Still Report #815 – The Presidential Eligibility Act

from Bill Still

An erstwhile commenter, Athena Creamer, from Florida, recently made a proposal that struck a nerve with me.
She suggested that perhaps Rand Paul could introduce “The Truth in Eligibility Act.”
Well, as I said when Rand dropped out of the Presidential race, we need him in the U.S. Senate, and this would be a very good task for he and his staff to take on.
The basic point here is that candidates need to prove their eligibility. It is simply insane to have the primary contests progress this far with one candidate either totally incapable of proving his eligibility to become President, or at least, totally unwilling.

Candidates must be able to prove that they meet the eligibility tests set in the Constitution.
The Supreme Court will probably never rule on the definition of “natural born citizen”. Why? Because the situations that would bring such a question before the nation’s highest court would almost certainly be highly charged politically. Therefore, any decision would only deepen division within the nation instead of create healing.
No, the Supremes see this is a political question. But the problem for Congress is that Democrats will, for quite a while, consider any definition that would rule out and therefore stain the memory of President Obama, as a non-starter.
So, unless the Supremes decide to take up this issue, we are trapped in a conundrum that will not allow us to resolve this thorny issue legislatively except with THE most watered-down definition ipossible.
On July 25, 1787, John Jay wrote to George Washington, the presiding officer of the Constitutional Convention:
“Permit me to hint, whether it would not be wise and seasonable to provide a strong check to the admission of Foreigners into the administration of our national Government, and to declare expressly that the Command in chief of the American army shall not be given to, nor devolve on, any but a natural born Citizen.”
While the Committee of Detail originally proposed that the President must be merely a citizen, as well as a resident for 21 years, the Committee of Eleven changed “citizen” to “natural born citizen”, and the residency requirement to 14 years, without recorded explanation after receiving Jay’s letter. The Convention accepted the change without further recorded debate.

More than likely, the members of the convention felt that the term “natural born citizen” was self explanatory, however Congress needs to cast this in stone before the next presidential cycle begins.
Certainly the term refers to a citizen whose allegiance to the sovereignty of the United States of America, and to no other, is beyond question.
We see the concern for allegiance to the U.S. even in President Andrew Jackson’s 1832 veto message:
“Is there no danger to our liberty and independence in a bank that in its nature has so little to bind it to our country?…. Controlling our currency, receiving our public monies, and holding thousands of our citizens in dependence…. would be more formidable and dangerous than a naval and military power of the enemy.”
In these days where well-funded outright attacks on nationalism are common, prudence would dictate a very restrictive definition of “natural born citizen”, such as: born to two U.S. citizens on United States soil, with exceptions only for on-duty military, intelligence and ambassadorial staffs. That would cut out President Obama, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio.
But of those three, Cruz’s hold on any definition of the “natural born citizen” qualification is the most tenuous, if not totally non-existent.
People in other countries never comment on this situation, probably because they really can’t believe that the basic qualifications for President of the United States have never been specifically defined by law.
If the Supreme Court will not tackle this difficult issue, then, the question becomes; is a definition that diminishes allegiance to and protection of a totally sovereign United States of America worth doing at all?
The answer is probably, “yes”. Let’s get what we can in law, and then tighten it up further later on. And that will give the Supremes some standard to measure future challenges against.
I’m still reporting from Washington. Good Day.