Bush and Order of Three Stars

The Daily Show on Comedy Central the other day showed Bush recieving the “Order of Three Starts” from a Baltic nation’s president. I thought that was ruled out by the Constitution, no? Or what really was going on?

Yes, the US Constitution does prohibit any US governement official from accepting such things. As ususal, though, there is an out that I marked in bold in the cite below:

Article 9 -Clause 8: "No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: 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.

The crucial point is that this is a comedy show. Nothing on it is to be taken seriously. Rather it is to laugh, or not as the case may be.

The polite thing to do is to accept the artifact, although not the title. If need be, a private bill in Congress can be passed to let you accept the title.

I know of no case of this being done.

Followup question: Were the US Founding Fathers really this pissed at British nobility? I mean, you can’t even accept a present, which must cause quite a bit of trouble in diplomatic relations; those guys give each other stuff all the time.

You misunderstand the implication. In the founding father’s day, titles of nobility weren’t a poublic honor. Having one meant rights, priveleges, and often income. They wantde to make sure no one coopted important Americans by adding them to the peerage.

A decoration that carriers with it no rights or responsibilities is not an “office or title” in any meaningful sense.

A comedy show that pokes fun at actual events. “President Bush recieves Order of Three Stars from Latvian government” is the actual event, the set up to the joke. “Apparently, Latvia likes President Bush as much as Leonard Maltin liked Spanglish” is the joke, the punchline.

Mr. Bush’s brief acceptance speech.

Yes, but there was a recent survey which showed people who got their news were better informed about world events than the majority of vewiers of a certain cable TV “news” network.

Unfortunately, the Constitution does not make any distinction between meaningful or meaningless titles; it says the president shall not accept any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

Is Bush’s acceptance of this foreign honor a unique occurrence among presidents, or have previous presidents accepted similar honors? If this is a precedent changing event, Bush should return the honor, or face the consequences of violating Article 9 of the Constitution.

Daily Show Viewers Ace Political Quiz

Not quite the same as what you were implying, but still interesting.

Heads of state and heads of government always exchange gifts when they visit each other. The US has joined in the custom since 1776. (The King of Spain once gave George Washington a pair of mules. The King of Siam once offered Abraham Lincoln a pair of white elephants. When Lyndon Johnson travelled abroad, his standard diplomatic gift was a resin sculpture of his head. Arab princes would present him with jewels worth thousands of dollars, and he would present them with a plastic bust.)

Frequently, the gift is an order of chivalry. (A piece of colored ribbon and cheap jewelry, and you have fulfilled the protocol requirements, without breaking the bank.) If I understand correctly, the gift is considered to be the property of the US government, not the property of George Bush. That gets around the constitutional prohibition. Even if it were a personal gift, I suspect Congress would give its consent rather than risk insulting the diplomats.

Also, an “order of chivalry” is not the same as a “title of nobility”. Chivalric orders were once reserved for the aristocrats, but in modern usage, it is essentially just a decoration. Like an honorary medal or an honorary PhD, an honorary order can be conferred without getting the lawyers’ knickers in a twist.