Constitutional Presidential Candidates are Needed

As we embark on this season of presidential campaigns, we would be well served to focus attention on the requirements for the office of the chief executive as given to us in our federal contract, the U.S. Constitution. Failing to do so would be pretty solid evidence that we’ve learned nothing from the installation of the current White House occupant as the president — wrongly, I might add. I maintain that we currently do not have a legitimate president, and I refuse to use the term as the title for the current occupant of the White House.

All the fuss brought to us courtesy of those pesky “birthers” was more than a rude inconvenience and distraction. Our starting point for any such discussion has to be the text of the Constitution which gives us the presidential qualifications. It reads as follows:

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. (Article II, Section 1)

WhiteHouseSouthFacade_Matt-Wade-PhotographyConcerning the holder of the office of president, no one is qualified who is not one of the following two:

• A natural born citizen; or
• A citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution

If a person fails to meet one of these requirements, he is ineligible.

The term natural born citizen seems to offer the greatest difficulty in understanding the presidential qualifications. Some define it rather loosely and suggest that it is anyone born within the physical boundaries of the United States. Some, upon reading the second qualification, presume that anyone who is a citizen qualifies, completely disregarding the additional qualifying clause which follows it, namely that their citizenship is intact at the adoption of the Constitution. Some will bring in the Fourteenth Amendment as a redefining of the requirements, suggesting that the original meaning in the Constitution is now a moot point.

But if all this redefining and loose handling of our Founders’ given qualification is received as gospel, it is entirely conceivable that in the near future we could have a “president” the Founders would abhor, such as a law-breaking illegal immigrant who was forgiven his crime and granted citizenship.

In a day of political correctness and diversity, why should we be concerned about this prospect? It is for precisely this reason: such an individual may have a loyalty to another nation. Our Founders were not bigoted obstructionists who had disregard for anyone outside their own narrow ilk. They knew that the Constitution and the Republic they were raising would become the most precious beacon of liberty and freedom the world had ever known. Further, they knew that preserving it for future generations would require that the person entrusted with the position of commander of the armed forces (and therefore defense and protection for this bastion of freedom) would have to be an individual who had no allegiance to a foreign nation. Their choice of wording in Article II, Section 1, was designed to ensure that.

But as we have seen with other terminology in the Constitution, sometimes the Founders were of the assumption that readers would understand what they meant. In the case of natural born citizen, we need to look to a writer respected by the Founders to understand their intent and the term’s meaning.

Some of the Founders specifically expressed having a degree of respect for an individual named Emerich de Vattel, whose treatise, The Law of Nations, spells out the meaning of natural born citizen. Vattel wrote in his 1758 work that

the natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens. As the society cannot exist and perpetuate itself otherwise than by the children of the citizens, those children naturally follow the condition of their fathers, and succeed to all their rights.

Thus, it is someone born in the country of two parents who are also citizens of that country. As Vattel explained, those children naturally follow in the traditions of their parents, as children usually do. Thus, it would be critically important that the president and commander in chief of the armed forces be one who is interested in perpetuating this society, having no allegiance or preference to any other.

One could not say this of Barack Obama, who repeatedly exhibits preference toward Muslim traditions, individuals, and countries over our own people and traditions. And little wonder, when one considers the extent to which he fails to meet this qualification. He lacks two citizen parents, even if we accept the extremely questionable assertion that he was born in Hawaii.

As a side note, there are about a dozen known legislative attempts in the U.S. Congress to redefine the term natural born citizen between Obama’s election as a senator and his installation as the chief executive. If the term is meaningless for us today, and if the term is negated by the Fourteenth Amendment, as some suggest, then why did senators and representatives attempt numerous times to redefine its meaning? It appears to have been merely in the interest of legitimizing the two major party presidential candidates in 2008. The efforts are recorded in the Congressional Record, and they happened at the hands of both Republicans and Democrats.

It has well been said that if we fail to learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. If there is one lesson we should have learned from Obama’s rise to power and incorrect installation as the chief executive, it is this: we need to return to adherence to our Constitution for the sake of our own future and that of our posterity. We are beyond insane if we permit this to continue in future presidential contests.

Thus, we are brought to consider the current (and prospective) entries in the presidential race. Of the announced candidates (as of this writing), Ted Cruz fails to meet the qualifications. Only one of his parents is a U.S. citizen, and he himself was not born in the U.S. Of other possible candidates whose names have been mentioned, neither Marco Rubio nor Bobby Jindal meets the definition of natural born citizen.

The countering argument some will offer at this point is that since Obama was elected, this is water under the bridge and we just need to get over it and move on. So, in other words, we can merely dismiss our Constitution by violating it and going on — and that makes it alright. Try offering a similar argument to a law enforcement officer who is arresting you for making a forced bank vault withdrawal at the point of a gun — “So I violated the law. Just get over it and let’s go on.” See how far that will get you.

Whether we are willing to admit it or not, we have begun to disregard the laws which have been given us. Our Constitution is a legal compact. But much of what our federal government does now is unconstitutional — as are many of the laws written by our Congress critters. We should put a halt to this circus by holding Congress accountable . . . refuse to re-elect anyone who violates our Constitution.

But instead we accept it and go on with disregard. Shame on us! We are just as much at fault for the destruction of our Republic as those who admit in our faces that they want to destroy us.
It is incumbent upon us to refuse to allow this to go on. You and I, voters who still have a voice, need to be heard. We need to demand adherence to the Constitution. We need to expect it. And we need to enforce it. Otherwise, the Republic our Founders gave us will be lost forever.

  • Michael Harrison
  • Michael Harrison is founder of the Luzerne County Campaign for Liberty group and hosts an online blog at

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