Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.”     Plato

February 5, 2008

The Latest Paulistianian Fantasy

by Doug Mataconis

There’s a theory that’s been going around among Ron Paul supporters recently. It’s appeared on message boards and in blog posts, and now Lew Rockwell has fallen for it too:

The Constitution has little relevance to the government, but still it’s interesting to note that the crazed John McCain was born, to his state-connected parents, in the Panama Canal Zone. The Zone, the product of US imperialism under the the crazed Teddy Roosevelt, was never officially US territory. That is, McCain was born in a foreign country, and therefore not eligible to be president, according to the Constitution.

The Constitutional provision in question can be found in Article II:

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.

In other words, only a “natural born citizen” can be President of the United States. This is why Arnold Schwarzenegger cannot run for President and why Madeline Albright, President Clinton’s Secretary of State (who was born in Czechoslovakia) was not part of the line of succession during the time she was in office. The question is, what is a “national born citizen”. Obviously someone who is born here, unless they are the child of a foreign diplomat at the time, is a natural born citizen, but the definition has always been broader than that.

In it’s current form — which is set forth in Title 8, Section 1401 of the United States Code, American citizenship is defined as follows:

The following shall be nationals and citizens of the United States at birth:

(a) a person born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof;

(…)

(c) a person born outside of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents both of whom are citizens of the United States and one of whom has had a residence in the United States or one of its outlying possessions, prior to the birth of such person;

(d) a person born outside of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom is a citizen of the United States who has been physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for a continuous period of one year prior to the birth of such person, and the other of whom is a national, but not a citizen of the United States;

Now, it’s clear that Senator McCain was born outside the continental United States — but he was born to two American citizens who had lived in the United States before he was born and he was born on an American military base in the Panama Canal Zone. Which brings 8 USC 1403 into play:

(a) Any person born in the Canal Zone on or after February 26, 1904, and whether before or after the effective date of this chapter, whose father or mother or both at the time of the birth of such person was or is a citizen of the United States, is declared to be a citizen of the United States.

(b) Any person born in the Republic of Panama on or after February 26, 1904, and whether before or after the effective date of this chapter, whose father or mother or both at the time of the birth of such person was or is a citizen of the United States employed by the Government of the United States or by the Panama Railroad Company, or its successor in title, is declared to be a citizen of the United States.

Additionally, American military bases are generally considered extensions of American soil and children born their to service members, such as the Senator, are considered citizens of the United States by birth. In other words, by operation of law, authorized by Congressional authority under Article I, Section 8, John McCain is a natural born citizen of the United States.

It’s time to stop indulging in that particular fantasy.

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14 Comments

  1. Not quite, Panama isn’t in the Constitution, whether Congress has said he’s legal or not. It’s not a fantasy, and mostly satire. Grow up.

    Comment by Fritz — February 5, 2008 @ 11:05 am
  2. Fritz,

    Did you not read what I wrote or do the facts not matter to you ?

    And Rockwell certainly didn’t sound sarcastic to me. I think he actually believes it.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — February 5, 2008 @ 11:06 am
  3. This has been talked about on the Ron Paul forums for awhile. Almost all of us agree that Mccain is a natural born citizen and this is a non-issue. I have no idea why Rockwell would even bring this up.

    Comment by Chris Brewer — February 5, 2008 @ 11:08 am
  4. Chris,

    Make your own judgments about why the newsletter author would do such a think, I guess.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — February 5, 2008 @ 11:10 am
  5. Wow…I read Rockwell’s post and I think its pretty obvious it is just a funny non sequitor. Ya’ll can’t take a joke? Does it really matter what Rockwell says anyway?

    Comment by Katie — February 5, 2008 @ 11:12 am
  6. As always Doug, you tackle the big issues with that mighty intellect of yours. Keep up the great work!

    Comment by GoodJobBuddy — February 5, 2008 @ 11:22 am
  7. This is actually the first time I’ve read about this. Lew is not a spokesperson for this RP supporter (me), and I’d imagine there are many others who think this as well.

    Of course, I also find it funny. My funny bone bets this was a intentional joke; if so, it was fun.

    Comment by Nitroadict — February 5, 2008 @ 11:25 am
  8. Nitro,

    This is a real theory that real Ron Paul supporters have advanced. It has about as much merit as the argument that the 16th Amendment was never ratified.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — February 5, 2008 @ 11:36 am
  9. Doug, quit trying to conjeur up conspiracy theories. You are sounding like the conspirary theory people you rail about. Every little thing, you want to make a big deal about. Just because a few Ron Paul supporters may have advanced this doesn’t mean crap or speak for the campaign or movement as a whole. Just you bringing it up makes you sound like a conspirary theorist. Give me a break.

    So what you are saying is that just because a handful of people have brought it up and happen to back Ron Paul, then the campaign and the whole movement have to get behind it. The freedom/liberty movement is a lot about individuals using their own brains instead of depending on others. Start using yours.

    Comment by TerryP — February 5, 2008 @ 6:09 pm
  10. Give me a rotten peach, and I will declare all peaches rotten.

    Comment by Nitroadict — February 5, 2008 @ 6:40 pm
  11. Sorry, but if Rockwell meant that as a joke it was an especially bad one because that’s not what it came off as in his post…especially since there are no other such “jokes” I saw in the other postings and another author on the LRC blog (where Rockwell wrote his article) took the time to seriously rebut him as well.

    Comment by UCrawford — February 6, 2008 @ 5:55 am
  12. I think Rockwell probably made a bone-headed error.

    It happens. Remember Pres. George Bush I bitching on September 7th how nobody observed Pearl harbor day anymore. ;)

    It happens….

    Comment by tarran — February 6, 2008 @ 7:14 am
  13. I vaguely remember Bush 41′s Pearl Harbor gaffe. I couldn’t believe that a WWII vet actually forgot the date…that would be like me in 40 years bitching about how nobody remembers “October 11th”. Oh well, as you say, it happens…everyone’s entitled to their occasional harmless brainfart :)

    Comment by UCrawford — February 7, 2008 @ 12:51 pm
  14. Actually you got it wrong. I looked it up on wikipedia and the Panama canal zone was actually a territory of the United States when McCain was born there. President Carter reverted ownership of the PCZ to a lease from Panama. So McCain was born in Panama and he was born on US soil.

    Comment by Mark D — February 13, 2008 @ 8:36 pm

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