I figured I ought to expand on the constitutional theory from my last post. It’s a point of some debate, at least within the public at large, and I’m really not sure what case law exists (if it does at all) to expound on the subject (although I’m reasonably sure there has been quite a bit of it).
During her keynote speech to “Tea Party Nation” in Nashville Saturday, former Alaskan governor and media sideshow Sarah Palin elicited cheers when she complained vociferously about the fact that a Nigerian man from Yemen named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — now more commonly-known (and more easily-pronounced) as the Underwear Bomber — has been granted legal representation in criminal proceedings against him stemming from his failed attempt to blow up a passenger jet as it landed in Detroit Christmas day.
“Our U.S. constitution,” she called it, pointing out veterans in the audience, and derisively lambasting the president for extending its protections to non-citizens.
I hate to project too much into anything Palin says, because I’m not convinced she does a whole lot of deep thinking about it, but the fact is, her statement expresses a very specific — and foundational — legal theory on what the constitution is and how it works. This theory, roughly, is that by virtue of being a United States citizen, a person is granted specific rights that he or she would otherwise not have. Being a citizen of the United States is like being a member of an exclusive country club — by becoming a member, you gain access to things like the nice golf course, the well-appointed bar, and Miranda warnings. The key element here is that citizenship theoretically confers upon someone something they didn’t have before.