Thursday, October 15, 2009

A constitutional speed bump for Obama's Nobel Prize

And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.

-Constitution of the United States of America Article I sec 9
The award of the peace prize to a sitting President is not unprecedented. But Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson received the honor for their past actions: Roosevelt's efforts to end the Russo-Japanese War and Wilson's work in establishing establish the League of Nations. Obama's award is different. It is intended to affect future action. As a member of the Nobel Committee explained, the Prize should encourage Obama to meet his goal of nuclear disarmament. It raises important legal questions for the second time in less than 10 months -- questions not discussed, much less adequately addressed anywhere else.

The five-member Nobel commission is elected by the Storting, the Parliament of Norway. Thus the award of the peace prize is made by a body representing the legislature of a sovereign foreign state. There is no doubt that the Nobel Peace Prize is an "emolument" ("gain from employment or position," according to Webster).

An opinion of the U.S. Attorney General advised, in 1902 that "a simple remembrance," even "if merely a photograph, falls under the inclusion of 'any present of any kind whatever.' " President Clinton's Office of Legal Counsel, in 1993, reaffirmed the 1902 opinion, and explained that the text of the clause does not limit "its application solely to foreign governments acting as sovereigns." This opinion went on to say that the Emolument Clause applies even when the foreign government acts through instrumentalities. Thus the Nobel Prize is an emolument, and a foreign one to boot.


Anonymous said...

That's illogical bashing of Obama and searching for reasons why it's illegal rather than looking at the root of the argument.

Just because the prize may encourage Obama to meet his goals, the statements from the Committee cite that the main reasons involve the change of the political and international status quo for the better. Just because it is not immediately apparent in the US due to partisan bickering, in the rest of the world Obama has changed the view of the US and allowed the US to reinvent itself in the minds of many.

Your views in this are one-sided and although he may not of deserved it as much as others have in the past, to say he has changed nothing would be to ignore the opening of long closed INTERNATIONAL political barriers and channels of communication.

There are multiple ways of viewing the constitution, you can read up on the different legal reasonings but to take this literally it would mean that anything, even something like a toast, or a "photograph" would need Congressional Consent. This is only functional if the President would accept a gift which counters the ideals and beliefs of the nation. The whole line of "meeting his goal of nuclear disarmament" does not entice Obama to begin seeking disarmament as the US and Obama have been seeking this for some time. Therefore seeking consent is a waste of time because it would be granted. The reason its not in the news is because Congress has no reason to say "no you can't take this"

It's like you running to class and your friend (Norway) sees you and offers you a ride. You're reaching the same location, the only difference is you're doing it faster. If it was a stranger (North Korea?) and he was going in another direction would you "accept his present?" Didn't Big Papa Congress tell you not to accept anything from strangers?


John (Ad Orientem) said...

I don't think one can fairly compare getting a ride with accepting a prestigious award from a foreign government that also comes with a $1.4 million check. Did you bother to read the source? Two US Attorney Generals (one of the Bill Clinton's) came to very different conclusions from your position.


Tregonsee said...

Charming that someone still believes the Constitution matters to our current leaders.