The staff at the New York Times has burned the midnight oil trying to find ways to derail John McCain’s campaign. After endorsing him in the primary, the paper then ran an unsubstantiated smear against him as a philanderer. Now they ask whether he is eligible for the office, given his birth in the Panama Canal zone while his father served the country:
The question has nagged at the parents of Americans born outside the continental United States for generations: Dare their children aspire to grow up and become president? In the case of Senator John McCain of Arizona, the issue is becoming more than a matter of parental daydreaming.
Mr. McCain’s likely nomination as the Republican candidate for president and the happenstance of his birth in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 are reviving a musty debate that has surfaced periodically since the founders first set quill to parchment and declared that only a “natural-born citizen” can hold the nation’s highest office.
Almost since those words were written in 1787 with scant explanation, their precise meaning has been the stuff of confusion, law school review articles, whisper campaigns and civics class debates over whether only those delivered on American soil can be truly natural born. To date, no American to take the presidential oath has had an official birthplace outside the 50 states.
“There are powerful arguments that Senator McCain or anyone else in this position is constitutionally qualified, but there is certainly no precedent,” said Sarah H. Duggin, an associate professor of law at Catholic University who has studied the issue extensively. “It is not a slam-dunk situation.”
It’s a slam-dunk to the millions of military families whose service to this country should have left then with no doubts about their children being relegated to second-class citizenry. They sacrificed enough for their country without having to sacrifice the futures of their children. Any other conclusion would amount to a penalty for military service on those who did not volunteer.
The Founding Fathers recognized this. They passed a bill in 1790, three years after the adoption of the Constitution, which made clear that “natural born” applied to children born of American citizens “outside the limits of the United States”. That law remains in effect and has never been challenged. At the least, it speaks to the intent of the founders when they used the term “natural born” in the Constitution.
It’s beyond absurd to argue that John McCain doesn’t qualify to run as an American for the presidency. The candidate or party that files a lawsuit to challenge him on this point runs the risk of alienating a large swath of the public who have served this nation in uniform, in diplomacy, and in government.
Besides, if the Times thinks this to be an issue, then why did they endorse McCain in January? Didn’t they bother to do their research on him then?