McCain's birth, Russian language version:

In this Russian-language radio broadcast for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, I add my own thoughts to the controversy. Synopsis: the issue hasn't been clearly settled by the courts, but most legal scholarship supports McCain's eligibility. His eligibility is strongly supported by the fact that he was born on American soil, since he was born in the Canal Zone. The clause was intended to prevent dual loyalty, which is not an issue in McCain's case, since he was an American citizen at the moment of his birth, and he was never a citizen of Panama or any other nation. Thus, this is an easier case than someone who was born on foreign soil, and who received foreign citizenship as a result of that birth. (E.g., a child born to American private-sector workers who were living in Ireland at the time of the birth; although I argue that even in this case, most legal scholarship would favor that child being considered "a natural-born citizen.")

To be a senator one also has to be a US citizen. I don't believe McCain ever took the citizenship oath, so wouldn't all his votes by suspect, (quick, call up the "16th Amendment was not really passed" crowd)?
2.29.2008 2:49pm
frankcross (mail):
It's my understanding that the Canal Zone was not American soil in the conventional sense, simply leased property. I think it gave him an option of Panamanian citizenship, though perhaps not automatic.
2.29.2008 2:51pm
KenB (mail):
Maybe it's oversimplistic, and I have not researched it, but it seems to me you can be a citizen one of two ways:

1. Be a natural born citizen, or

2. Go through a naturalization process.

So far as I know, McCain has not gone through a naturalization process. Does anyone want to argue he is not a citizen at all?

Does not the law say that, if you are born of U.S. citizens, you are a U.S. citizen? Were not McCain's parents U.S. citizens?
2.29.2008 3:04pm
TomH (mail):
Oh dear, then he is an illegal alien from South America!

That explains alot.
2.29.2008 3:31pm
Crunchy Frog:
Hence the need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. He wants to provide himself a path to citizenship.
2.29.2008 3:43pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I think Jim Lindgren below makes an excellent case that it simply means "citizen at birth," which McCain was.

I doubt it was meant to prevent divided loyalty, since one can be born with multiple citizenships. Say, a child born in the US to two British nationals. I'd suspect it was meant more to disallow someone who might not be all that familiar with the US -- that is, like the age requirement, meant to establish a minimum level of likely knowledge.

Ah, I found the naturalization act of 1790. Not exactly strict. If you have resided in the US for two years, you can file a motion to naturalize in State court, show good character, and if the judge buys it, you're a citizen. If that was their notion of naturalization, they may have anticipated ruling out someone who might only have been here two years.
2.29.2008 3:48pm
TomH (mail):
@Dave Hardy

I don't have time at the moment, but my recollection is that the issue became important around 1800. IIRC, at the time the Alien and Sedition Acts were being passed to silence dissent against the Adams administration. Deportation of the editor of a dissenting newspaper in Philadelphia, a naturalized Irish citizen, was a big concern, as was the definition of a natural born citizen, relevant to the owner of the paper.
2.29.2008 4:01pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
What is the citizenship of former zonians whose parents are not otherwise USA citizens?
Will McCain be the first president from Central American?
2.29.2008 5:00pm
CrazyTrain (mail):
Is this really a "controversy"? I don't think there is any real, serious scholarship supporting the notion that children of US citizens abroad are not "natural born citizens." They have always been treated as such. Although there may not be any court cases on the precise point in the context of Article II of the US Constitution, there is probably plenty of law (whether by court decision or by statute, etc.) supporting the view that John McCain is a natural born citizen.

I say all this as someone who wishes that McCain were not eligible for the Presidency as I think he would be a disaster for the country, but the way to avoid that disaster (in my opinion) is to convince fellow citizens that the alternatives to him are better.
2.29.2008 6:12pm
Tom Veal (mail) (www):
George Romney was born in Mexico to two U.S. citizens who, for religious reasons, intended to reside abroad permanently. They returned to the United States only because Pancho Villa expelled them. If Governor Romney had been nominated for President in 1968, which for a while looked like a strong possibility, would his eligibility have been debated? Perhaps, but probably only by John Birchers.
2.29.2008 10:51pm