As we've already seen in Maine, some strange ideas are being folded into the emerging revisions of various state GOP platforms. But something truly bizarre is happening in Iowa.
Newsweek's Jerry Adler has paged through some "387 enumerated planks" of the Republican Party of Iowa's platform and, among the instances of "North American Union" paranoia and the upholding of manure as the only agricultural poop
inveighed imbued by its creator with American exceptionalism, is a bizarre plan to strip President Barack Obama of his citizenship for accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. What the what?
As Adler explains, the Iowa GOP is calling for the "reintroduction and ratification of the original 13th amendment" of the Constitution. The first wrinkle here is that the current 13th Amendment is a rather important one: it bans slavery. But that's the "bad optics" side of "Thirteentherism." Here's the side that is, as they say, "cray-cray" -- this is, in part, what the original 13th amendment said:
"If any citizen of the United States shall accept, claim, receive or retain any title of nobility or honour, or shall, without the consent of Congress accept and retain any present, pension, office or emolument of any kind whatever, from any emperor, king, prince or foreign power, such person shall cease to be a citizen of the United States and shall be incapable of holding any office of trust or profit under them, or either of them."
That language was originally considered by the states in 1810 but, as Jason Hancock at the Iowa Independent points out, "The amendment was ratified by 12 states but never got the 13th state that it needed, and thus, never became law."
This is the part where Obama, having accepted a Nobel Prize from the Nobel Committee -- five people appointed by the Norwegian Parliament -- gets stripped of his citizenship. Presumably, this takes care of all sorts of other Nobel laureates, like former President Jimmy Carter, author Toni Morrison, Energy secretary Steven Chu, and economists Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz. Have fun in your new home in Oslo, everyone!
Oh, and also, say goodbye to every lawyer in America!
In the world of the Thirteenthers, though, it's all a conspiracy, and the leading suspects are those shady characters who put "esquire" after their names. To quote the Web site Constitutional Concepts, "This Amendment was for the specific purpose of banning participation in government operations by attorneys and bankers who claimed the Title of Nobility of 'Esquire.' These people had joined the International Bar Association or the International Bankers Association and owed their allegiance to the King of England." In other words--well, we're not sure how to explain it any better, but Constitutional Concepts CEO Jim Barrus says in an e-mail that enforcement of the 13th Amendment would strike a blow against "the elected politicians who have grand plans of ruling every facet of America," and would essentially delegitimize virtually every act of the federal government since 1819. Who wouldn't want that?
Naturally, most lawyers see it differently. "The esquire thing is ridiculous," says R. B. Bernstein, a professor at New York Law School and author of Amending America. "'Esquire' is not a title of nobility. Back then, they were worried about people accepting literal titles of aristocracy that convey land or privileges, things you can leave to your kids." Lawyers obviously command certain privileges, but they are not inherited.
Adler confirms that Iowa GOP spokesperson Danielle Plogmann intends this platform plank as "a statement about the delegates' opinion about Mr. Obama receiving the prize." But the paranoiac Thirteenther take this unserious matter very seriously.
Some, however, argue that it was ratified and have a plethora of conspiracy theories to back up their assertion. These folks, known as "Thirteenthers," believe that since the amendment would have banned lawyers and bankers from serving in government (since they joined the International Bar Association or the International Bankers Association, respectively), every act of the federal government since 1819 would be delegitimized.
Wow. Just... wow.
UPDATE: A reader points out that among the acts of the Federal government that would be delegitimized by a restoration/ratification of the unratified original 13th Amendment would be the act that gave statehood to Iowa, which happened in 1846.
Why Some Republicans Want to 'Restore' the 13th Amendment [Newsweek]
Iowa GOP jumps on the 'Thirteenther' bandwagon [Iowa Independent]
Iowa GOP Supports Amendment To Strip Obama's Citizenship Because He Won The Nobel Peace Prize [ThinkProgress]