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The thing about questioning one Presidential candidate's citizenship
Is that it puts all of them on the board to be examined, and I am not just talking Panamanian-born McCain's Panamanian birth here (or for that matter, the fact McCain never went through any sort of INS-approved formal naturalization process to become a US citizen after being brought into the US by his parents):

When Mitt Romney released his birth certificate last week, it prompted a slew of sarcastic headlines mocking the move as unnecessary at best, at worst as a nod in the direction of conspiracy theorists who believe President Obama was born outside the country.

But, as it turns out, Romney has his set of detractors questioning his American citizenship — an Internet subculture that embodies the sort of rubber-and-glue politics that's helped define this election, and one that reflects the way fringe voters translate suspicion of a candidate in the Obama era.

Has this "and you cannot be the child of immigrants" thing come up before?

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.

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That link is malformed...

It works for me. Here is the naked url

Can you see what the issue could be?

I could before. The post was completely different -- it was just a "your link goes here" link, and no body. Oh, and the title was just "The thing about questioning one Presidential candidate'".

Now, it has a body and a properly-formatted link, so I'm really confused. I wonder if it was a timing condition caused by posting to DW and having it crosspost here?

No, I accidentally discovered a single keystroke that would post an incomplete entry and figured I could fix it before anyone noticed.

Has this "and you cannot be the child of immigrants" thing come up before?

Some of the insane have been saying that both parents have to be citizens for one to be a "natural born citizen." So that even if Obama was born in Hawaii, his father wasn't a citizen, therefore he doesn't count.

How many past Presidents does that disqualify?

Article II, section 1: "or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution." I learned that this was in there specifically so Alexander Hamilton would be qualified, but it would also cover Washington.

Well, with the early Presidents there's the issue that native-born American citizens just were not up to the task of winning the Presidency until Martin Van Buren was elected in 1836. Prior to that, no President had been born in the United States of America. Of course, the first native-born American administration was a disaster, earning Van Buren the nick-name Van Ruin.

The *second* native-born President was John Tyler, who took office after the sudden and in no way suspicious death of non-native-American William Henry Harrison. Tyler, treasonous in the manner of the Virginians, eventually went over to the Confederacy during the Slavers Revolt.

The third native-born President, Polk, may have been a monster who ran riot across the continent, spreading his bloody rule into neighboring lands, but the US generally did OK under his regime and he did actually accomplish what he set out to do. We can therefore say it took about seven decades for US to produce a native born President who was not an unmitigated disaster.

The first Canadian PM born in the Dominion of Canada was Arthur Meighen. Poor Arthur Meighen: King ran circles around him and Meighen didn't even get to have his name on the constitutional crisis he played a role in.

King was also born in Canada, though.

[History hat] You're misreading it a bit. Washington was a citizen of the United States from the moment that the constitution was ratified, because he was a citizen of Virginia, which was one of the States that chose to Unite. Citizenship was seen as a state matter, thus (e.g.) the diversity clause, which gives federal courts jurisdiction in cases between citizens of different states.

Citizenship became a federal matter with the strengthening of the central government in the 19th century.

I am not saying the early Presidents were not citizens of the US. I'm just saying they weren't native born. Until Van Buren, they were all born under governments other than the United States of America.

Yeah, I know. But I'm saying they parsed "United States" slightly differently at the very beginning. So their question was, was George Washington a native born citizen of Virginia? Yes, because he was born a Virginian. Sure, at the time it held its charter from the king, but it was still Virginia, and thus he was a native-born citizen of one of the States that United. Hamilton, though, was a native born citizen of the West Indies.

(Side note, I know there was a lot of excitement about the possibility of Canada joining the new independent republic. I wonder if there was hope in the South that some of the Caribbean islands would join up too? Or was that too obviously hopeless, what with absentee-owner plantations and British naval dominance.)

No, the Founding generation did not understand "Natural born Virginians," to be grandfathered into the Constitution, which is why they excepted themselves from the requirement -- and did so in a way that it included people who weren't natural born citizens of any state.

As for Caribbean islands joining the Confederacy, that was one of their long term goals after establishing independence, but not voluntarily. The Southrons had been pushing for annexation of Cuba practically from the inception of the Republic -- in fact, Seward (IIRC) suggested the US invade Cuba as a way to make the rebels forget their rebellion -- and they kept pushing for it all the way until the Spanish-American War when we got it.

Hilariously, I had a high school social studies teacher who would occasionally rant about how the Founding Fathers didn't qualify to be president but were often elected to the presidency anyway, which is why George Washington sucked.

Did he have an alternate candidate in mind to run against Washington?

Now that I think about it, I believe he said we should have remained under the rule of a governing group where executive officers took turns as head of state.

This is the same teacher who taught us this mnemonic to remember William Henry Harrison, who died a month after election: "Old Rough and Ready should have been called Old Dead and Buried."

You probably knew immediately that "Old Rough and Ready" was actually Zachary Taylor, not Harrison. Sadly, I did not, and my grades in my first U.S. history course at uni accurately reflected my high school education.

(Deleted previous to edit this one.)

Such a rule would disqualify Chester Arthur, whose father was born in Ireland, and Woodrow Wilson, whose mother was born in England.

I can't think of any other cases, which of course does not mean there are none.

William Hyde

The "cannot be the child of immigrants" notion seems to be more prominent now than it was in the Orly Taitz era of birtherism. I suspect it's because it's dawning on some of them that the birth-certificate angle no longer works.

The people claiming that "natural-born citizen" status requires citizen parents or native parents are citing a 1758 book by Swiss writer Emerich de Vattel, which seems a strange thing for American super-patriots to cite as a legal authority. It of course bears no visible relation to the Constitution's natural-born-citizen clause or the 14th Amendment.

The Wikipedia article cites this excellent 2011 Congressional Research Service report

which, among other things, reveals that there were a few 19th-century American legal opinions supporting a narrow definition of "natural-born" citizenship, but they were in support of the decisions in Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson. Not exactly the best company. Meanwhile, the legal history on this subject for the most part reveals that the birther reading is nonsense, as you'd expect.

McCain's status as a citizen from birth was actually never at issue because of the citizenship of his parents, so it wouldn't have mattered where he was born.

In Obama's case, it actually does matter that he was born in the US, because at the time of his birth in 1961, a child with a citizen mother married to a non-citizen father only inherited citizenship automatically if his mother had been resident in the US for five years after the age of 14, and his mother could not have been, since she was a few months shy of her 19th birthday.

So if Obama had really been born in Kenya, it really would have made him a non-citizen at birth. Of course, he actually was born in Hawaii, as abundant evidence makes obvious.

That's one of the reasons why these assholes want to overturn the Fourteenth Amendment.

Jeebus, is that actually a thing?

(Although when I just now looked it up, I seem to recall reading some law professors' blogs snickering that Congress's fight over the debt ceiling was in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, specifically section four, "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.")

(Deleted comment)
Oh yeah. There's a lot of opposition to jus soli citizenship (see any rant about "anchor babies"), which the 14th explicitly guarantees.

I think it's even more popular than opposition to the 17th (direct election of senators) and the 19th (woman suffrage), and it's quite popular to be opposed to those in modern American conservatism.

...also, people who are really into states' rights are still livid about the whole incorporation-of-the-Bill-of-Rights thing. Though, on the other hand, anti-abortion people would really like the 14th to be extended to fetuses.

I was just about to mention that. The states' rights thing is big on our local newspaper forums with the (happily dwindling) TeaPubliTarian crowd. They whine about the various amendments regularly, usually knowing that in Kansas those amendments would not pass should they be up to a vote now, so it allows them an "easy" way to oppose civil rights.

I stand second to none in defending the technical legality of McCain's supposed American citizenship! And if he wants to keep using the language he learned as a child, that's nobody's business but his; personally, I find his accent charming.

McCain's status as a citizen from birth was actually never at issue because of the citizenship of his parents, so it wouldn't have mattered where he was born.

There's an argument that it did matter, and that his "natural born" status is at issue due to a weird corner case in the law at the time of his birth.

The TL;DR version: the Canal Zone was not US territory for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment (and therefore jus soli doesn't apply), based on the Insular Cases. It was however not "out of the limits and jurisdiction of the United States", which was the wording of the then-current statute granting citizenship to the child of citizens.

This particular hole was fixed in 1937, after McCain's birth...meaning that he was not, by a strict reading of the law, a US citizen at the time of his birth. (He was retroactively made one by the new law.)

I have a feeling an attack on McCain's eligibility on those grounds would not have held up in court. But, then again, the Obama birther cases never hold up in court, and it doesn't stop them.

...And, in fact, the CRS report mentions a district-court ruling in California in Robinson v. Bowen, finding it "highly probable" that the argument in Chin's paper doesn't wash, a few weeks after it was written. But it didn't go any further than that.

Actually, McCain was not a citizen when he was born. He fell into a freakish gap in the laws that gave special status to Panama. The Constitution says that anyone born on US soil is a citizen, but the citizenship of anyone born outside the US is a matter for Congress. Which at the time allowed anyone born on foreign soil to US citizens was a citizen. But in a series of court cases called the Insular Decisions, Panama was determined to be neither foreign soil (being a satrapy of the US) nor US soil for the purposes of citizenship.

The year after McCain was born, Congress passed a law that covered children born to US citizens in Panama, and made it retroactive. But the day he was born? Not a US citizen. Which highlighted the racial enmity of the attacks on Obama particularly clear.

Edited at 2012-06-05 05:47 pm (UTC)

I cannot believe that the business about Obama's mother being too young would have held up in court, unless perhaps she'd been a naturalized citizen herself, which of course she was not (born a US citizen, and the child and grandchild, at the very least, of other US citizens).

Incidentally, if you count the marriage as invalid (which it probably was, being bigamous and all), then Obama becomes an out-of-wedlock child of a US citizen mother and the rules are different (he'd have taken his mother's citizenship if she'd had even one year of residence in the US prior to his birth).

Maybe it wouldn't have, just as the argument about McCain didn't seem promising. It is at least technically supported by language the State Department uses.

Your second point is correct: her marriage to the elder Barack Obama could well have been legally invalid, in which case different rules apply and her citizenship would have automatically transferred to her son.

...That paper also goes into yet another claim, which is that Obama's citizenship was somehow automatically nullified by the time he spent in Indonesia in his youth. This, of course, is even less supported than any of the other theories; he would have lost his citizenship if he voluntarily renounced it upon attaining majority, but he obviously never did this.

I bet he lost any potential Indonesian citizenship by voluntarily serving in the government of a foreign power! Maybe we could whip that up into some kind of scandal too. "He betrayed Indonesia, next he'll betray America!"

I think the real concern with Mitt Romney is fundamentally different from that with Obama ("He's not an American!") but rather that he's not even HUMAN.

Meanwhile, the Crooked Timber commentariat agonize over Obama's drone war. I haven't said that much about this in part because I have little that is coherent or constructive to offer; but as Ta-Nehisi Coates noted on Twitter, there's a growing genre of liberal complaints about how liberals are not complaining. Several people in the thread make the point that these drone strikes are actually very politically popular in the US; possibly the way forward is to erode support for the policy directly rather than making it some question about whether liberals are morally obligated to throw the 2012 election.

Commenter "ascholl" has an interesting take, arguing for greater-evil voting as an alternative to lesser-evil voting:
I’m probably casting a left-wing protest vote, but I’m tempted to vote for Romney under the theory that while he’d certainly be worse, folks on the left might form a meaningful opposition to some of our more horrible policies if Obama isn’t pulling the trigger.
Previously, I think I'd heard one of the other commenters advocating for a Newt Gingrich presidency on similar grounds: liberals would at least be free to hate him.

I recall that, around the time it became clear that Obama was not going to prosecute anybody in the Bush administration for war crimes, it was widely stated that failure to prosecute a war crime is itself a war crime. By mathematical induction, all future US Presidents will likely be guilty of war crimes simply for failure to prosecute all of the previous ones.

Questioning that nice Mr Romney's citizenship is the wrong conspiracy theory.

Mitt Romney belongs to a group that: renounces wine; believes Christ is good but not God; has a holy book delivered by an angel to their prophet; and has a tradition of polygamy.

Clearly Romney is a secret Muslim.



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