Jewish World Review July 20, 2011 / 18 Tammuz, 5771
Who Is A Natural Born Citizen?
By Bernard Goldberg
What followed were emails from people who told me that Rubio can't be vice president because the Constitution says only "natural born citizens" can be president or vice president, and he doesn't fit the description.
Some went a tad further. Ray said I need to "wake up." Gregor who signed his name "American by Birth Patriot by Choice" said my comment about Rubio was both "uneducated" and "foolish." Edward said, "I'm sure you have read the Constitution but I urge you to reread Article I, Section II which gives the qualifications for president." David simply stated that, "Neither of Marco Rubio's parents were citizens of our country when he was born. Therefore, Marco Rubio is not a Natural Born Citizen of the United States."
I'm always amused when I get letters from self-appointed "scholars" who have no doubt none! about how knowledgeable they are when it comes to constitutional law even though not one of them spent even 10 minutes in law school. How do I know? If they had, trust me, they would have mentioned it IN CAPITAL LETTERS!
Many of these people, I suspect, have another agenda, which I'll get to shortly. But first …
The Constitution does not define the term "natural born citizen." And as Wikipedia explains, "scholars and politicians have not agreed as to whether U.S.-born children of non-citizens … qualify as natural born citizens."
Also from Wikipedia: "The natural born citizen clause has been mentioned in passing in several decisions of the United States Supreme Court and lower courts, but the Supreme Court has never directly addressed the question of a specific presidential or vice-presidential candidate's eligibility as a natural born citizen."
So what did the Founders have in mind when they used that term they didn't bother to define? Well, after the Constitution was ratified, some of the Founders opined about the meaning of the clause. Here's what James Madison, one of the authors of the Constitution, had to say on the subject in a speech before the House of Representatives in May 1789:
"It is an established maxim, that birth is a criterion of allegiance. Birth, however, derives its force sometimes from place, and sometimes from parentage; but, in general place is the most certain criterion; it is what applies in the United States."
So Mr. Madison, speaking directly to the question of who is and who is not a "natural born citizen" states that here in the United States "place" or where you were born" trumps "parentage" the citizenship of your mother and father.
Now let's get to what I believe is the real motive behind all of this. And it has a lot less to do with Marco Rubio than Barack Obama.
At the risk of sounding cynical, I think some of this is birther nonsense, just the latest lame attempt to make a case that Barack Obama is not a legitimate president. His father, after all, was not a U.S. citizen, therefore, Barack Obama is not a natural born citizen, and ipso facto, he should never have been allowed to become president.
In fact, one of my email pals, Cyndee, said just that: He [Barack Obama] is not a natural born citizen because of his father. Case closed. While the Republicans let the Democrats get away with it, I doubt the Dems will return the favor [if Rubio becomes vice president]."
Well, case not closed. As Wikipedia states, "Although numerous claims have been put forth that the current president, Barack Obama, is not a natural born citizen, the relevant courts have so far dismissed all lawsuits brought over this question."
I hope the Republicans heed my advice and the advice of many others and put Marco Rubio on their ticket. And I hope the ticket wins. Then Cyndee or Ray or Edward or David or Gregor the Patriot can go to court and make a federal case out of it. When they lose, I hope they will stop beating the dead horse.
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JWR contributor Bernard Goldberg, the television news reporter and author of several bestselling books, among them, Bias, a New York Times number one bestseller about how the media distort the news. He is widely seen as one of the most original writers and thinkers in broadcast journalism. Mr. Goldberg covered stories all over the world for CBS News and has won 10 Emmy awards for excellence in journalism. He now reports for the widely acclaimed HBO broadcast Real Sports.
He is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey and a member of the school's Hall of Distinguished Alumni and proprietor of BernardGoldberg.com.
© 2011, Bernard Goldberg