Is Huntsman constitutionally eligible?

The U.S. Constitution requires that presidents be at least 35 years old and natural born citizens. The third requirement is that they must have been “fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”

So how about amabassadors to China? Or supreme allied commanders away for three years to direct military invasions? Or Herbert Hoover, who returned in 1919 from years of directing wartime food relief in Europe?

Perhaps the fourteen years residency is a lifetime accumulation and not just the most recent fourteen years.

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About John Mansfield

Mansfield in the desertA third-generation southern Nevadan, I have lived in exile most of my life in such places as Los Alamos, Baltimore, Los Angeles, the western suburbs of Detroit, and currently the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C. I work as a fluid dynamics engineer. I was baptized at age twelve in the font of the Las Vegas Nevada Central Stake Center, and on my nineteenth birthday I received the endowment in the St. George Temple. I served as a missionary mostly in the Patagonia of Argentina from 1985 to 1987. My true calling in the Church seems to be working with Cub Scouts, whom I have served in different capacities in four states most years since 1992. (My oldest boy turned eight in 2004.) I also currently teach Sunday School to the thirteen-year-olds. I hold degrees from two universities named for men who died in the 1870s, the Brigham Young University and the Johns Hopkins University. My wife is Elizabeth Pack Mansfield, who comes from New Mexico's north central mountains and studied molecular biology at the same two schools I attended. We have four sons, whose care and admonition, along with care of my aged father, require much of Elizabeth's time. She currently serves the Church as Mia-Maid advisor, ward music chairman, and choir director, and plays violin whenever she can. One day, I would like to make shoes.

18 thoughts on “Is Huntsman constitutionally eligible?

  1. John McCain was born in Panama on a US military base. I’m pretty sure it’s a non-issue for Huntsman. I’d be interested in seeing the constitutional analysis from somebody who knows.

  2. Good point about the special status of embassies and military facilities, and for that matter those in government service abroad carrying official or diplomatic passports. That clears Huntsman and Eisenhower. How about people like Herbert Hoover, pursuing private business or charity undertakings? How about mission presidents?

  3. I’m interested, too.

    I’ve lived overseas three different times during my working career for an average of three years each time. Each of those times I paid state taxes in Michigan as if I were a resident because I intended to return to Michigan after my overseas assignment, and I maintained my home here. The state of Michigan required me to pay state income tax because I had not “domiciled” myself in another state prior to leaving the US.

    Of course the US requires taxes from its citizens (on worldwide income) regardless of where they live.

    I assumed because of all of those things that should my children have chosen to matriculate to a Michigan state school, they could have done so with in-state tuition. As it happens, had my daughter who graduated in Taiwan decided to go to Michigan school, she would have had to pay out of state tuition because of her graduation from an overseas high school.

  4. Until someone builds a time machine and takes me back to the moment of Huntsman’s birth, I won’t be convinced he was even born a citizen!

  5. This is where I think original intent comes into the discussion. That prohibition for people having to be born in the US to become president was written to make sure that Alexander Hamilton couldn’t be elected president and become the tyrant many of the founding fathers feared he would be. It is really a ridiculous rule that doesn’t serve any real purpose anymore. That being said, John Adams served many years out of the country as an ambassador before he became vice president, then becoming president. His son John Quincy Adams also spent most of his life outside of the US.

  6. Taking out my Constitution, I read the following regarding a president:

    “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.”

    Here is my take on this: the 14-year resident requirement appears to apply to people who may have been born in the colonies by accident to a Tory family and, having left during the revolution, suddenly wanted to return after spending all of their lives in another country. It seems to be an attempt to enforce a loyalty test. Is their loyalty to the United States or another country? If they just happen to have been born in the U.S. but spend their entire lives someplace else, then they really aren’t Americans in terms of their loyalty.

    So the question really would be: can we show that XXX candidate is not really loyal to the U.S. because he has spent all of his/her life in another country? I don’t think this applies to any recent presidential candidate I can recall, including of course Huntsman.

  7. The reality is that the 14 year a resident rule has never been tested in Court and thus certainly not decided by the Supreme Court. Four scenarios basically could happen.

    First Congress could pass a bill and the President signs it thus placing a definition in law. You would then expect a suit against the law in Federal Court which would probably be appealed till it reaches the Supreme Court.

    Second, A Constitutional Amendment changing the eligibility clause could be proposed and passed that defines it further or throws out the 14 year rule.

    Third, there are several convoluted scenarios that might result in Court challenges. For example a 35 year old has only resided in the U.S. for 10 years since he was 18. Do his eighteen years as a minor count?

    Finally, the biggest disaster would be if both Houses refuse to certify a person as President because of their interpretation of the Constitution. What a mess

    Do not think that there can be very messy situations. George Wallace ran for President in 1968. He did not expect to win. What he hoped for was enough electoral votes so that Nixon and Humphrey did not get more than one half the electoral votes and thus the selection of the President will be determined by the House voting as states from among the top 4 electoral vote getters. Then he (and the old South) could look for offers to throw their support for. All them there Civil Rights things would not be a problem for them good old boys drinking whiskey and rye.

  8. Interestingly, that fourteen-year rule is in place (by statute) for a citizen parent wanting to pass that citizenship on to a child born abroad. And I think early on, fourteen years was the minimum residency to obtain citizenship (again by statute).

    It’s my understanding that Alexander Hamilton was eligible to run for President, as he was a citizen at the time the Constitution was ratified. I’ll have to check Article II on that.

  9. I assume it was to ensure the president had been in America long enough to know what was important to other Americans. George I, for example, inherited the British throne because he was Queen Anne’s closest Protestant relative despite being a German prince at the time, and preferred speaking German over English while he was king.

  10. The embassy thing explains Huntsman, but I’d love to know what the difference would be if he had been a mission president in Hong Kong for that time instead.

    Not totally related, but would any serious candidate accept a call to be a mission president and/or would the church ever call a politician in serious contention to be a mission president? I can just imagine the ridiculous amount of attacks Romney would have to put up with in 2016 if he went to serve in France as a MP for a few years.

  11. Wayne Owens served a term in the House from 1973 to 1975, and that summer (he had run for Senate in 1974 and lost) became a mission president for three years. He served again in the House from 1987 to 1993, losing the 1992 Senate race.

  12. I wouldn’t vote for Huntsman for president. I never voted for him for governor, either. There’s something smarmy about him. Also forgettable.

  13. Federal elections are happening today in Canada. In connection with the above, I will note Michael Ignatieff, leader of the Liberal Party, and therefore someone seeking to replace Stephen Harper as Prime Minister. Ignatieff lived on England and the United States from 1978 (when he was 31) until six years ago when he returned to Canada to begin a career in politics. He once wrote of Canada as “the place on earth that, if I needed one, I would call home.”

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