Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sam, A Natural Born Catizen, for President?

Our recently deceased cat, Sam, came to me in a dream last night after the Republican debate. It was a joyful if surprising reunion. Recent news stories portraying cats as neurotic would-be murderers clearly came out of the canine community. Sam, though undeniably a fierce hunter, was a dignified and gentlemanly member of our family.
Sam quickly threw me for a loop.

“Jim,” he spoke, “I need your support in the Republican presidential primary, can I count on you?”
“I had no idea you were running,” I told him.
“Why, because I am a feline-American?” he hissed at me.
Clearly, I was on dangerous ground with my old buddy.
“Sam, you know, as a black man,” I reminded him, “I can be neither prejudiced nor speciest.”
“What then?” he retorted.  As he did, his posture shifted to that familiar low-slung threat posture of the hunting cat.
With trepidation, and as matter-of-factly as I could manage, I said “well, Sam, old friend, you are dead!”
“And?” he replied.
I looked down, worrying that he might see my incredulity at the whole prospect of a ghost running for, let alone winning, the Republican nomination for the presidency.
Pausing for a moment, I considered how to explain the Sam that he really was not eligible to be elected president, and how to do it without being mean or ugly, and certainly without stepping on his toes, err, claws.
I could, I thought, take an indirect route.
I could paint a portrait of service as president in such a light that Sam would see that it was not something in which he was truly interested. The long hours, the handshaking, the baby kissing, the endless fundraising, the mundane tasks of the presidency would eat into the normal routine of one who enjoyed lounging on the back of the couch, there basking in the sunlight coming through a window, or chasing the occasional mice, birds, or squirrels, or staring longingly at the cat food bag. Being indirect had its advantages, especially when the person, err, cat to whom I was speaking came equipped with a sharp set of claws.
Still, while cats may creep in on soft paws, I preferred the direct route.
“Sam, what is the point of running for the office of president if you’re not eligible to be elected to it? As strange as it may seem to you,” I told him, “although there are very few legal requirements to be eligible for the office of president, the truth is that you probably do not satisfy one of the requirements, perhaps more than one.”
At this point, Sam was licking his paws and using his moist paws to groom his face. He paused, “go ahead, do tell.”
“It’s like this, Sam,” I said, reaching back into my memory of the Constitution, “to be eligible to be elected president, the US Constitution sets a small number of qualifications.”
My ethereal visitor stretched, as felines do, pawed the couch cushion on which he sat, as though he were kneading dough, then, settling down, simply said, “Proceed.”
“Article II of the Constitution creates the Executive Branch of the federal government. By executive, the Constitution means that part of the government that actually executes or carries out the laws.”
“Jim,” he snapped, “I’m not a school kid, get to the meat of it, and quick, because I’ve shortly got to go get to the meat of a bird!”
“Very well,” I responded, “in Article II, the Constitution has one clause, the Presidential Eligibility Clause, which sets the qualifications necessary to be elected president. It says,” and here I recited as best I could from memory:
“So,” I resumed with my explication of the text, “you have to be a natural born citizen, you have to be at least 35 years old, and you have to have resided in the United States for the previous fourteen years at the time of the election.”
Sam eyed me, quizzically. He harrumphed.
“Well, I was born in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” he reminded me.
(Sam was part of our family from about a year after his birth. He was, as I wrote in a previous post, A King Among Cats. While he had not previously told me where in the Washington metro area he was born, I always assumed he was a native Virginian.)
I could see where this line of thinking of his was leading.
“Sam, no doubt you were born in Virginia,” I assured him, “but it takes more than being born in Virginia to be a natural born citizen. You have to be a person.”
He interrupted me, “I thought you said you weren’t speciest?”
“It’s the Constitution, Sam, not me,” I replied apologetically.
He countered, “Is that the same Constitution that, according to the Supreme Court, considered black people like you to be chattels, property, and not persons?”
Obviously, Sam had been listening to my musings over the years, and knew my constant criticism of the Court for its oftentimes purposive misinterpretation of the Constitution. He had found my weakness, or at least my soft spot.
“Well, yes, it is. But the fault there was the Supreme Court’s, not the Constitution’s, and as so many for so long had behaved as though the Constitution was a blank slate on which creative justices were entitled, as justices, to write their preferred meanings of the words, rather than to apply the words with their common meanings.”
“I remember you saying once that one the justices had claimed that rivers, trees, streams and such should be treated as persons. Why would you think that a tree is a person, when it isn’t even a fellow member of the animal kingdom like you and me, and that we cats couldn’t be persons too?”
“Sam, you remember what I said then, if you remember me talking about Justice Douglas and his dissenting opinion in the Sierra Club v. Morton case.” I continued, “Justice Douglas was simply ignoring the plain meaning of the words of the Constitution, perhaps it was just an aspect of his advancing age and confusion, or, perhaps, he fell under the delusion of folks who thought trees were persons but babies before birth were not. In any event, his argument was made in a dissenting opinion because no other justice on the Supreme Court has ever claimed that non-humans could be persons.”
“Well,” he retorted, “at least you admit that a Supreme Court justice agrees with me. What’s the rest of your poor argument?”
I knew the rest of this conversation would not go well.
“As I said,” continuing my explanation, “to be eligible you have to be a ‘natural born citizen’ and the Constitution has always been understood to exclude any candidate from that category that is not a ‘human’ person. But you have to be more than a person, and more than just a citizen. You have to be a ‘natural born citizen’ to be eligible.”
Apparently that distinction caught his attention, “What’s the difference between a ‘citizen’ and a ‘natural born citizen?’”
“Exactly the right question, Sam!” I showed my excitement at his reasoning through things.
“A citizen of a country is a person, a human, that owes duties to that country and that enjoys rights and privileges not available to those who are not citizens,” recalling the things I wrote about citizenship in another post
“But the Constitution uses both the word ‘citizens’ and the phrase ‘natural born citizen’ so we have to be sure we understand each word and whether there are differences.”
He nodded encouragingly, so I continued.
“’Natural born citizen’ appears just once in the Constitution, in that presidential eligibility clause,” I winced a bit as he had his fun scratching me with his claws, “and nothing in that part of the Constitution defines ‘natural,’ ‘born,’ or ‘citizen,’ or ‘natural born citizen.’”
“If the words are not defined,” he posed the question, “why can’t they mean whatever they need to mean in order for me to be eligible to be elected President?”
“Because,” I tartly replied, “you, Sam, are no Humpty Dumpty and the Constitution is not ‘Through the Looking Glass!’”
“So, as you can see, there are actually two kind of citizens in the Constitution. One kind of citizen is a natural born citizen, the other kind of citizen is a not a natural born citizen.”
At that point, Sam pushed his head under my hand. I'd almost forgotten how much he enjoyed having his forehead and chin scratched. I began to work gently on it.
“Well Jim,” he asked, “What's the difference?”
“The difference, Sam” I explained, “is that some persons are born as citizens of a country, while others become citizens by operation of a law. Persons who are born citizens of a country are ‘natural born citizens.’ Others, immigrants to the land, for example, apply for citizenship through a process called ‘naturalization.’”
“You see, before the Constitution, each of the 13 states had their own power to make citizens out of persons who were not yet citizens.”
At that point, Sam jerked his head up against my hand, “There you go with that person thing again.”
“I’m sorry, Sam.”
I continued, “In any event those who came to one of the states prior to the adoption of the Constitution could become citizens through the state law process for that state. With the adoption of the Constitution, the process for becoming a citizen was subject to change. The Constitution assigned to the Congress power to provide a uniform rule for naturalization.”
“In fact, after the Constitution was ratified, among its first acts, Congress passed the first Naturalization Act. The Constitution did not define ‘natural born citizen’ but, honestly, a definition for citizen was not needed. Because the meaning of ‘citizen’ was clear, and the phrase ‘natural born’ was readily understood to mean ‘one that was born in the country as a citizen, one who owes special duties to the country and who enjoys special status or privilege within the country, was the understood meaning of that term in the Constitution.’”
“So the Constitution gave to the Congress no power to define citizenship. It gave only the power to Congress to provide a uniform rule for becoming a citizen, ‘naturalization.’”
“So, some people are citizens because they are born here. Becoming a citizen by birth within it is an effect of our legal descent from England. At the time of our revolution, in England, everyone born within the United Kingdom was considered a subject of the crown. Our revolution from England did not have to do so much with our dislike for, or intolerance of English law, but with our rejection of the tyrannical application of it to Englishmen living in the colonies. So, when the colonies separated from England, and asserted their own separate station as nations, one of the first legal acts of those new nation-States was to adopt English law as the body of law for each of the States.”
“I don't want to get too deep in the weeds, Sam, but at that time, this legal principle – jus soli – governed citizenship by birth in England, and in the United States. Some other nations took a different approach. They followed a rule called ‘jus sanguinis.’ Under ‘jus sanguinis,’ a person, when born, took the same citizenship as their parents. Neither England nor the United States ever followed jus sanguinis.”
“So, when the Constitution said that to be elected president one had to be a ‘natural born citizen,’ it was making clear that while there were both ‘born citizens’ and ‘naturalized citizens’ only a ‘natural born citizen,’ that is born here in the United States, enjoys the special status of eligibility to be elected president.”
“You see, Sam, if the only issue of eligibility for you was whether you were born here, you would be eligible to be elected president. That other matter, though, the fact that the term ‘citizen’ is limited to ‘person,’ pretty much puts the kibosh on your eligibility.”
“Once again with the speciest dominance,” Sam retorted. “I can’t count on four paws the number of times I have heard you talk about the Dred Scott case, where the Supreme Court ruled that blacks were not, could never be, ‘persons.’ You’re an attorney, and a constitutional law attorney at that, couldn’t you file a lawsuit to get a decision that I am a natural born feline citizen?”
“Alas, Sam,” thinking that I might not dissuade him from his pipe dream, “it took a Civil War, nearly a half million dead, and 80 billion dollars of war-making expense to get to the point where the Nation rose up and reversed Dred Scott by adopting the Fourteenth Amendment. I suspect we aren’t ready in this country to fight a costly, deadly war to win you status as a feline-citizen. Perhaps PETA would take on the case?”
“In any event, friend, the other eligibility conditions present problems for you.”
“How so,” Sam asked me.
 "Well, Sam, under the Eligibility Clause, you have to be at least 35 years old and you have to have resided in United States for the previous 14 years. By my best reckoning, you were about 11 years old when you passed away. That means  you would not have been 35 years old nor would you have lived in the United States for the previous 14 years.”
“Now just a doggone minute,” Sam interrupted me, “you know, and I know, that cats age differently than humans. In fact, you say I was 11 years old but most feline experts agree that I was 15 by my first ‘human’ birthday, 25 by my second ‘human’ birthday, and had reached the human equivalent of 60 years of age at the time I turned 11 in human years.”
“I have another bone to pick with you,” Sam continued.
“Didn't you say that, to be eligible to be President, a person had to be a ‘natural born citizen’ of the United States? And didn't you say that to be a ‘natural born citizen’ of the United States one had to be born in the United States?”
“Certainly,” I replied.
“But there is a Republican candidate for the nomination who was not born in the United States. Why is he eligible to be elected president and I am NOT?”
“You're referring to Ted Cruz,” I said, “in my book, Ted Cruz would make an excellent president, but, like you, he is not eligible to be elected, at least not according to my understanding of the Constitution.”
“This is a long-running dispute that I have had with those who say that Ted Cruz is eligible to be elected president. Ted was born in Canada. By Canadian law, Ted Cruz was born a citizen of Canada. Canada, like the United States, is a nation whose laws were based on English common law. Unlike the USA, Canada continues its close relationship with the United Kingdomas part of the Commonwealth of Nations. A person born in Canada, is, by Canadian law, a citizen of Canada and also a subject of the crown of England.”
“Well then, Jim,” Sam again interrupted, “why is Ted allowed to run and I am NOT?”
“Sam, remember when I said that the Constitution grants to the Congress the power to make a uniform rule for naturalization? All the way back to the first Naturalization Act and coming forward, Congress has asserted a power to grant ‘natural born citizen’ status to persons born outside of the United States under certain conditions.”
“This explanation may be a little convoluted, but let me put it this way:  In England, under the common law, every person born within the boundaries of the kingdom was a subject of the crown, what we would call a ‘citizen.’ There was one exception to that rule: children born to foreign emissaries - - representatives from foreign countries serving their country in England - - were not considered citizens or subjects of the Crown.”
“That special rule reflected international law and international legal principles that were necessary to allow a system of international diplomacy.”
Sam stretched again. I considered that I might be losing his attention but continued, “Here's an example.”
“Suppose the government of France, under King Louis, sent an ambassador to England. The Ambassador brings his family with him. While serving France in England, the French ambassador’s wife gives birth to a son. Under English law, absent the exception, the Ambassador now has an English son, and the English Crown has a new subject, and the French Crown has an ambassador with a foreign son. So the principle developed, that children born to foreign emissaries on duty in another country did not have the citizenship of the nation in which they were born. Instead, they had the citizenship of their parents’ home nation.”
“Jim,” Sam interrupted again, “that doesn't explain why Ted Cruz is eligible to run for president and I am NOT. Was one of Ted parents an ambassador to Canada?”
“No, you're right, Sam,” I said. “That doesn't explain how Ted is eligible, and no, neither of his parents were ambassadors to Canada. In fact, Ted’s mother was a US citizen; his father was an expatriate citizen of Cuba. Under the jus soli rule I mentioned before, Ted clearly would not qualify as a ‘natural born citizen.’ Instead, today, and at the time of Ted Cruz birth in Canada, to the Naturalization Act provides that certain children born outside the USA to certain citizens of the United States are citizens at birth.”
“When Congress passed the Naturalization Act, as I said, they were exercising the Naturalization power. The first Naturalization Act expressly provided that persons born abroad to certain US citizens would be ‘natural born citizens’ of the United States. Congress subsequently repealed that act, and never again included such a provision in future versions of the Naturalization Act.“
“Just a second, Jim,” Sam snapped, “you said ‘naturalization’ made people who weren’t citizens into citizens. If Congress used its naturalization power to pass the Naturalization Act and included in the Act a section making some people born outside the United States citizens at birth, then wouldn’t those persons actually be ‘naturalized citizens?’”
“And that, Sam, is exactly why Ted isn’t eligible to be president, much as I like the man, his character, and his policies.”
Suddenly Sam stood. He turned and turned, rubbing his side against my leg. Then he turned and looked up at me, “Jim,” he said, “I wonder if you would mind helping me draft a press release? I think I’m going to withdraw from the race.”

“My pleasure, Sam,” I said, petting his head as he faded into memory, “my pleasure entirely.”