As national polls show Donald Trump increasing in popularity while Hillary Clinton continues to decline, it is clear that Clinton and her surrogates are frantically searching for a single issue that they can use to blunt the Trump popularity surge. It now appears that they will put on a full-court-press, using the “birther” issue to make Trump appear racially bigoted, elitist, and conspiracy-minded.
The question of Trump’s status as a “birther” was raised once again in a recent interview with the Washington Post when he was asked if he believed that Barack Obama was born in the United States. Trump replied, “I’ll answer that question at the right time. I just don’t want to answer it yet.” Shortly after that interview, Trump’s senior communications adviser emailed a statement to reporters insisting that Trump no longer has questions about Obama’s birthplace.
Article II. Section 1, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution, states that, “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”
What Trump and his legions of supporters and detractors clearly fail to understand is that the place of Obama’s birth has no more impact on the question of his presidential eligibility than does the color of his underwear. If he was born in Hawaii, as appears to be the case, then he is an American “citizen,” but that has nothing to do with his status as a “natural born” citizen.
In 1866, John A. Bingham, chief framer of the 14th Amendment, which granted citizenship to the freed slaves, wrote as follows: “Every human being born within the United States of parents not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty (emphasis added) is, in the language of the Constitution itself, a natural born citizen.” While Obama’s mother was clearly an American citizen when he was born, his father was not. His father was a citizen of Kenya, a British crown colony. He owed allegiance only to the British crown, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
That being the case, it is indisputable that Obama was born with dual US-British citizenship (see Part 2, Section 5 of the British Nationality Act of 1948); he acquired dual US-Kenyan citizenship on December 12, 1963 (see Chapter VI, Section 87, Subsections 1 and 2 of the 1963 Kenyan constitution); he lost his Kenyan citizenship on August 4, 1984, his 23rd birthday (see Chapter VI, Section 97 of the 1963 Kenyan constitution); and he became a “citizen of Kenya by birth” on August 4, 2010 (see Chapter 3, Section 14 of the 2010 Kenyan constitution).
The Founders rightly understood that the most influential factor in a child’s upbringing is the parenting he/she receives as a child, and that the cultural, philosophical, political, and religious influence of a child’s parents through the formative years fundamentally establishes the direction of his/her future conduct and intellectual development. Accordingly, what the Founders feared most, and what caused them to limit access to the presidency only to the “natural born,” was the fear that a future president… during the years in which he was developing intellectually… would be exposed to an environment and/or a political ideology that would cause him to reject the values and the principles embodied in the U.S. Constitution. Accordingly, while Obama appears to have been born on American soil, making him a U.S. “citizen,” precisely what is it that differentiates a “citizen” from a “natural born” citizen? Those who agree that the two terms are mutually exclusive, not synonymous, but who also argue that Obama is “natural born,” are obliged to support their argument with facts and reason.
At the time the Constitution was ratified on June 21, 1788, there were three types of citizens: 1) The former British subjects who… having renounced all foreign allegiances and having pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor… became citizens of a sovereign American nation when the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776; 2) The post-Declaration children of those who became U.S. citizens on July 4, 1776, the first “natural born” citizens of the United States, and all less than twelve years old at the time the Constitution was ratified on June 21, 1788; and 3) A class of citizens comprised of those who were naturalized after July 4, 1776, having taken a loyalty oath and having renounced all foreign allegiances.
A great many well-intentioned, but ill-informed, Americans refuse to accept the fact that, while the Founders intended that only “natural born” citizens should ever serve as president, there were no 35-year-old “natural born” citizens available during the first 35 years of our nation’s history. Accordingly, it became necessary to provide an exemption of limited duration covering those citizens born prior to July 4, 1776. All were “grandfathered” and made eligible under the phrase, “or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution…”
To fully understand the significance of that phrase it is necessary to recognize three very important dates: 1) July 4, 1776, the date on which the Declaration of Independence was signed, making all citizens of the thirteen colonies citizens of the United States; 2) June 21, 1788, the date on which ratification by the State of New Hampshire made the Constitution the official law of the land; and 3) July 4, 1811, the date after which the first “natural born” citizens… those born to U.S. citizens after the signing of the Declaration on July 4, 1776… became 35 years of age.
The Constitution requires that, in addition to being a “natural born” citizen and a resident of the United States for at least fourteen years, those who would seek the presidency must be at least thirty-five years of age. However, the only “natural born” citizens available on June 21, 1788, the day the Constitution was ratified, were children under twelve years of age. To solve that problem, the Framers added a “grandfather clause,” making it possible for newly-minted US citizens… all residents of the United States for at least fourteen years and all at least thirty-five years of age, but none of them “natural born” because they were born to parents who were not U.S. citizens on the day they were born… to serve as president. This was necessary until such time as a body of individuals, all “natural born” citizens, reached age thirty-five.
For example, our first seven presidents… George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson… were all “citizens” of the United States. However, because all were born prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, to parents who were British subjects, none were “natural born” citizens. Martin Van Buren, our eighth president, was born at Kinderhook, New York on December 5, 1782, six years and five months after the Declaration of Independence. Unlike his seven predecessors, he was not just a “citizen,” he was a “natural born” citizen… the first president, at least thirty-five years of age, who was born to US citizen parents after July 4, 1776.
Every U.S. president since Van Buren… with the exception of Republican Chester A. Arthur, whose Irish father was a British subject at the time of his birth, and Democrat Barack Obama, whose Kenyan father was also a British subject… has been a “natural born” U.S. citizen, as required by Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution.
The official U.S. government policy regarding dual citizenship is found in publications of the Consular Affairs Division of the U.S. Department of State. They read, in part, as follows:
“The concept of dual nationality means that a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time. Each country has its own citizenship laws based on its own policy. Persons may have dual nationality by automatic operation of different laws rather than by choice…
“The U.S. Government recognizes that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it… because of the problems it may cause. Claims of other countries on dual national U.S. citizens may conflict with U.S. law… However, dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country. They are required to obey the laws of both countries…(emphasis added).”
The Framers found it inconceivable that a president of the United States, commander in chief of the Army and the Navy, should ever be required to obey the laws of a foreign nation. Since, as a citizen of Kenya, Barack Obama is required to obey Kenyan law while in that country, it was mandatory that, during his visit to Kenya in July 2015, he should have invoked the 25th Amendment, making Joe Biden Acting President during his stay in that country… but he didn’t.
However, what is so disturbing at this late date is the fact that so many otherwise well-informed people, including lawyers, judges, members of Congress, and presidential candidates, remain ignorant of what is at issue in the “birther” debate. They continue to use the terms “citizen” and “natural born citizen” interchangeably, as if they are synonymous. They most certainly are not.
It is indisputable that, for the past seven years and eight months, a usurper has been occupying the Oval Office, performing all the duties of a legitimate president. Is it possible that we could still right the Ship of State, bringing Barack Obama to justice? No, that opportunity is long past. However, should we ever accept Obama as our 44th president? No, that we cannot do. Instead, we must continue to educate our fellow Americans so that, for all of American history, Barack Obama will have a large asterisk next to his name.
More importantly, we must see to it that our next president, Donald Trump, is fully conversant on the “birther” issue. His organization has been provided with everything they need to know to educate him. Either they do not read their mail, or they are content to allow him to be victimized by a false flag issue. Their ineptitude could cause him to lose the November 2016 election.
Paul R. Hollrah is a retired government relations executive and a two-time member of the U.S. Electoral College. He currently lives and writes among the hills and lakes of northeast Oklahoma’s Green Country.