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NYT Pretends McCain Can’t Be President

From the remarkably uninformed or merely malicious New York Times:

McCain’s Canal Zone Birth Prompts Queries About Whether That Rules Him Out

February 28, 2008
By CARL HULSE

WASHINGTON — 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…

In the best New York Times tradition, this article prattles on in a longwinded and uninformed fashion without ever reaching a conclusion.

Mr. Hulse obviously blind-sided the “legal experts” he consulted, who understandably might not have had the details about citizenship at their fingertips.

However, even the most cursory of Google searches will show that this topic has been long since put to bed.

Indeed, a website calling itself the US Constitution Online has a whole page explaining US citizenship and even the seemingly inextricable intricacies (at least for The Times) of being “natural born.”

Fortunately, the site seems to be aimed at school children. So it is written in in such simple terms that even the Solons at the New York Times should be able to follow its exegesis:

Constitutional Topic: Citizenship

The Constitutional Topics pages at the USConstitution.net site are presented to delve deeper into topics than can be provided on the Glossary Page or in the FAQ pages. This Topic Page concerns Citizenship. Citizenship is mentioned in Article 1, Section 2, Article 1, Section 3, Article 1, Section 8, Article 2, Section 1, and in the 14th Amendment and several subsequent amendments.

If you’re going to be involved in government in the United States, citizenship is a must. To be a Senator or Representative, you must be a citizen of the United States. To be President, not only must you be a citizen, but you must also be natural-born. Aside from participation in government, citizenship is an honor bestowed upon people by the citizenry of the United States when a non-citizen passes the required tests and submits to an oath.

Natural-born citizen

Who is a natural-born citizen? Who, in other words, is a citizen at birth, such that that person can be a President someday?

The 14th Amendment defines citizenship this way: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” But even this does not get specific enough. As usual, the Constitution provides the framework for the law, but it is the law that fills in the gaps.

Currently, Title 8 of the U.S. Code fills in those gaps. Section 1401 defines the following as people who are “citizens of the United States at birth:”

  • Anyone born inside the United States
  • Any Indian or Eskimo born in the United States, provided being a citizen of the U.S. does not impair the person’s status as a citizen of the tribe
  • Any one born outside the United States, both of whose parents are citizens of the U.S., as long as one parent has lived in the U.S.
  • Any one born outside the United States, if one parent is a citizen and lived in the U.S. for at least one year and the other parent is a U.S. national
  • Any one born in a U.S. possession, if one parent is a citizen and lived in the U.S. for at least one year
  • Any one found in the U.S. under the age of five, whose parentage cannot be determined, as long as proof of non-citizenship is not provided by age 21
  • Any one born outside the United States, if one parent is an alien and as long as the other parent is a citizen of the U.S. who lived in the U.S. for at least five years (with military and diplomatic service included in this time)
  • A final, historical condition: a person born before 5/24/1934 of an alien father and a U.S. citizen mother who has lived in the U.S.

Anyone falling into these categories is considered natural-born, and is eligible to run for President or Vice President. These provisions allow the children of military families to be considered natural-born, for example.

Separate sections handle territories that the United States has acquired over time, such as Puerto Rico (8 USC 1402), Alaska (8 USC 1404), Hawaii (8 USC 1405), the U.S. Virgin Islands (8 USC 1406), and Guam (8 USC 1407). Each of these sections confer citizenship on persons living in these territories as of a certain date, and usually confer natural-born status on persons born in those territories after that date. For example, for Puerto Rico, all persons born in Puerto Rico between April 11, 1899, and January 12, 1941, are automatically conferred citizenship as of the date the law was signed by the President (June 27, 1952). Additionally, all persons born in Puerto Rico on or after January 13, 1941, are natural-born citizens of the United States. Note that because of when the law was passed, for some, the natural-born status was retroactive.

The law contains one other section of historical note, concerning the Panama Canal Zone and the nation of Panama. In 8 USC 1403, the law states that anyone born in the Canal Zone or in Panama itself, on or after February 26, 1904, to a mother and/or father who is a United States citizen, was “declared” to be a United States citizen. Note that the terms “natural-born” or “citizen at birth” are missing from this section.

In 2008, when Arizona Senator John McCain ran for president on the Republican ticket, some theorized that because McCain was born in the Canal Zone, he was not actually qualified to be president.

However, it should be noted that section 1403 was written to apply to a small group of people to whom section 1401 did not apply. McCain is a natural-born citizen under 8 USC 1401(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.”

QED

Indeed, as the last paragraph notes, Mr. McCain is a natural born United States citizen several times over under our laws.

But why let such minor details stand in the way of a good story?

The only question here is why did the New York Times even bring up the question? Are they really that uninformed? That lazy?

Or are they desperately trying to change the subject?

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, February 28th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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