That’s what Andrew Breitbart told me at the Tea Party Nation Convention in Nashville a couple years ago after I used my keynote speech to attack Barack Obama’s flouting of the Constitution – especially with regard to his cavalier stonewalling concerning his eligibility for office.
“It’s not a winning issue.”
He may have been right. I didn’t care. Because, for me, it was – and is – a matter of principle.
Obama is not eligible. And to not challenge him is, in effect, to dumb down a critically important constitutional requirement for being president of the United States – another nail in the coffin of the ingenious document carefully crafted to guide our nation through the future.
And, just as I suspected might happen back then, today the Republicans seem hellbent on nominating for vice president a delightful, engaging, inspiring candidate who is also not eligible.
Maybe Breitbart thinks there are more important considerations right now than the Constitution’s original intent. Or maybe Breitbart, just a few years after leaving liberal-dom behind, still thinks of the Constitution as a “living document” that can mean whatever you want it to mean or whatever you need it to mean at a given time in history. Or maybe he just thinks I’m wrong.
Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, and presumably Breitbart, is of the persuasion that one simply needs to be born in the U.S. under any circumstances, notwithstanding parentage issues, to be a “natural born citizen” and eligible to be president.
There are a number of problems with this assumption – none of which he addresses.
In 2008, the Republican nominee was not born in the United States. The U.S. Senate held hearings to determine John McCain’s eligibility. It determined he was eligible because both his parents were U.S. citizens. I think it was a good decision. But if the definition of “natural born citizen” is, as Shapiro suggests, simply being born on U.S. soil, what difference would it make that his parents were U.S. citizens? When does that fact become relevant – only when someone is born in a foreign land?
By Shapiro’s definition, every anchor baby – or the American-born offspring of illegal aliens – would also be a “natural born citizen” and eligible to be president or vice president. I know some people actually believe that. But then, some people make no distinction whatsoever between a “citizen” and a “natural born citizen.”
The founders’ intent is very clear on this issue. They wanted to avoid even the appearance of “divided loyalties” – something lawyers for John Kerry probably wouldn’t care much about.
I may be in the minority as an American who believes we should err on the side of caution when it comes to constitutional abuses. But I consider that unfortunate – a tragedy, really.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I misread the founders. Maybe my interpretation of the Constitution is too strict – too literal. I have little doubt the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 would find I misconstrue history and the facts – in the unlikely event the justices even had the courage to hear such a case. But maybe – just maybe – we’re long overdue for a rational, open public debate on this issue, without the invective and the derision and the ad hominem attacks.
Long ago I joined a few other brave souls in trying to stimulate such a national dialogue on an important constitutional issue – what it means to be a “natural born citizen” and eligible for the presidency. I honestly thought Americans might like to take a look at this issue honestly, candidly and intelligently. For my trouble, I was blackballed, vilified, ridiculed and scoffed at by thoughtless people – and I wasn’t alone. Some wanted to defend the man in the White House at all costs. Some believed political expediency trumped the Constitution. Others claimed, “It’s not a winning issue.” And those were people who called themselves “conservatives” and claimed to be guided by the Constitution.
They were going to go after a corrupt president based apparently on only “winning issues.” And where are they today? Looking at the very real possibility of a second term for the ineligible president and determined to nominate a vice-presidential candidate who will doom any chance a Republican nominee might have to secure the party’s base.