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Founding Fathers versus 'birthers' -- smackdown!

George and Mitt Romney Now that all this "birther" foolishness is finally settled -- excepting the same pitiable core percentage that also may suspect magic tricks are the work of Satan (see my colleague Mark Barabak’s story about conspiracy thinking) -- I thought I’d go back for a look at the actual birther-y presidential candidate, the one who really was born in a foreign country.

Was there, in 1968, the same cacophonous, venomous ranting about whether that man was eligible to be president?

In a word, no.

George Romney, father of the latest entry in the GOP presidential sweepstakes, Mitt Romney, and a Republican governor of Michigan, was incontrovertibly born in Mexico, in a Mormon settlement founded by polygamists, including Romney’s grandfather, in the 19th century. 

George Romney When George Romney sounded out his run for president in 1968 there was virtually no fuss raised about the constitutional requirement that a president be a "natural-born citizen," which had been taken to mean being born on American soil.

Even the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee who questioned the matter in a New York law journal didn’t argue that Romney was de facto disqualified. He simply asked that a commission decide one way or another before the party nominating convention.

Romney’s camp was feeling anxious enough in January 1968 to ask Oregon to make a quick ruling on his eligibility for its primary ballot so there would be no question of his standing before the New Hampshire primary a few weeks later.

Romney ended up out of the race for far different reasons -- just look for "brainwashing and George Romney" -- but not before New York’s Republican governor and fellow presidential candidate Nelson Rockefeller declared with rather astonishing comity, "Gov. Romney and all of his friends are satisfied that he is qualified. I don’t see why you need a commission." Constitutional law by the buddy system.

The matter had raised scarcely a ripple four years earlier during GOP Sen. Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign -– he was born in Arizona when it was a territory, not a state -– nor when it came to the 1980 presidential aspirations of Connecticut Republican Lowell Weicker, who was a son of Americans but was born in [epoustouflant!] Paris. And John McCain has run for president several times, most notably as the party’s 2008 nominee, and at the same time Barack Obama’s birth credentials were being questioned, McCain’s birth on a military base in the Panama Canal Zone seemed to trouble almost no one. A provision of the U.S. Code makes it clear that a child born in the zone to a U.S. citizen-parent was a "citizen," but did that mean a "natural-born" citizen? Arnold Schwarzenegger is a U.S. citizen, but clearly not constitutionally qualified to be president [apart from other stupefying disqualifiers of his own creating].

It is those cases -– not President Obama’s -– that raise still-unaddressed constitutional questions about what "natural-born" really means.

The birthers can’t have it both ways. Set aside the ludicrous Obama "out-of-Africa" absurdity; those who acknowledge that Obama was born in Hawaii have still tried to argue his ineligibility to be president, stating that although his mother was a Kansan, his father [in the U.S. on a student visa] was from Kenya, and their son was not therefore a citizen.

Following that logic, which is as twisted as Princess Beatrice’s royal wedding hat, if having even one foreign-born parent disqualifies a person born within the United States from the presidency, then why are some birthers and conservative groups also so incensed about children being born in this country to Mexican parents who are here illegally?

The battle to unravel that 14th Amendment provision centers on the fact that babies born in the U.S. are U.S. citizens, even if their parents had crossed the border illegally the day before.

So, because any child born in the U.S. is de facto a citizen, these fringe folk have argued themselves into a corner. Obama was born in Hawaii and is therefore a citizen, wherever his father came from [and the senior Obama came here legally].

If President Obama isn’t a citizen for that reason, then neither are all of those babies born in this country to illegal immigrants, and that knocks the pins out from under the clamor to undo the 14th Amendment.

Isn’t this constitutional wrangling grand? Why, just the other day, Herman Cain, the Georgia businessman and radio host who was definitely born in the United States, declared his own candidacy for the Republican nomination for president, saying, "We don’t need to rewrite the Constitution of the United States. We need to reread the Constitution and enforce the Constitution … for the benefit for those that are not going to read it because they don’t want us to go by the Constitution, there’s a little section in there that talks about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Except that "little section" about "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" isn’t in the Constitution, the document Mr. Cain is exhorting us to read. It’s in the Declaration of Independence.


See Mitt Romney flip-flop

Jonah Goldberg: A sharper GOP field

Tim Rutten: A religious 'test' for Mitt Romney

Doyle McManus: Shifting sands of religion and politics

Will Mitt Romney's religion derail his political ambitions?

-- Patt Morrison

Photos, from top: In 1947, George Romney holds young Mitt, who was born earlier that year; the floor of the 1968 Republican National Convention in Miami. Credits: Romney family; Associated Press


Comments () | Archives (20)

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I'm not really sure what your point is in this article....you are all over the map with who was born where and when and how.

You are entitled to your opinion, but not your own facts. Get them straight. Almost no one questioned McCain?? Are you serious? Obama, Hillary, McCaskill and some other Democrat actually passed a resolution MAKING him a natural born citizen....although that act quite defies reasoning since that is something you obtain at birth, not because some senators decide it! LOL

I'm not sure where birthers are trying to have it both ways. Obama is a citizen as you state...you are correct about that, but he is, by his own admission, not a natural born citizen. He freely admits he was governed AT BIRTH by British Law, and therefore, that precludes him from being a natural born citizen of the US. Dual citizens are not natural born citizens of their country.

Like Obama, anchor babies are citizens, but they are not natural born citizens.


RE: Mitt Romney's father George Romney:

The Act of Congress dated February 10, 1855,
"persons heretofore born, or hereafter to be born, out of the limits and jurisdiction of the United States, whose fathers were or shall be at the time of their birth citizens of the United States, shall be deemed and considered and are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States: Provided, however, that the rights of citizenship shall not descend to persons whose fathers never resided in the United States."
"That any woman who might lawfully be naturalized under the existing laws, married, or who shall be married to a citizen of the United States shall be deemed and taken to be a citizen"


The 1948 British Nationality Act extended consulate jurisdiction wherever a child was born to a British citizen, in territory under international treaty with the UK.

On June 6, 1951, in Washington DC, President Harry S. Truman signed the 1951 British Treaty (September 7, 1952, Date-In-Force), authorizing Britain consular jurisdiction over British citizens, in the USA, where consular officers could register births to British citizens, in the district of jurisdiction, and issue passports to those children.

Barack Obama Sr, was a foreign born student, carrying a British passport, on a US non-immigrant student visa (8USC1101(a)(15)(F)(i)), under British consular jurisdiction, per 1951 British Treaty.

It takes more than just being born an American citizen, to be a US President. A natural born citizen is born in the US to two US nationals. Since Barack H Obama II, was born in Hawaii, then per (circa 1961 law) 8USC1401(a)(1), he would have been native born a US citizen; and under consular jurisdiction of the 1951 British Treaty and under jurisdiction of the British Nationality Act of 1948, Part II(5)(1)(a) he was born a British Citizen, thus a dual-citizen UK/US, and not a natural born citizen, and not constitutionally eligible for the 2008 or 2012 Presidential elections.



Sen. Barry Goldwater was born on January 2, 1909, in US Territory (Arizona) that was won in the war with Mexico, as defined by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo signed February 2, 1848. He was born under the Act of Congress of February 10, 1855 (Repealed in 1922).


The 14th Amendment is not a conclusive definition of US citizenship.
"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."
The 14th Amendment says plenty about the allegiance of the parents, by using the word "jurisdiction" which incorporates the concepts of allegiance, citizenship and laws into one word.

Jurisdiction is the reach of laws.
Presence on the soil is subject to jurisdiction of laws.
Citizenship is loyalty and allegiance, and subject to jurisdiction of laws.

Jurisdiction is not exclusive and can be shared and reciprocal under international treaty allowing diplomacy between nations. The 1951/1952 British Treaty allowed establishment and maintenance of British consulates in the US, where consular officers could register births to UK citizens and issue passports to those children. Got to London and have a baby born to US citizens and you can register the birth at a US consulate and get a passport.


It's absolutely astonishing that there are people who can find fault with what Patt Morrison is saying here.

Obama's a natural born U.S. citizen, just like Romney who was born to a father born in Mexico, McCain who was born in the Panama CZ, Goldwater who was born in a territory of the United States, and all the other American citizens born either in unusual circumstances or to people who themselves weren't Americans. There's nothing debatable about any of that.

The notion that both your parents themselves need to have been American citizens when you were born in order for you to be eligible to be president is a fiction the birthers invented because they can't handle the truth - Obama's their president.


A word of caution to all ''Birthers'' who apparently have nothing to do but to post on the web:

You may have some facility with internet searches using Google, or even with Lexis/Nexis; but this does not imply legal knowledge.

Similarly, your assertions and attempts at applying facts to statutory language do not imply any controlling legal authority.

If there are any controlling legal authority interpreting the term "natural born citizen" in the Constitution in your various narrow and narrow-minded constructions, then that would truly be international news. In the absence of such authority, your ravings seem tinfoil-hattish.

Of course, I'll gladly take back the above statements if you're able to effect Machtergreifung and your assertions become de facto and de jure legal authorities; until that date, excuse me while I giggle in your general direction.



Natural Born= 2 (two)US Citizen Parents + child born in the US or US Territories. Proof Senate Joint Resolution 511 Declaring McCain Natural born: 2 US citizen parents + child born in the US territories.

William Horan

Nothing is settled why are you still in a project mockingbird II like mode of misinformation and SPIN? THe Book Obama Error by author and lawyer Stephen Pidgeon & anothe book Jerom Corsi Where's the Birth Certificate provide the present state. While the US Constitution provided the root requirements for POTUS be it Dems and Repuiblicans alike. The Wh issues recent BC synthesized document is reported to be a computer generated fake / forgery, by experts!?
We must get to the root of this alleged cover up as something some where is not on the up and up!


Hey Birthers, I'm still giggling at you all! :)

I'm refraining from laughing since I don't want to be unkind to Cukoo Nesters.


Thank you, thank you, thank you Patt for this illuminating article! I had not realized that history so clearly pointed up the underlying racism in the birthers' obsession with Obama's citizenship.


The issue raised by questions regarding Obama's eligibility is not whether he is a citizen, but whether he is a natural born citizen.

The Constitution distinguishes between citizen and natural born citizen. Of all government offices, only the president is required to be a natural born citizen. The Founding Fathers recognized that their definition of natural born citizen would exclude those who were citizens at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, so they made an exception in that case by including what is known as the "grandfather clause."

Also note that members of Congress are eligible if they are citizens; they need not be natural born citizens.

Whatever the definition of natural born citizen is, it cannot be the same as the definition of citizen. John Jay’s letter to George Washington, July 25, 1787 gives us the reason for the natural born citizenship requirement:

“Permit me to hint whether it would not be wise and seasonable to provide a strong check to the admission of foreigners into the administration of our national government; and to declare expressly that the command in chief of the American army shall not be given to, nor devolve on any but a natural born citizen.”

The real issue raised by Obama’s birth circumstances is the fact that he was born a British/Kenyan citizen by virtue of the British Nationality Act of 1948. This is documented on http://fightthesmears.com/articles/5/birthcertificate

The question becomes, can a person born with allegiance to another country be a natural born citizen as understood by the Founding Fathers? It would seem that the answer is no.

Chief Justice Waite in Minor vs. Happersett (1875) in explanatory commentary said this:

“[I]t was never doubted that all children born in a country of parents who were its citizens became themselves, upon their birth, citizens also. These were natives, or natural-born citizens, as distinguished from aliens or foreigners. Some authorities go further and include as citizens children born within the jurisdiction without reference to the citizenship of their [p168] parents. As to this class there have been doubts, but never as to the first.”

The issue of Obama’s eligibility is not yet settled.

(Note that John McCain’s eligibility was questioned. Senate Resolution 511, April 24, 2008 concluded that he was a natural born citizen having been born to citizen parents. Senator Obama was a co-sponsor of this resolution. I agree with that that this is non-binding legally and only expresses the opinion of the sponsors.)

Tim Bowman

Despite my distaste for legal wrangling, the issue on what constitutes American citizen birth is one for the courts, but not concerning our current President.

Mr L

Both the majority AND dissenting Supreme Court opinions in the case of Plyer Vs. Doe (457 U.S. 202 1982) state that illegal aliens who reside in the United States are under the jurisdiction of the United States.

If you are born in America, and you aren't the child of a visiting diplomat or foreign soldier (the only types of people not subject to US jurisdiction), you are an American citizen at birth. Period.

Dr. Conspiracy

Excellent article, and good to look back on history.

Just to clarify though, the Obama eligibility deniers say that someone born as citizen in the United States is not necessarily a "natural born citizen." They posit that "natural born citizen" is a class of "super citizen" who is both born in the US and born of two citizen parents, a class whose sole distinction is eligibility to be President or Vice-President.

The fact that neither the Constitution, nor US law, nor any court decision has made such a distinction does not diminish the denialists' certainty that it is so. The US Supreme Court has never actually heard a case on presidential eligibility (it has refused to hear several Obama eligibility cases), but an appeals court in Indiana (in the case of Ankeny v Daniels) did say that Barack Obama was a natural born citizen, and eligible. Former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor said the same thing.

If a case ever reached the US Supreme challenging Obama's eligibility on the basis of his father's citizenship, I am confident that Obama would win 9-zip. With the 2012 election, there may actually be such a case heard by a federal court.


Natural born citizen is not a "super citizen" it is a higher order of citizen eligible to serve as the US President. A naturalized citizen cannot be president, but neither can every native born person. An illegal alien or a non-immigrant alien can birth a child, but that child may not become a US President. Two immigrant aliens domiciled in the US can birth a child, but that child may not become a US President. A US citizen and a non-citizen immigrant can birth a child, but that child may not become a US President. Only when two US citizens birth a child in the US may that natural born citizen child become a US President.


A word of caution to all ''Obots" the Founding Fathers made the qualification for US President narrow, but surprisingly not as narrow as possible.
"Born in the USA to two US citizens."
Not, "born in the USA to two legally Christian-married heterosexual US citizens."
It was done for good reason. The President is commander of the US military.


Ankeny was not a nbc case, read the footnotes. The case was dismissed for failing to state a claim for which damages can be awarded.
And anybody who thinks "birthers" lost and you won, seriously just don't get "it".

Only the elected government wins by bending the eligibility requirement, but the voters, taxpayers, middle-class, poor, all lose.

Scott Seatbelt McLean

"Born in the USA to two US citizens."

Where did Borderaven pull that out of? It sure isn’t in the U.S. Constitution!

Ebenezer Munroe

Hey! I’ll admit; I became a 'Birther' because I do not like O’Bama. Get over it.

But none the less, it does not matter what we say to a Liberal, Democrat or Progressive. It matters not what evidence we throw at these people; they will always discount it! They thrive on being hate-filled, counter-culture and anti-establishment. They hate the Constitution.

These people as the ones most easily fooled. After all, the charter of the Democrat Party is solely to discover ways to STEAL from those that 'have' and give (re-distribute) to those that 'have not'. And, in the process they help nobody in need. They simply are not capable of accomplishment. They just create more need (The Needy) and dependence. All that Democrats have done in the past 80 years is CREATE more Government and spend more money.

They see this guy, their Native-Born, Illegitimate President O'Bama, as the one guy who will put forward the most effort STEALING and CREATING. But, as I have said, this guy has helped nobody!

But hey!
Thank God for Liberals because without wrong there would be no right!



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