All this birther nonsense has led to an interesting observation. I was reading an article on the Huffington Post by Chris Kelly, that at first I couldn’t follow at all, to the effect that not only is Obama ineligible to be President, Ronald Reagan was as well.
It took me a minute or two to realize what the satiric article was saying. It centered on a literal reading of Clause 5 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution which states:
“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.”
Most people, including myself, interpret the first part of the clause to identify two categories of individual as being eligible to be president. A natural born citizen OR anyone considered to be a citizen, natural born or otherwise, at the time the Constitution was adopted.
However, technically, that’s not what it says. The problem is the pair of commas isolating “…or a Citizen of the United States…”
Without those commas, the standard interpretation is clear. But they’re presence, it could be argued, changes the clause “…or a Citizen of the United States…” into a modifier or clarification of the first clause and it becomes “No Person except a natural born citizen at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution,” or in other words, “No Person except a Citizen of the United States at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution” is eligible to be president!
Since all of the natural born citizens from the 18th century are no longer with us, this would restrict Presidential Candidates to only those born in states that were members of the Union when the Constitution was ratified.
Obviously, since they established the provision for new states in Article IV, Section 3, this can’t be what they meant, but it is sort of what they said. If they meant what most people interpret it to mean, they probably should have said something like “No Person except a future natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be…”
Well, so much for the idea of a literal interpretation of the Constitution and the trailer park morons in the birther (I REFUSE to capitalize it) movement.