Exclusive: The Constitution and the Presidency – Why It Matters

by PAM MEISTER December 4, 2008
There’s been quite a bit of buzz on the Internet about the validity of Barack Obama’s ascension to the presidency – specifically regarding his status as a natural born citizen of the United States. For those of you who have not heard about it, the suspicion is that Obama was not born in the U.S., but in Kenya – which is why he had his birth records sealed by the governor of Hawaii. Another version of this story is that while he may have been born in Hawaii, his adoption by his stepfather and residency in Indonesia resulted in his citizenship there, which he never reversed. (The United States does not recognize dual citizenship if a U.S. citizen voluntarily seeks to become a citizen of another nation.)
I’m not here to suggest that there is any kind of proof that Obama is not a natural born citizen – although it is curious that he would continue to allow these rumors to escalate. Unsealing his birth records would quickly set the record straight and allow us to move on to more substantial issues.
However, this controversy brings up an excellent opportunity to discuss the requirements in Article II of our Constitution regarding eligibility requirements for the presidency:
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.
FSM friend and contributor Bob Parks points us to a paper by lawyer Sarah P. Herlihy who – coincidentally? – works for a law firm in Obama’s hometown of Chicago, in which she suggests a constitutional amendment is in order that would abolish the “natural born citizen” requirement. Why?
The natural born citizen clause of the United States Constitution should be repealed for numerous reasons. Limiting presidential eligibility to natural born citizens discriminates against naturalized citizens, is outdated and undemocratic, and incorrectly assumes that birthplace is a proxy for loyalty. The increased globalization of the world continues to make each of these reasons more persuasive. As the world becomes smaller and cultures become more similar through globalization, the natural born citizen clause has increasingly become out of place in the American legal system.
Naturalized citizens – those born elsewhere and who make the choice to become Americans – are among the most patriotic citizens you will ever find. They know from experience how blessed they are to live in the greatest, freest nation on earth. The requirement is not a slur upon them. Yet allowing a naturalized citizen to run for president has an element of risk, one that proponents of the amendment seem to be ignoring: the chance for a “mole” to get into the White House, whose allegiance lies in Moscow, Caracas or anywhere else but the U.S. of A.
Elections are tough, and there’s never a guarantee about who the winner will ultimately be. But do you want a candidate whose allegiance may lie somewhere other than America? That’s not to say that a true-blue, native born American citizen can’t be bought – see Adam Gadahn, Alger Hiss, John Walker Lindh, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for proof. However, the chances for such a scenario are likely to be higher with someone who was born and raised elsewhere, with different value systems and loyalties.
Even those who become citizens as children may have conflicted loyalties. Recently, I was listening to an international radio broadcast in which a doctor in Britain was being interviewed. Originally from Somalia, he moved to Britain at the age of 14 and has no immediate plans to leave. He was educated in Britain and has lived there for 20 years. But he admitted his heart was still in Somalia, despite the turmoil going on there that overrides his desire to leave the comparative safety and security of the UK.
Sorry, but if this guy was living here, I would not want him running for president. It’s why I (and an overwhelming majority of Americans) am against such an amendment. Even Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) agrees: "I don't think it is unfair to say the president of the United States should be a native-born citizen. Your allegiance is driven by your birth."
While native born status is no guarantee of patriotism and pride in country (see Code Pink), it’s the closest thing to a guarantee that we have of electing a president who puts America first, even – and I shudder as I write this – if it is to change what America is. (Is that you, Barack?)
Once again, we see liberals trying to make everyone “equal” and make everything “fair” – as well as trying to realize their dream of a living, breathing Constitution. Fortunately our Founders made constitutional amendments extremely difficult, thereby making only truly important changes like the abolition of slavery possible.
It’s a good thing they were the ones writing up the Constitution, not people like Sarah Herlihy.
Pam Meister is the editor of FamilySecurityMatters.org.

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