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Friday, February 29, 2008

John McCain: Not a Natural Born Citizen?

(Editor's note: The Clinton-Obama update will have to wait until next week, thanks to an interesting story about McCain's eligibility for the Presidency. Since when do I pass up a chance to talk about American history?)

Just as in scores of other legal un-precedents in this country's history, John McCain's temporary tryst with the U.S. Constitution is yet another instance of our founding fathers' ambiguous lawmaking. Thanks to McCain's birth location - the American controlled Panama Canal Zone - it seems as if everyone is asking the same two questions. What does natural born citizen mean? And is McCain one?

The second one is a lot easier than the first. Of course John McCain is a natural born citizen. If you are in the U.S. Embassy or on an American base, it is considered U.S. soil. The story, as a whole, is a non-issue. Yet, unlike the irresponsible reporting of the Vicki Iseman fiasco, this New York Times Story is actually worthy of print.

The answer to the first question - the question of natural born citizenship - is not yet finalized. There has never been an amendment, law, bill, proposal, or judicial decision regarding the term. Perhaps it is not too important, as being a natural born citizen is one of three qualifications to be President of the United States. Maybe if it was the only qualification...

The print and televised media have been quick to point out modern examples of candidates who did not fit neatly into the natural born citizen mold. These examples include Barry Goldwater (Born in the Arizona territory in 1909 before it became part of the Union), Lowell Weicker (born in Paris to American parents), and George Romney (born to American parents on a Mormon colony in Mexico).

The examples no one seems to be point out are those of the first seven United States Presidents (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, JQ Adams, and Jackson), the ninth (WH Harrison) and the founding father who could not run, Alexander Hamilton.

Of the first nine Presidents, only the eighth, Martin Van Buren, was born after the Declaration of Independence. The others were born before July 1776. Therefore, they were born as British citizens.

Of course, I am not arguing that they were ineligible. If that were the case, then there would be no one qualified to be President until the 19th century. What I want to know is why Alexander Hamilton, who was born in British controlled Nevis in the Caribbean, could not run, yet we now expect those born on American soil in foreign lands (McCain) to be eligible. Make no mistake, I think McCain should be eligible, but Alexander Hamilton should have been, too.

Hamilton was born British, just like those eight Presidents. Hamilton was an American during the signing of the Declaration of Independence, just like those eight Presidents. Hamilton lived in America since well before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, just like those eight Presidents. What's more is that Hamilton had as much to do with independence and American Government as any other founding father, save Washington. Alexander Hamilton was American to the core. He's on the ten-dollar bill!

Yet he was ineligible, because he was born somewhere that was not an original colony in 1776. (I wonder if, like Goldwater in Arizona, he could become eligible if the U.S. were to ever annex Nevis, however posthumously.)

I bet Jefferson and Madison were behind this...

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Aheam...aalet us remember that our current [pitiful excuse for a[ president has determined that prisoners can be held indefinitely at guantanamo abecuase it is not [in his pitifully ignorant view] American territory. If that principle applies to guantanamo, it has to apply to the Canal zone and births therein.

Lest our pitiful excuse for a president be determined a hypocrite, we have to allow atimely civilian trials for the prisoners at Guantamo, or john McCain cannot serve as president.

The Dude said...

Van B Boys in the House!

You forget, Hamilton was also a jucier. He was the Barry Bonds of his day, a total hot head with little self control. The Dual? A result of clear doping by Hamilton.

The McCain situation is hilarious. My sources in Cali have said for years the unconstitutionality of government action in recent years is simply setting the stage for the eventual repeal of Article 2, Section 1, Clause 5.

The Govenator did endorse McCain...

Raul said...

I disagree with your point that this issue represents our, "founding fathers' ambiguous lawmaking."

The fact is that 'Natural Born Citizen' is a well defined common law term and is not simply something the founding fathers (many of whom were lawyers or studied law) made up out of thin air any more than they made up the term 'year' or 'dollar' whihc are also referred to in the constitution.

Anonymous said...

You are actually incorrect about a US military base being US soil. It decidedly is not. See 7 FAM 1100 "Acquisition and Retention of U.S. Citizenship and Nationality", U.S. Department of State: "Despite widespread popular belief, U.S. military installations abroad and U.S. diplomatic or consular facilities are not part of the United States within the meaning of the 14th Amendment. A child born on the premises of such a facility is not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and does not acquire U.S. citizenship by reason of birth."

Instead, he acquired citizenship by virtue of birth to US citizens who were abroad at the time of his birth (jus sanguinis). He is still a natural born citizen by that because he was a citizen at birth.

Anonymous said...

Alexander Hamilton WAS eligible to run for POTUS -- that's because he was a citizen at the time the Constitution was written and, therefore, got in under that arcane clause.

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