EDITOR’S NOTE: Below is a guest post by Paul R. Hollrah, a resident of Oklahoma who writes from the perspective of a veteran conservative politico who served two terms as a member of the Electoral College. Even if you disagree with him, this piece will make you think long and hard.
By Paul R. Hollrah, Guest Writer
As we enter the 2016 campaign season with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) mentioned as potential presidential candidates, a great many Americans remain confused about the definition of the term “natural born Citizen.” Although each of these men are eligible to serve as governors, as U.S. Senators, as members of the U.S. House of Representatives, or even justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, none are eligible to serve as president or vice president because they are not “natural born Citizens,” as required by Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution.
Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban father; Jindal was born in the U.S. to a father and mother, both of whom were citizens of India; Rubio was born in the U.S to parents, both of whom were citizens of Cuba; and Santorum was born in the U.S. to an American mother and an Italian father. Under provisions of the 14th Amendment, all are “citizens at birth,” but none are “natural born” citizens because of their non-citizen parentage.
Writing in a MinuteMenNews.com article while aware that Senator Cruz was born in Canada to a Cuban father, Greg Conterio relies on language contained in 8 USC §1401 to support his contention that Cruz is a “natural born” citizen. That statutory language defines a “citizen at birth” as “a person born outside of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom is a citizen of the United States who has been physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for a continuous period of one year prior to the birth of such person, and the other of whom is… not a citizen of the United States.” At no point does the statute mention the term “natural born Citizen,” nor does it attempt to show that the terms “natural born Citizen” and “citizen at birth” are synonymous. To the contrary, when the Founders inserted the words “natural born Citizen” in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, as a principal qualification for those who wished to serve as president of the United States, it was their intention that all those born with any taint of foreign allegiance should be barred from the presidency and the vice presidency. Hence, the term “natural born Citizen.”
Under the 14th Amendment, all those born in the United States to American citizen parents, as well as those born to foreign nationals or parents of mixed nationality, are “citizens at birth.” In other words, all “natural born” citizens are “citizens at birth,” but not all “citizens at birth” are “natural born.” However, Conterio contends that the terms “natural born Citizen” and “Citizen at birth” are synonymous, just as the terms “dog” and “domestic canine” are synonymous. That simply is not true. Those terms are no more synonymous than the terms “apple” and “orange.” But then, Conterio goes on to argue that, “Based on U.S. law, the terms ‘natural born Citizen’ and ‘Citizen at birth’ are synonymous.” However, in the next breath he reverses course, saying, “The Founders said ‘Natural Born Citizen,’ and the U.S. Code says ‘Citizen at Birth,’ which mean two completely different things.” So which is it? Either the terms are “synonymous” or are they “two completely different things?” They can’t be both.
What many who support the eligibility of Cruz, Jindal, Rubio, and Santorum refuse to consider is that there are only two jobs in all of America that require the incumbents to be “natural born” citizens. Those jobs are president and vice president of the United States. Every other job in America, in government or in the private sector, can be filled by natural born citizens, by citizens at birth, by naturalized citizens, or, in some cases, by non-citizens with work visas. Those who agree that there are several categories of citizenship, but then argue that the Constitution puts no unique requirements on candidates for president and vice president, have an obligation to explain what they see as the difference between a “natural born” citizen and any other kind of citizen.
In his analysis, Conterio relies heavily on an April 3, 2009 memorandum prepared by attorney Jack Maskell of the Congressional Research Service. The Maskell memorandum, which has been widely discredited, was produced for one reason and one reason alone: to give political cover to members of Congress who voted to certify Obama’s Electoral College votes, knowing or strongly suspecting that he was not eligible for that office.
The gist of Maskell’s argument is that “…there is no federal law, regulation, rule, guideline, or requirement that a candidate for federal office produce his or her original birth certificate, or a certified copy of the record of live birth, to any official of the United States government… Furthermore, there is no specific federal agency or office that ‘vets’ candidates for federal office as to qualifications or eligibility… ”
No specific federal agency or office that “vets” candidates for federal office as to qualifications or eligibility? Upon being sworn into office in early January, following each biennial General Election, all members of Congress are required to swear the following oath: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”
The congressional oath of office clearly requires all members of Congress to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” That includes all those who would seek to gain access to the presidency without the necessary qualifications.
The presidential selection process provides three vetting opportunities for president and vice president. Unfortunately, all three vetting opportunities failed miserably in 2008-09. The first occurred at the close of the Democratic national convention, in Denver, when the convention chairman, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and the convention secretary, Alice Travis Germond, certified Barack Obama and Joe Biden to the 50 state election boards so that ballots could be printed.
Because Hawaii has specific certification requirements under Hawaii Revised Statutes §11-113, Pelosi and Germond certified to the State of Hawaii, as follows: “THIS IS TO CERTIFY that at the National Convention of the Democrat Party of the United States of America, held in Denver, Colorado, on August 25 though (sic) 28, 2008, the following were duly nominated candidates of said Party for President and Vice President of the United States respectively, and that the following candidates for President and Vice President of the United States are legally qualified to serve under the provisions of the United States Constitution.”
The certifications sent to the other 49 states read, simply: “THIS IS TO CERTIFY that at the National Convention of the Democrat Party of the United States of America, held in Denver, Colorado, on August 25 though (sic) 28, 2008, the following were duly nominated as candidates of said Party for President and Vice President of the United States, respectively.” Affixed were the names and home addresses of Barack Obama and Joe Biden. The phrase, “… and that the following candidates for President and Vice President of the United States are legally qualified to serve under the provisions of the United States Constitution” was purposely omitted.
Other than that, all of the documents were identical… even to the misspelling of the word “through” in the second line of the certifications. The only reasonable conclusion to be drawn is that Democrats knew when they nominated him that Obama was not a “natural born” citizen and, therefore, ineligible to serve. Pelosi was aware that certifying falsely to Obama’s eligibility was a criminal offense, so the question arises, what did she know, and when did she know it?
The second vetting opportunity occurred on Dec. 15, 2008, when the Democratic members of the Electoral College met to elect Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Even though most electors had been warned in advance that Obama did not meet the constitutional requirements to serve as president, all 365 Democratic electors, anxious to have another Democrat in the White House, violated their electoral oaths and cast their ballots for Obama.
The third and final vetting opportunity occurred on Jan. 8, 2009, when the Congress met in joint session to certify the votes of the Electoral College. Prior to that date, essentially every member of Congress had been advised that Obama’s citizenship status was seriously in doubt. So, if a member of Congress suspected that the Electoral College had erred, it was his/her solemn obligation to make those suspicions known and to object to the certification of the Electoral College vote. Yet, all 535 members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, purposely violated their oath of office by failing to demand an examination of Obama’s qualifications.
Why did they do so? Although we can’t read the minds of 535 members of Congress, we can “bet the farm” that most failed to question Obama’s eligibility because they were terrified at what would happen in the streets of America if the first black man ever elected by the Electoral College was turned away at the last moment on a constitutional “technicality.” Instead, the double-redundant “fail safe” system envisioned by the Founders suffered catastrophic failure.
But now, with the potential candidacies of Cruz, Jindal, Rubio and Santorum, Republican principles will soon be put to the test. We will see whether Republicans, who, unlike Democrats, believe in the strict construction of the Constitution and the rule of law, will have sufficient reverence for the words of the Constitution to deny the nomination to a candidate who does not meet the necessary qualifications. Knowing Republicans as I do, I feel certain that they will distinguish themselves by refusing to nominate an unqualified candidate.