John McCain: Natural Born Citizen?
A question we should be sure we can answer
By Ben Domenech Posted in 2008 | John McCain — Comments (169) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
With the political comeback of John McCain in this race, there's a question I'd like to throw out to the community that I think we need to be able to answer in the event McCain wins the nomination: is John McCain a natural-born citizen?
As you all know, that's what the Constitution requires to be eligible for the Presidency. And knowing their cutthroat tactics, it's a question the Clinton campaign would almost certainly raise through someone unaffiliated with their campaign...just as some raised questions about George Romney (born in Mexico), it just never got resolved before he dropped from his presidential race.
McCain has faced questions about this issue before. He was born August 29, 1936 in the Panama Canal Zone, to two U.S. citizens. It's a common misunderstanding that the zone was a U.S. territory - in fact, the U.S. had lease rights, but not territorial rights. And according to some lawyers who work in this field, past citizens in the Canal Zone - again, born to U.S. citizens - have not been considered "natural born."
Yet according to the Naturalization Law of 1790 that sought to define the term: "And the children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond sea, or outside the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens."
See also: Weedin v. Chin Bow 274 U.S. 657 (1927): "A child born outside the U.S. cannot claim U.S. citizenship by birth through a U.S. citizen parent who had never lived in the U.S. prior to the child's birth." So in other words, had McCain stayed in Panama after being born there to US citizens, he still would have been a citizen but any progeny he may have sired while there (if he didn't come live in the US before then) would not have been citizens. But since his parents HAD lived here, he's good to go.
The odd quirk here seems to be that one could argue the child of illegal immigrants, who came to America and then gave birth here, would have a better claim to a legal right to be president than John McCain. I still believe he ought to qualify fully to be president - he was on a U.S. Military Base for crying out loud - but we ought to have our legal ducks in a row on this point should he become the nominee.