondeau has operated The Post & Email since April 2010, focusing on the Obama birth certificate investigation and other government corruption news. She has reported prolifically on constitutional violations within Tennessee’s prison and judicial systems.