The Latest Paulistianian Fantasyby 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.