Thursday, December 4, 2008

Two Constitutional Issues

I. Obama's "Natural Born Citizen Problem." Those who are challenging the eligibility of President-Elect Obama to serve in that capacity are not crackpots and it is totally appropriate and necessary that the Supreme Court of the United States of America is meeting tomorrow to decide whether or not to hear one of the 17 or so cases that are slowly making it through the judicial systems of so many states.

I have read all of the court documents that I could find on the web and have avoided all other sources of information. I understand the forensics that were done on the document that was allegedly issued by the Hawaiian authority; I understand the allegations about the claims by Obama's grandmother; I understand the argument about Obama's education and the supposed relinquishment of his citizenship. I get all that. What I don't get is Obama's staunch refusal to end all the controversy by disclosing the one document that would theoretically accomplish this with incredible ease: the kind of handwritten ("vault") birth certificate that all of us have access to. You know, the one with such information as the delivering doctor's signature, the time of birth and names of the birth parents. Why not just put an end to all of this?

Weigh the simplicity of the solution against the havoc that could be wrought by a finding of ineligibility months or years from now and you'll get my point. As time passes, more and more laws will be signed by the "poseur." They will all have to be undone and the strain on the Nation -- the world -- will be almost impossible to survive. Think we have a crisis now? Somewhere, somehow, a smart criminal attorney will subpoena the record in the course of his or her representation of a person charged with a federal crime. Doing a good job for the client, the attorney will attempt to show that the law that allowed the arrest was signed by a President who had no authority to do so. While many courts have been able to duck the suits seeking the vault record on procedural or standing issues, this one will be impossible to toss because that criminal defendant has an absolute right to have it. A Constitutional right.

So the moral of the tale for all of us including those of you who think these suits are whacky is very simple. If Obama cares about his Country, he should avoid all of this by simply releasing the record. Any reason for refusing to do so escapes me.

II. Hillary's Ineligibility to Be Secretary of State. Many seek to sweep this lesser known Constitutional problem under the rug. Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution provides that, “No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time.” Simply, the argument is that Senator Clinton is not eligible to be the Secretary of State because she voted to increase the salary for the position.

This isn't the first time that the issue has been raised. In what is known as "The Saxbe Fix," Congress has reduced the salary back to what it was before the vote was taken to increase it. The maneuver was nicknamed after Nixon's appointment of Senator William Saxbe as Attorney General. Clinton got it for his appointment of Senator Lloyd Bentsen as Secretary of the Treasury.

The cure seems simple enough but Constitutionalists and smart lawyers argue that there can be no cure the prohibition was violated and there's no remedy in the Constitution. I agree. But then there are many people who believe that we have a government of men not of laws.

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