Does the phrase “natural born citizen” require a President to have two citizen parents? This came up in a thread below, and since I think it is an issue of utmost importance to anyone who says they care about original intent, I have decided to post my rather long thoughts on the matter below. (I post it as is so look back to understand the context and what and who I am addressing.) I don’t really answer the question here, because I haven’t seen it decisively answered, but I offer a way to approach the question and what I think the most cautious consensus opinion should be. I would prefer people take up the issue under this stand alone threads so as not to clutter up this very important question with more stuff about the Trump debate.
Kirt and C Bowen, I don’t think a definitive case can be made about what the Founders intended, but I think a compelling case can be made. If a definitive case could be made then someone would have already made it. I’ve only looked into it superficially and asked people I trust. There was actually surprisingly little said about what they meant and intended. That is why so many people end up referring to a foreigner, Vattel. What I believe is that the preponderance of the evidence suggests that the person was supposed to have two citizen parents. As Kirt rightly points out, the issue is complicated by matters of history. They didn’t have all the apparatuses of state for recording citizenship back then that we have today nor hospital births nor easy mass travel etc. So people were generally assumed to be subjects of the place they resided unless they otherwise weren’t, meaning they still claimed allegiance to a foreign government/King, they were obvious temporary residents, etc. IMO, at a minimum, the person should be born of two parents neither of whom still legally technically owed allegiance to a foreign government. This IMO represents the most cautious default opinion. This should be the opinion that conservatives defend with a unified voice. I think the issue should be clarified with a Constitutional amendment, although I don’t think I would like the way that would likely go. I think requiring that the President be born of two citizen parents is a good and cautious policy. There is no right to be President and if the President were the minimalist position it ought to be, no reason to believe that we so desperately need to broaden the talent pool to include those otherwise born.
The problem is that very few conservatives initially even bothered to look at the issue from an original intent standpoint. Many just made arguments off the top of their head based on what felt right to them. Worse, many made definitive foot stomping arguments based on what felt right to them. This is true of both the birthers who foot stomped that being born on foreign soil, if true, was exclusionary, and anti-birthers who foot stomped that it wasn’t. I was guilty of this at first, because initially I argued that what was meant by natural born was “not naturalized” or “born a citizen,” essentially what Kirt says it means. In fact, I’m still of the opinion that a better case can be made for a child of two citizens born on foreign soil than can be made for someone born on US soil with one or two foreign parents. The birthers in general, there are exceptions I’m sure, generally didn’t latch on to the Obama is inedible regardless of where he was born argument until definitive proof he wasn’t born in HI seemed less and less likely to be forthcoming, which raised skepticism and decreased the credibility of the claim in the minds of many.
This is an issue of extreme current and future importance. If “natural born” means simply born a citizen, then Obama (assuming he was born in HI which I do), Jindal and Rubio are eligible. If natural born means something other than just born a citizen then Obama, Jindal and Rubio are not eligible. Since Rubio and Jindal are both talked up as potential VP nominees and future candidates and Obama is the current President who is seeking reelection, then I can’t understand how this could be viewed as an issue of little significance.
I don’t think there is a conspiracy of silence on the part of organized conservatism to not address the issue because they want to maintain the viability of Rubio (I believe this is what C Bowen is implying), although I think many do. That would imply more logic and forethought and organization than I have witnesses in this debate which I have been following closely from the start. As I said, I haven’t seen any kind of organization or a script or talking points. I’ve just seen a bunch of knuckleheads foot stomping and making definitive statements based on what felt right to them. I do think fear of birther taint has contributed significantly to this lack of a consensus. I also think that modern “conservatives” are just squeamish about making the argument because it seems anachronistic and harsh to them and might bring the dreaded r word charge. Birthers are partially at fault for their own taint associated with them because they weren’t cautious with their claims or their sources and brought discredit on themselves in many ways. But “reasonable” conservatives are guilty of letting their fear turn off their brains and silence them. Reasonable conservatives ought to be able to sift through the junk and figure out what is important. From the very beginning organized conservatism should have made the case in a unified voice that Obama is most likely ineligible because his alleged father was a transient foreign national. (The transient issue is potentially important because Obama’s alleged father wasn’t even here with the intent of becoming a citizen in the case that allegiance is the issue.) I’m as guilty here as anyone, because I didn’t make that case from the start, but at least I always had sense enough never to foot stomp and never to believe that his eligibility was determined by anything other than the original intent of the Constitution. By implication, organized conservatism should rule out Rubio and Jindal as potential VPs or Presidential candidates.
While I agree with Kirt that we are unlikely to overturn a popular election based on a preponderance of the evidence interpretation of the Constitution that contradicts the “current interpretation” so blatantly, to me this is also about what our unified voice should be. At a minimum, no one who calls himself a conservative or a Constitutionalist or anyone else for that matter should be able to simply assert the eligibility of Obama or Jindal or Rubio without being asked to back up that opinion with evidence regarding original intent.