Recently, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals kicked a law suit brought against the United States by ‘birther’ Stephen Lee Craig. Craig had alleged he was the victim of ‘involuntary expatriation’, because the Congress had failed to define to his satisfaction the term natural born citizen.
My circle of friends has a turn of phrase for the self-styled expert who is bone ignorant on a subject, but does not hesitate to pontificate as if he knew more than he does. That turn of phrase is “I read a book once,” as in the one book, read the one time, (not even the same book several times) providing overarching authority.
It is a phrase which, in the right company, speaks volumes with a few words. Feel free to adopt the phrase.
Mr. Craig, who was as unwise as to act as his own lawyer – at least, that is my understanding of the term ‘pro se’ – tried to enlist the three appellate judges in his efforts to define the term natural born citizen. You see, Mr. Craig wanted to define the term natural born citizen according to a book The Law of Nations, by Swiss political philosopher, Emmrich de Vattel, an old tome written in 1758:
“THE Law of Nations, though so noble and important a subject, has not, hitherto, been treated of with all the care it deserves. The greater part of mankind have, therefore, only a vague, a very incomplete, and often even a false notion of it. The generality of writers, and even celebrated authors, almost exclusively confine the name of “Law of Nations” to certain maxims and treatises recognised among nations, and which the mutual consent of the parties has rendered obligatory on them. This is confining within very narrow bounds a law so extensive in its own nature, and in which the whole human race are so intimately concerned; it is, at the same time, a degradation of that law, in consequence of a misconception of its real origin.”
In other words, even de Vattel himself didn’t believe anyone really read the darn thing, despite all of the references to it in his own time. In a new twist on the phrase “I read a book once,” Craig is asserting his meaning of natural born citizen because….wait for it… the founding fathers read a book once, this book, so it must be true that de Vattel’s definition was what the founding fathers had in mind when they wrote the constitution.
Of course, the founding fathers didn’t SAY that, not in so many words. What they did say in very clear words in the very first article of the constitution was that Congress should define citizenship; and Congress did, in numerous pieces of legislation over the years.
I couldn’t make this up; I have a good imagination, but not THAT good. Right here in comments on Politicususa, birther believers have brought up the Law of Nations, as if it were some kind of final authoritative word on the subject.
I wonder how long before it sinks in just how discredited that argument really is; and how quickly after that another crackpot birther notion takes its place. The kicker is that I doubt that Craig ever read Law of Nations, in translations OR in the original French….which is the best way of course, to understand de Vattel.
“Woe be to him that reads but one book. ”
George Herbert (1593 – 1633)
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association