This is at least the second time that Obama has run afoul of the emolument clause. On June 3, 2009, the day before he gave his speech in Cairo on relations with the Muslim world, he accepted (and even donned) the bejeweled Collar of the King Abdul Aziz Order of Merit, Saudi Arabia’s highest honor, from the hands of King Abdullah. (President Bush was awarded the Order in January last year.)
Aside from whether a president shows questionable judgment in accepting any preferment from the House of Saud named for its anti-Semitic modern founder, there is another issue: The Collar is clearly a chivalric “order” of the Saudi monarchy conferring a rank in that system of titled royalty and nobility. It is not a mere decoration or campaign ribbon. There does not seem to be any record of congressional permission asked for, much less granted, for the president to accept this bauble. Washington, Madison and Hamilton would have clearly understood that the Abdul Aziz Order falls under the same ban they had in mind for any public officials coveting awards made under the honors system of the British monarchy.
Taking President Obama at his word that the Nobel award is “an affirmation of American leadership,” Congress should allow him to accept the award. The prize money, which legally belongs to the United States, ought to be applied by Congress to some worthy cause, such as reducing the deficit.