I know this is not a popular notion among Republicans, just as it wasn’t among Democrats when challenges were made to Obama. However, the Constitution should always trump political expediency.
This is not a “technicality,” as some might suggest. If we don’t adhere to the Constitution on matters as significant as presidential eligibility, then the Constitution ceases to be a meaningful document for guiding our nation. Indeed, it becomes the kind of “living document” that many liberals have claimed it should be – ever-changing to new circumstances.
Before I briefly lay out the facts about Rubio’s eligibility, let me make one thing clear: I really like Marco Rubio. I would vote for him for U.S. senator or for governor. I think he is an inspirational speaker. I agree with him on the big issues of the day. His life story is impressive. But his life story is also relevant to his eligibility status – and that cannot be ignored.
Mario and Oriales Rubio became naturalized U.S. citizens on Nov. 5, 1975 – four years after Marco Rubio was born. That’s really all you have to know. That simple fact, one not in dispute, disqualifies him legally, barring an amendment to the Constitution, or a complete and deliberate misinterpretation of the Constitution, from being president or vice president. Those are the only two offices in the U.S. that have such a requirement.
The definition of natural-born citizen approved by the first U.S. Congress can be seen in the Naturalization Act of 1790, which regarded it as a child born of two American parents. The law, specifying that a natural-born citizen need not be born on U.S. soil, stated: “The children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States shall be considered as natural born citizens: Provided, that the right of citizenship shall not descend to persons whose fathers have never been resident in the United States.”
While the act was repealed five years later, it, nevertheless, represented the will of the Congress that the U.S. not be led by someone with dual loyalties.
Rep. John Bingham of Ohio, a principal framer of the 14th Amendment, affirmed in a discussion in the House on March 9, 1866, that a natural-born citizen is “born within the jurisdiction of the United States of parents not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty.”
“The Law of Nations,” a 1758 work by Swiss legal philosopher Emmerich de Vattel, was read by many of the American founders and informed their understanding of law later established in the Constitution.
Vattel specified that a natural-born citizen is born of two citizens and made it clear that the father’s citizenship was a loyalty issue: “The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens. As the society cannot exist and perpetuate itself otherwise than by the children of the citizens, those children naturally follow the condition of their fathers, and succeed to all their rights. … In order to be of the country, it is necessary that a person be born of a father who is a citizen; for, if he is born there of a foreigner, it will be only the place of his birth, and not his country.”
Significantly, when the U.S. Senate resolved in 2008 that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the Republican presidential nominee, was a natural-born citizen, it specified that his parents were American citizens.
The non-binding resolution, co-sponsored by then-Sen. Obama, stated that McCain – born to two American citizens on an American military base in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936, “is a ‘natural born citizen’ under Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution of the United States.”
Of course, this raises a question: What about Obama?
It’s a good question – and goes right to heart of all the controversy about Obama’s eligibility for the last four years. He is not eligible. He never was. It doesn’t matter where he was born. It never did. What mattered – and still matters – is who his parents were. According to Obama and the limited and questionable documentation he has provided to date, his father was a Kenyan student who never became a U.S. citizen. Therefore, he doesn’t meet the test of eligibility. The fact that he has reluctantly provided highly questionable documentation to establish his birth in Hawaii is irrelevant, except that it suggests he is trying to obscure the real facts and the real substance of his eligibility.
But it would be a shame if America compounded its error in permitting an ineligible Obama to serve as president by de facto changing the constitutional standard through neglect and ignorance for the future. If America wants to have a national debate about the meaning of this requirement, let’s have it. If America wants to change the Constitution, let’s debate it. But let’s not allow conventional wisdom on this matter to become so corrupted that we can’t even talk about it openly and honestly. And let’s not stumble into nominating a president or vice president who tests the boundaries of eligibility in such a monumentally important election in 2012.
As I said on Fox, I don’t think most pundits or the Republican establishment have any idea how deep-seated is the concern among Americans, especially Republican voters, about this question of constitutional eligibility. I believe a vice-presidential candidate of questionable eligibility, no matter how attractive he or she might be, will lose up to 10 percent of the base in the election.
I know such a ticket will lose my vote.
I have to follow the Constitution. It’s the law of the land.
And I will continue to speak out on this subject when the opportunity avails itself – no matter the cost.