Thursday, February 14, 2008

Is John McCain Eligible to Be President?

Mccain_context As we reported a while back, John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone.  Is he eligible to be President?

Section 1 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution provides that “ No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States. ” (emphasis added).  McCain is past 35 but is he a "natural born Citizen"?

Three major candidates have sought the Presidency who were born outside the United States: Barry Goldwater (1964) was born in Arizona while it was still a U.S. territory, George (Mitt's Dad) Romney (1968) was born in Mexico to U.S. parents, and now John McCain (2000, 2008.  The Panama Canal Zone, where McCain was born, was under United States sovereignty between 1903 and 1979.  McCain is the presumptive 2008 Republican nominee for President.

In 1790, Congress passed the Immigration and Naturalization Act, which gave citizenship to children born overseas — but only when the father was a U.S. citizen. In 1934, it was extended to include the children of mothers who were American citizens. But whether people born in those circumstances can serve as president has never been set in legal concrete because it has never been challenged, according to Dean Alex Aleinikoff (Georgetown).  "The Constitution does not say you have to be born in the United States, so there is room to decide what 'natural born' means, but the informal interpretation that we all accept has never been tested," he said. "Clearly, though, Article 3 of the Constitution indicates anybody who is naturalized is not natural born, and this is a ridiculous provision," he said in an interview.

Any thoughts?  For an interesting politcal analysis finding McCain to be eligible to be President, click here and here.  Charles Gordon has a great 1968 article outlining the relevant issues, which were then (as now) hot given the candidacy of Michigan Governor George Romney (born to U.S. citizen parents in Mexico) for President.  Download gordon_article


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