Obama’s “Unconstitutional” Nobel Prize

If you were worrying that the Right might be running out of subjects from which it could gin up phony controversies, rest assured that they are always hard at work coming up with new, innovative, and ridiculous scandals … like the idea that in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama violated the Constitution:

Last Thursday, Barack Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize Oslo, Norway. He is the third sitting president, after Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt, to win the award. While controversy swirled around the award being granted to a wartime president, Matthew Spalding with The Heritage Foundation is concerned about the constitutionality of Obama’s acceptance of the Nobel Prize. 

A clause in Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution states: “No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office 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.” That raises a question: Is the Nobel Peace Prize an “Emolument” — a gift arising from one’s office which includes some sort of monetary award with it?

Spalding, director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies at The Heritage Foundation, says since the award is technically the property of the United States, Obama has under 60 days to turn the award over to the appropriate authorities for proper disposal.

“The Commission, the group that gives out the Nobel Prize, is actually appointed by the Parliament of Norway, which is [to] say that it’s connected with a foreign state. This makes it very interesting,” the Heritage scholar notes. “In 1993, President Clinton’s own Office of Legal Counsel said that it didn’t have to be a foreign state acting in a formal way, but could be, rather, indirect. [This] seems to be a perfect example of what the Nobel Prize is — and the Founders put this clause in the Constitution precisely to make sure that foreign states didn’t unwarrantedly influence American domestic politics.”

Spalding believes the Nobel Prize Commission intended to give the award to a president who had not yet accomplished anything, in hopes of encouraging him to do certain things in the future.

And for the record, “emolument” means “salary, wages and benefits paid for employment or an office held,” not “gift”.