Haven't seen this discussed in the MSM, so maybe this is bogus, but according to some, McCain's presidential eligibility is on shaky legal ground:

"No person except a natural born citizen shall be eligible to the office of President"
John McCain was born August 29, 1936 in Panama

Further Reading:

It would be pretty hilarious if it went to the Supreme Court just before the Republican convention, he was ruled ineligible, and Huckabee and Ron Paul battled it out for the nomination.

Are those straws? Ungh ungh.

Posted by Bryan on February 12, 2008 with category tags of

I would imagine that if the McCain people considered this a serious problem, he wouldn't have sunk so much of his life and money into running... Besides, since when has the Supreme Court ruled against Republicans in election issues, ZING!
   comment by goodladd (#144) on February 12, 2008

I'm not a lawyer or anything, but this seems to me to be a nonsense argument. If you had to be born on US territory to be president, then George Washington and everyone else born before July 4, 1776 would have been disqualified (they were born on British Colonial territory, after all). The clause must simply mean that people who acquire citizenship through the naturalization process (i.e., immigrants) can't be president.

For more information on what immigrants can and cannot do, please contact someone who votes ADQ.
   comment by chrisdye (#15) on February 12, 2008

I thought of that too, goodladd: why would he invest so much in something were it so uncertain? But then, he is a very ambitious man. Why should it stop him? It's like Guiliani floating that trial balloon the he could/should stay on past his term as mayor after 911, or Chavez trying to change the constitution. I don't think a legal gray area would stop McCain. If he has momentum and has gotten so far, people will just say "Of course, McCain can run."

chrisdye: article II, clause V of the constitution states:
"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."

Everyone could be in agreement that McCain should be allowed to run and shouldn't be disqualified by a technicality, but we're talking about the constitution. The Supreme Court would have to decide.
   comment by Bryan (#22) on February 12, 2008

Um, well, Chris is right. McCain is now, and has for his entire life been a US citizen. This is only a problem for the next great republican candidate, Schwarzenegger.

On the upside, it is nice to see the crazies in the Republican party eating own of their own for once.
   comment by stretch (#87) on February 12, 2008

You're missing the whole point, stretch. Obviously, McCain is a US citizen, but to be president, you have to be a natural-born citizen. It seems like a semantic point, but it is all important if one wants to be president. McCain was born in an American-controlled territory, not the US, so this guy is claiming that legally, McCain is a naturalized citizen.

I have no way of knowing if he is correct, but Wikipedia seems to lend some credence to his arguments. Of course, he may have written the Wikipedia article. At any rate, I find it really interesting.
   comment by Bryan (#22) on February 12, 2008

The only evidence this guy puts up for his argument is an unattributed quote. Putting something in bold with quotation marks around it seems a dubious basis for a legal argument. His whole case seems to be based on a definition that he may well have made up.

Secondly, the wikipedia article notes that the very first immigration law in the US stated: "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." Seems like pretty strong precedent.

Thirdly, in the only court case mentioned in the wikipedia article that seems to apply to the point here (Dred Scott v. Sandford), it is the dissent that says a "natural born citizen" must be born in the country. Generally, the opinion of the loosing side doesn't become law.

This just seems to be some blogger looking to sling mud.
   comment by stretch (#87) on February 12, 2008

Wow, that's a horribly drafted clause. Taken literally, with the comma between "citizen of the United States and "at the time of the adoption", it means that only people alive when the Constitution was adopted are eligible to be president. John McCain's old, but he's not that old.

   comment by chrisdye (#15) on February 13, 2008

   comment by Sean (#34) on February 13, 2008

My understanding, as a US citizen born outside the US, has always been that I could never run for President (I was pretty inconsolable between the ages of six and nine).

I would point out, as long as we're splitting hairs, stretch, that putting something on Wikipedia is also a dubious basis for a legal argument. And the Dred Scott case you cite was overturned anyway so it doesn't really matter what either side said.

IHT has an article from 2004 with a quote from a real life constitutional scholar:
But whether people born [to US citizens abroad] can serve as president has never been set in legal concrete because it has never been challenged, said Aleinikoff, who specializes in citizenship issues.

"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.
So it seems like the conclusion is: there is a valid legal challenge, but were it made it would be very unlikely to go against McCain (assuming he gets elected in the first place).

As a footnote, the Dred Scott case, if you read it, has absolutely nothing to do with presidential eligibility. In the case, Scott, the plaintiff, accused Sandford of assaulting him and his wife; Sandford's defence was that Scott and his wife were black and therefore not US citizens, and therefore not under the jurisdiction of US court. The court ruled 6 to 3 in Sandford's favour. Eep.
   comment by goodladd (#144) on February 13, 2008


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