How is it possible that Barack Obama is a natural born citizen? (Response to Video Drama)
Spreading one of about the about sixty bizarre assertions that Barack Obama is not qualified to be President, someone sent me a message this morning challenging me to “refute this video”, and asking in particular the question, “How is it possible that Obama is a natural born citizen?”
Watch the video if you must, but only you have eight minutes to waste. It’s mostly filler, not substance; the video author takes over a minute to talk in a low, artificially bassified voice about how very long it will take for him to make his argument and how important it is that you nonetheless watch the video. 4 minutes into the video, there still is hasn’t been a shred of evidence provided about Barack Obama’s birth. Don’t have a spare eight minutes to toss in the trash? Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up:
Claims made by the video:
1. In order to be President of the United States, a person must be a “natural born Citizen.”
2. A “natural born citizen” is one who is born on U.S. soil to two people, both of whom are U.S. citizens. “It IS the law!” intones the video in Darth Vader tones.
3. Barack Obama’s father was not a U.S. citizen, therefore Barack Obama is not a “natural born citizen” and is ineligible to be president.
The video throws up some chaff and waves its hands to make it look to an uninformed viewer as though there were a legal basis for this set of claims. I can’t decide which is my favorite bit of non-proof: is it the reference to a letter sent by a member of the House of Representatives in the 1800s as part of the legal bedrock? No, that’s cute, but not nearly as factish-seeming as this bit:
Right now, the issue is not why they chose to write this requirement into law, but that they did write this requirement into law. And as a nation governed by the rule of law, we cannot simply toss it aside, even if we don’t like it or agree with it! It IS the law!
On April 30, 2008, the United States Senate by Resolution 511 confirmed this fundamental constitutional requirement by stating that “Whereas John Sidney McCain, III, was born to American citizens on an American military base in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That John Sidney McCain, III, is a ‘natural born Citizen’ under Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution of the United States.”
Interestingly, one of the coauthors of the resolution was none other than Senator Barack Obama. In his words, as well as those of his colleagues in the Senate, a natural born citizen is one who is born to “American citizens.” Not “citizen.” Citizens!
But why does this matter? Barack Obama’s father was NOT an American citizen.
No, it’s NOT the law. First of all, S. Res. 511 is a Senate Resolution, not a Senate Bill. It has no force of law but is rather a symbolic declarative statement. Second of all, the video author doesn’t show you the whole resolution, which makes it clear that the question at hand is a completely different one, whether children born to American citizens on military bases in foreign countries are natural born citizens. Here’s the full text:
Recognizing that John Sidney McCain, III, is a natural born citizen.
Whereas the Constitution of the United States requires that, to be eligible for the Office of the President, a person must be a ‘natural born Citizen’ of the United States;
Whereas the term ‘natural born Citizen’, as that term appears in Article II, Section 1, is not defined in the Constitution of the United States;
Whereas there is no evidence of the intention of the Framers or any Congress to limit the constitutional rights of children born to Americans serving in the military nor to prevent those children from serving as their country’s President;
Whereas such limitations would be inconsistent with the purpose and intent of the `natural born Citizen’ clause of the Constitution of the United States, as evidenced by the First Congress’s own statute defining the term `natural born Citizen’;
Whereas the well-being of all citizens of the United States is preserved and enhanced by the men and women who are assigned to serve our country outside of our national borders;
Whereas previous presidential candidates were born outside of the United States of America and were understood to be eligible to be President; and
Whereas John Sidney McCain, III, was born to American citizens on an American military base in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That John Sidney McCain, III, is a ‘natural born Citizen’ under Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution of the United States.
This is a statement of support for John McCain, that as a child of citizens born outside the United States, he is a “natural born citizen.” But the author of the video turns it into some kind of federal law declaring the standard for “natural born” citizenship of kids born in the USA. Nice twist!
There is no federal law that defines “natural born” citizenship status for children born in the United States. In desperation to find one, bloggers will make heavily redacted and edited reference to some laws passed in the 1st Congress, with their own commentary inserted into brackets to make the law seem to say what they want it to say. But that’s bogus, too: the 1st Congress federal law was overturned at the beginning of the 19th Century. I challenge you to find such a law in force today. There is none. You won’t find it.
Without federal law, how do we figure out the definition of “natural born” citizenship for people who, like Barack Obama, have one or more non-citizen parent? We look to the Supreme Court, and the last ruling made on that particular subject is is United States v. Wong Kim Ark in 1898. No Supreme Court case has overturned that case’s precedent. The Supreme Court majority opinion issued at the time of the ruling discusses the meaning of “natural born citizen” in the Constitution and concludes (with repeated and detailed reference to English common law for understanding) that a child born in the United States whose parents are non-citizens, even a child born in the United States who has two non-citizen parents, is a “natural born citizen.”
The simple answer to the question “How is it possible that Obama is a natural born citizen?” is that the Supreme Court long ago settled the matter. None of the video’s bluster, none of those 19th Century congressmen’s personal letters, none of the references to Senate Resolutions about people born on military bases, none of that changes this simple fact.
The author of the video says his counterfactual harangue is “not about politics.” I encourage you to check out the rest of his videos to make your own decision about the veracity of that claim.
P.S. In a sign of his insecurity, the author has forbidden anyone to make comments responding to his video. I welcome your comments below. Please make them factual.