Mr. President, Being King Isn't Always What It's Cracked Up To Be

Tad Armstrong Nov. 8, 2009, 7:14am

Congratulations on winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Mr. President, but, at a minimum, you'll have to fork over the Dough within 60 days of accepting it come this December when you fly to Oslo.

Contrary to Mel Brooks' pronouncement in History of the World Part I, "It's (not always) good to be the King" and impossible if you are an American President.

Now, for those of you who have no interest in the rule of law or are so judgmental that, before reviewing the evidence, you are willing to conclude this article is just going to take a cheap shot at our President, you may now retire into the ranks of the ignorant masses (a place I used to be) and move on to a crossword puzzle, a cartoon or the entertainment news of the day. If, on the other hand, you dare to learn something of the foresight and genius of the Founding Fathers, I invite you to continue.

Article I of the United States Constitution states: "No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State."

Shakespeare's Juliet would protest, "What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

Ah, 'tis true, my dear, but a President by any other title just doesn't pass the smell test in these United States. Go ahead, try it on for size. King Obama doesn't work any better than King Washington, King Lincoln or King Truman, does it? Alexander Hamilton believed that the prohibition of titles of nobility in our Constitution was "the corner-stone of republican government; for so long as they are excluded, there can never be serious danger that the government will be any other than that of the people."

Federalist Paper No. 84, 1788. [Yes, we are a republic, not a democracy, but that message is for another day.] In other words, the Office of the President is to be respected, not revered as unto a monarch.

Moving on, trust me, this much is clear: the Presidency is both an "Office of Profit" and an "Office of Trust." As such, a sitting President cannot accept any present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatever from a "King, Prince or foreign State" without the consent of Congress. Look up the definitions of "present" and "emolument" in the dictionary. You will find that the Nobel Peace Prize package (a Medal, a Diploma and 1.4 Million Clams) are included in the terms "present" or "emolument."

While the Prize comes from the private Nobel Foundation, Alfred Nobel left instructions in his will that winners would be selected by a "committee of five" appointed by the Parliament of Norway.

There is no question that the intent of Article I is such that this Peace Prize is "from a foreign State."

That is, of course, unless you are of the belief that the original intent of the Framers doesn't matter.

In that event, the Constitution doesn't matter and you can now join those who have already moved on to the weather forecast.

If you are still with me, all we need do now is determine what "consent of Congress" means and whether there has been compliance. Although it could be argued that there must be specific consent of Congress for this prize to be accepted (which Congress has not provided because, no doubt, most of them don't have a clue that it is constitutionally required), I am willing to live with the notion that the "general consent" of Congress provided by §7342 of the United States Code (dealing with the receipt and disposition of foreign gifts and decorations, including those that fall into the lap of a sitting United States President) is constitutionally sufficient.

In that case, the answer is very simple. Unless Congress provides specific consent to the President to accept this Prize and changes the statutory rules for its disposition, §7342 requires the 1.4 million Buckaroos to be turned over to the Treasury and the Medal and Diploma to be turned over to the National Archives and that the entirety of the Prize be accepted "on behalf of the United States of America."

Did I hear someone say: "Cheap shot! After all, the President graciously announced that all of the Dough would be donated to charity. He won fair and square. Let him experience the joy of giving."

This is where we explore the genius of the Framers. What do you think inspired the limitations of Article I? These Constitutional provisions remove the temptation on the part of office holders in the Federal Government to abuse their office for personal gain and, more importantly, they send a message to Kings and Princes and Foreign States that they need not offer bribes to our President to gain some political advantage, for we don't allow our leaders to accept them.

Would Norway expect the President to deal away our defense posture in Europe, etc., etc.? Come to think of it, that might be a very good reason for Congress to consider refusing the Denaro.

Additionally, because the Moolah is not the President's to give away, he won't be tempted to narrow his charitable giving to only those charities likely to reward him with future campaign contributions. Does ACORN come to mind?

So, Mr. President, you are a lawyer and have a seemingly unlimited budget with a boat load of lawyers on staff. You (and they) all took an oath to defend and support the Constitution of the United States and you, in particular, promised to do that "to the best of your ability." You cannot keep those Smackers and cannot even give them away to donees of your choice. In fact, if you do not turn them over to the Treasury, §7342 allows Attorney General Holder to bring a civil suit against you for all of the prize money plus $5,000. Kings get to keep their spoils or designate where to deposit them, but you are not King. Better fork over the Dough. Your magnanimous decision to give it away is the only cheap shot on the table. As a lawyer, an oath taker and the President of the United States, you should know better.

I almost forgot one additional problem. Mr. President, last June you accepted Saudi Arabia's highest honor, the Abdul Aziz Order, which bestows a rank of Saudi nobility on the recipient. So did "W" while he was in office. You two might want to give those back. This is America. If you care about such things, the Constitution does not allow such titles of nobility to be accepted by our sitting Presidents.

To put all of this in extra-legal perspective, just prior to his death when Congress was considering awarding President Truman with the Medal of Honor, he said he was thankful, but would not accept an award meant for bravery in battle. He also turned down lucrative corporate positions offered to him after he left office, saying: "I knew they were not interested in hiring Harry Truman...They wanted to hire...the former President of the United States. I could never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable, that would commercialize on the prestige and the dignity of the office of the Presidency." Are there any such statesmen left?

If you care about the future of your children, roll up your sleeves and get to work. The survival of the Country will no longer tolerate "ignorance of the masses."

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