Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Is John McCain legally barred from being president?

Paul Bannister thinks so. He wrote the article "McCain presidency would be illegal" in the March 17 issue of Globe Magazine. Yes, it's a tabloid, but when you're in the checkout line of Wal-Mart, what else is there to do?

Bannister noted that since McCain was born on a U.S. military base in the Panama Canal zone in 1936 and not in an American state like Arizona, Texas or New York, he’s ineligible to serve. Bannister added that 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater would’ve been ineligible to serve, since he was born in 1908 in the Arizona Territory in 1909—three years before it became a U.S. state. It was, though, an American territory.

What does the U.S. Constitution say? Banister neglects to mention what it says on the matter. Here is Article II, Section 1:

“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.”

The idea is that those eligible for the presidency were those who were natural born citizens or those who were U.S. citizens at the time the constitution was written. Today, this would apply only to those who are natural-born citizens.

To me, “natural-born” citizen would apply to three people: those who were born in America (like me; I was born in Louisiana in 1973); those who, though not born in America, were born in American territories (such as my cousin, Brad, who was born on a military base in Wiesbaden, West Germany or actor Kelsey Grammer, who was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands (a U.S. territory); or those who weren’t born in America but who have parents who are American citizens (such as the people I’ve known who were born in foreign countries where their American parents were serving as missionaries).

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