If Obama Were Swiss

No kidding, Michele Bachmann is now a Swiss citizen. Doug Mataconis wonders how Bachmann would react if a Democrat did something like this.

Why wonder, when it’s more fun to speculate? What would Michele say if Obama became a Swiss citizen?

“This is another example of the Swissification of men in the U.S.”

“Let me tell you folks, they got lots of languages over there in Switzerland. They speak I-TALian, they speak French, they speak German — just like the Nazis did. They even speak Romansh — what the heck is that? But do they speak English, like Jesus did? No way.”

“If the President thinks he can fix our health care system with a couple of Ricolas and some hot chocolate, he’s got another think coming”.

“The President can yodel about his proposals as much as he wants to, but they’ve got more holes in them than that cheese they make in his home country. He’s in desperate need of psychiatric Alp”.

“The President has slalomed our economy into some deep fondue”.

All join in with your own suggestions, please.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

37 thoughts on “If Obama Were Swiss”

  1. It is a little surprising that the Bachmann family decided, after so many years, to explore Swiss citizenship. I don’t have a problem with it but would be very interested to know what logic compelled their actions.

  2. The one thing that strikes me as odd is the claim in the article that she became a Swiss citizen automatically when her husband became a Swiss citizen; unless I’m very much mistaken, as the spouse of a Swiss citizen you still have to apply for citizenship yourself (if only because citizenship confers not only rights, but also duties — in Switzerland, that would in particular include conscription for men).

    1. I don’t think citizenship was automatic, eligibility was. The article mentioned that some of their children wanted to exercise the option and the whole family decided to go through the process together.

      1. “The article mentioned that some of their children wanted to exercise the option and the whole family decided to go through the process together.”

        Just decided; like when a friend has a ‘buy one, get one half off’ coupon, and you decide to get one, since it’s only 50% of the regular price.

        This is a woman who hit bottom and keeps jack hammering her way on down.

    2. You are right, Katja. (I have Swiss citizenship by birth, through my mother–but my wife doesn’t, never having applied for it.) Freeman is also right about how it must have happened.

  3. Is a foriegn national qualified to hold elected federal office?
    If this were anybody but Bachmann I would assume she would have checked that out but with her you never know.

  4. This comment is a test. No offense taken if it actually posts and an administrator deletes it.

    There seems to be an error occurring in the comment posting function of the website.

    I tried to post a comment (my contribution to the “what would Michele say” jokes) with a single link in it, but the comment didn’t show up. No message about awaiting moderation or posting too quickly after another comment, just a page refresh with no new comment appearing. When I tried again I got an error message about “duplicate post detected. It looks like you’ve already said that.”, but my comment is still not there.

    1. Freeman: There is nothing in the pending comment queue nor anything in trash from you.

      1. Thanks for checking, Keith.

        This is weird. I just tried again and it did the same thing — page refresh, no error message, no comment posted. I can’t imagine what the problem is, I’m guessing it doesn’t like the link. I’m going to try again without it:

        Some pretty amusing zingers there! Here’s mine:

        “You know he only did it in order to become eligible for the HAT program”.

      2. Yeah, it’s definitely the link. Won’t even let me post the URL. I can’t imagine what’s blocking it — it’s an NIH.GOV domain for cryin’ out loud!


  5. Interesting text from the State department; note the passage I bolded:

    A U.S. citizen may acquire foreign citizenship by marriage, or a person naturalized as a U.S. citizen may not lose the citizenship of the country of birth.U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one citizenship or another. Also, a person who is automatically granted another citizenship does not risk losing U.S. citizenship. However, a person who acquires a foreign citizenship by applying for it may lose U.S. citizenship.

    Still, to be fair, the very next sentence does say:

    In order to lose U.S. citizenship, the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up U.S. citizenship.

    This last passage may deny us our fun.

    All in all, this is quite weird. As Americans, Bachmann’s kids can visit Switzerland freely as tourists, without needing a visa. I can’t imagine they’d have any trouble getting a student visa; I suspect they’d not have too much trouble getting a work visa. Other than paranoid fantasies, there isn’t really any circumstance where they’d need Swiss citizenship. I simply can’t figure out what could be motivating this decision.

      1. Little seems to have been said about this anyplace. Given the tenuousness of the connection, and the ceremoniousness of the swearing-in, was this maybe meant to be not particularly functional but very flattering, akin to a Knighthood or a Presidential Medal?

    1. Current State Department policy is very lenient with regard to “potentially expatriating acts” (this has not always been the case — until the late 80s or so, the State Department had a reputation of actively looking for reasons to expatriate dual citizens). Swiss immigration law does not require you to renounce previous citizenships, so presumably it won’t affect her.

      Concerning the benefits: Switzerland has a mutual work/residence agreement with the EU/EEA, so that Swiss citizenship gives you the right to work and live almost anywhere in Europe. And work visas can actually be a fair bit of trouble: Many European countries have limits on how many or what foreign workers they accept. For example, German law requires employers to prioritize national and EU employees over other foreigners; if a German employer is considering a prospective American employee, but has an equally or better qualified German (or Austrian, or British, or French, or Swiss) candidate, then the employer must take that candidate over the American (the employment agency will also supply suggestions of qualified local candidates looking for work). The UK uses a points-based system for skilled workers and currently also requires an employer’s sponsorship. Even if you manage to surmount these barriers, you can generally expect to spend a fair amount of time and effort dealing with them.

      Likewise, there can be differences when it comes to studying in Europe. For example, as a European student at a Scottish university, you pay no tuition fees (though the criteria are more strict for Swiss citizens, who are required to have been resident in the EU for a few years before). Americans will have to pay considerable tuition fees.

      In general, Swiss citizenship gives you access to the European market almost on par with nationals of the respective countries.

  6. Warren–that is quite interesting because my step-son was forced by INS to verbally and in writing to renounce his Canadian citizenship (he was birn there) in order to receive US citizenship.

    1. The State department is more tolerant of people born as citizens acquiring second, foreign citizenship elsewhere than it is of naturalized citizens, who are obligated to renounce their foreign citizenship to become American citizens. It’s not entirely fair, but there’s at least a case to be made that the renunciation of foreign citizenship is a logical part of naturalization.

      On the other hand, it’s my understanding that foreign governments are not obligated to and do not recognize the renunciation of their citizenship that’s part of becoming an American citizen.

      And then there’s the case of Maher Arar, a naturalized Canadian citizen deported by the US to be tortured in the country of his birth, Syria, because the US chose for reasons of convenience to consider him to be a Syrian citizen.

    2. There’s a difference between being naturalized as a US citizen and a US citizen being naturalized elsewhere.

      The United States (or Germany, or a number of other countries) will require you to renounce previous citizenships as part of the naturalization process. Other countries (Switzerland, Great Britain) don’t. If you’re a dual citizen by birth (like myself), that doesn’t apply.

      This is further complicated by the fact that some countries make it impossible for you to renounce citizenship and won’t accept it; others make it easy to reacquire citizenship. For example, a British citizen who becomes a US citizen (and thus has to give up British citizenship) can reapply for British citizenship again after (though only once, I believe).

  7. Bachmann’s been a tax attorney, so I wouldn’t be surprised if money has something to do with this.

  8. Two comments. First, the key words in the State Department policy may be “apply for” citizenship, perhaps as distinguished from simply registering for acknowledgement of an “existing” citizenship. (By the by, I am eligible to be a citizen of Ireland for the asking, much like the Swiss Family Bachmann, due to my grandfather’s birth there; I have not, although my sister has.) Second, is there an elephant in the room in this discussion? Is there one particular foreign country that welcomes dual citizenship, which a large block of Americans embrace?

  9. If being American isn’t good enough for her than she should leave America.

    That’s akin to what Rush and Party would broadside about Obama.
    The Republicans don’t play around with dainty puns.
    They go for the jugular in unison…
    Every time.

    That’s why they have ubiquitous Norquist vows not to raise taxes…
    Whereas there are no similar vow-machinery on the other side to preserve (and even bolster) social security.

    And that’s why the “center” has shifted so far to the right that Allen West can say half the Dems in Congress are Communists.
    And that’s why more Americans doubt global warming than ever…
    And why Richard Nixon’s policies now look like the golden age of Liberalism.

    Dogs that hunt don’t pussyfoot around.
    They pledge together and go for the jugular in unison…
    Every time.

  10. Isn’t she on the House Intelligence Committee. I understand that dual citizenship can really mess up security clearances.

    1. This is true; I know personally of someone born here who chose to exercise his right to gain dual citizenship as an adult, and later discovered that this prevented him from getting a (technical) job with an intelligence agency. I thought the article about Louis Freeh pointed to above was also very interesting in this regard.

  11. Switzerland is a very rich country with low taxes. I’d become a citizen there if I could, and I’m a Democrat. I am currently trying to become an Italian citizen through similar means.

    1. I don’t know where the burden falls (progressivity, corporations versus income, earned versus unearned income, etcetera), but via Wikipedia, a 2012 Heritage Foundation study says that Switzerland collects 29% of its GDP in taxes, compared to only 26% for the US.
      Of course, the US taxation scheme is almost uniquely regressive (especially the protection for unearned income), and so far as I know the Bachmanns aren’t especially wealthy, so they might face lower taxes there.

  12. Also, since Marcus Bachmann is obviously gay, he can enjoy full legal rights there. 🙂

  13. You can’t have a security clearance and have dual citizenship. I am sure the President could wave it, but for worker bees this is verbotten. In fact if you show too much affinity to another country higher clearances can be pulled.

      1. It depends upon how dual citizenship comes about. If for example you were born here but have it automatically due to the laws of the country from which your parents hail, or gain it because your parents took some action to gain it on your behalf while you were a child, that’s one thing. Affirmatively seeking it upon yourself as an adult is another. If you read the text at the link you can see pretty clearly that the latter is extremely problematic.

        So yes, Bachmann would now find it difficult to gain a security clearance under ordinary circumstances.

    1. And they blame it on “the moral relativism of the post-national Left.”

      NRO really is an amazing bunch of a**holes.

      1. I understood that line to say ‘even Michelle Bachmann has been infected/affected by the moral relativism’, rather than that she is being driven to it by the horrible relativism around her. I guess even a conservative will practice situational ethics if it suits her (or her husband, or her kids.)

        I have no quarrel with your second sentence.

  14. Despite no traction here, I’ll mention it anyway: Charles Pierce called it “Swiss Miss Instant Cuckoo”.


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