Eligibility Update: Open Government Dialog Commentary, Mario Apuzzo on HR1868, Obama’s Selective Service Update
The White House, via the National Academy of Public Administration, began using IdeaScale.com’s Open Government Dialog web site to help gauge the public’s interest in what kinds of data should be made transparent with this Administration. The fact that scores of posts regarding the President’s eligibility were posted on the site significantly riled up others in the community, resulting in the following “slimed” posting from FederalComputerWeek (excerpted):
Let’s cut to the chase: The Open Government Dialogue — the Obama administration’s much-ballyhooed initiative to engage with the public in an online forum — got slimed. …
Participants were invited to submit ideas and rate other people’s ideas with a thumbs up or thumbs down. The system would tally the votes and assign a score to each suggestion. This mechanism would make it possible for the public at large to identify the most important issues and police the site for off-point or abusive content.
That was the theory anyway, and it worked for nearly a week, but thenWorldNet Daily’s editors got wind of it.
The folks at WorldNet Daily, an online political publication, have been trying to drum up national interest in a topic that the mainstream media generally ignores: Was the president born in the Unites States, and does he have the birth certificate to prove it?
The Open Government Dialogue provided WorldNet Daily’s editors with a perfect forum, one that was highly visible and only lightly moderated.
Go get ‘em, they told their readers. And it worked.
“Hours after [WorldNet Daily] alerted the public to a White House Web site on ‘open government dialogue,’ most participants are calling on Barack Obama to release his elusive ‘long-form’ birth certificate to establish his constitutional eligibility to serve as president,” the editors wrote in a May 31 article. …
The article was picked up by various blogs with similar interests, including Morality 101, Free Republic and The Ron Paul War Room. The topic also hit Twitter, with numerous tweeters encouraging readers to keep the birth certificate issue alive at the Open Government Dialogue. …
However, the NAPA team also provided dialogue participants with the ability to flag entries that were off point or that duplicated other entries. In the final days of brainstorming, site managers began reviewing and, in many cases, removing the long stream of repetitive posts. The outcry was immediate. …
The birthers, as they have been dubbed in the blogosphere, proceeded to flood the site with more posts. “I’m sitting here looking at all the people who’ve had their posts deleted because they are raising a legitimate issue: Where’s The Birth Certificate,” wrote Scott Lanter. “And at the top of the page it reads, ‘Open Government Dialogue.’ It’s not dialogue when people are silenced. What exactly is this site’s definition of ‘dialogue?’”
All interactive sites are vulnerable to gaming, writes Micah Sifry at theTechPresident blog. “But what the ‘birthers’ are doing is the equivalent of spamming up a public bulletin board and reducing its utility for everyone else.”
NAPA and the Obama administration have moved into the next phase of the Open Government Dialogue, focusing the conversation on a handful of specific issues. But looking ahead to the prospect of similar endeavors — and the administration has made clear that engagement will be part of its standard operating procedure — it seems fair to question the viability of such forums.
Is it possible to conduct a national online dialogue that is civil and productive? Or will any online public discourse inevitably be smothered by slime?
TechPresident’s Sifry is hopeful. “Presumably, the more often government invites public participation and the lower the visibility of the results, the less often these nuisances will occur,” he wrote. [emphases original]
And then there was the editor’s note for comments on this posting…
Editor’s note: We will not post any comments regarding Obama’s birth certificate. But we encourage your comments on how the process used to manage the Open Government Dialogue or other aspects of how the government should interact with the public online.
Shocking, I know. An “open” government dialog that on the one hand wants input from readers — and has the ability to police itself via iconic thumbs up/down scoring on posts — but doesn’t want that much input from readers, especially if you’re going to be discussing topics like Article 2, Section 1, Clause 5 of the Constitution. Somehow, that issue — the 800 Pound Gorilla question — is completely taboo.
Yet, the main point shouldn’t be forgotten. Technology is a great thing, and that’s what caused the posting to consider eligiblity questions synonymous with “slime” (how that parallelism occurs, I haven’t the slightest idea). Further, when the People are consistent and persistent with their viewpoints, the elite are going to throw fits of conniption, like the above.
Good on ya, folks! Making an Administration that promised so much transparency but has provided so little — especially with respect to this President’s background documentation — get mad at you can never be a bad thing. Remember, the Constitution — if you help uphold it — guarantees you rights, not the government.
Congressman Nathan Deal (R-Georgia) has recently introduced in the House the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2009. The stated purpose of the bill is to amend section 301 of the Immigration and Nationality Act to clarify those classes of individuals born in the United States who are nationals and citizens of the United States at birth. The bill is included on the OpenCongress.org web site at http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h1868/show. The summary of the bill at the site states the following:
This bill would eliminate birthright citizenship for children born to undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Current U.S. law automatically recognizes any person born on American soil as natural born citizen. Under the bill, only children with at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen, a legal permanent resident, or an undocumented immigrant serving in the military would be considered citizens.”
This summary contains a very serious error. It states that “Current U.S. law automatically recognizes any person born on American soil as natural born citizen” (emphasis supplied). This is not a correct statement of the law. Any legal statement referring to citizenship is contained in the Fourteenth Amendment and Congressional Acts. The former refers only to “citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. . .” and the latter only to “citizen.” There is absolutely no mention in the amendment or statutes of a “natural born Citizen.” There also is no Supreme Court decision that says that an Article II “natural born Citizen” is the same as an Article I, II, III, and IV and Fourteenth Amendment “Citizen.”
There is a critical difference between a “natural born Citizen” and a “citizen.” The Constitution itself does not tell us what a “natural born Citizen” is. Hence, we simply cannot just apply the term to a given situation. Rather, we have to construe from the Constitution itself and other extrinsic sources such as historical events, constitutional debates, congressional debates, case law, statutes, and any other relevant information what the Framers meant by the term. The Constitution uses both “natural born Citizen” and “Citizen of the United States.” It uses “Citizen of the United States” in Article II’s grandfather clause, giving such a citizen the right to be President, but only if born prior to the adoption of the Constitution. It even says that a President must be a “natural born Citizen” (implying from birth) and a Senator or Representative need only be a “Citizen of the United States” for 9 and 7 years, respectively (a fortiori showing that he/she could be a naturalized citizen). Basic rules of constitutional construction tell that the terms are not interchangeable. These rules also tell us that in construing the Constitution, special meaning must be given to the words “natural born.” We must give meaning to the Framer’s use of the words “natural born.”’
The Constitution does not state that Congress has the power to determine and define what a “natural born Citizen” is. It is important to note that the Framers did not write in Article II “natural born Citizen of the United States,” but rather just wrote “natural born Citizen.” Why did they omit “of the United States” which they appended to the word “Citizen” when using that term? When the Framers included into Article II “natural born Citizen,” they used the definition of the term as established by the law of nations which the heavily relied upon in drafting the Constitution. The law of nations, which followd the jus sanguinis tradition, was based on natural law that had been accepted by the international community since time immemorial. Hence, a “natural born Citizen” did not need any artificial territorial boundry as part of its definition. Of course, it was understood that such a citizen would belong to the civil society or country called the United States of America. The definition from the law of nations became part of American common law and that definition was that a “natural born citizen” was one that was born in the country to a mother and father who were also citizens of the country. Our U.S. Supreme Court confirmed this definition when it stated: “At common law, with the nomenclature of which the framers of the constitution were familiar, it 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.” Minor v. Happersett, 21 Wall. 162 (1874). It is clear from the language used that the Supreme Court borrowed its concept of what a “natural born Citizen was from Vattel. See Vattel, The Law of Nations Sec. 212-33. It is also important to note that the Supreme Court said that the Framers were “familiar” with this principle. …
Thus, the bill summary should be reworded as it is not correct to say the bill is addressing “natural born citizenship.” It is addressing statutory “citizenship at birth” which is an entirely different legal term of art. The Congress, when debating this bill, should for posterity’s sake be made to state its position in the public record on the question of whether it believes there is a difference between a 14th Amendment born “citizen of the United States” and an Article II “natural born Citizen.” This issue is critical to the question of who is eligible to be President under Article II. While Congress’s debate and opinion will not be binding on any court of law, at least their opinion and rationale will provide some guidance for the courts and the public.
Following up on a posting from back in November of 2008, the NativeBornCitizen blog provides an interesting update to the question of allegations that Mr. Obama’s Selective Service registration was forged. Clicking on the link will take you to the details (which primarily has to do with a now-cleared-up discrepancy on the Document Locator Number) as well as comments from Debbie Schlussel and prolific commenter on this blog and other sites, “HistorianDude.”
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