The Situation Room: Is McCain Eligible To Be President?

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What if you ran a candidate who was disqualified from being President by virtue of the location of his birth? It has to make some in Republican circles a little nervous to think about.

From CNN’s Jack Cafferty:

Here’s something you may not know about John McCain: He was born in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936. His father was stationed there in the Navy.

The New York Times reports the circumstances surrounding McCain’s birth raise questions about his ability to become president since our founding fathers specifically said only a “natural-born citizen” can hold the highest office in the land. The idea was to prevent foreigners from becoming president.

There’s no precedent for McCain. No U.S. president has ever been born outside the 50 states. But, McCain’s campaign says they’re confident he meets the requirement, that they researched the question during his last run in 2000 and this time around as well. And they have asked former solicitor general Theodore Olson to prepare a legal opinion.

So is John McCain eligible to be President if he was not born in the US? To be honest, I thought it was a ridiculous question, since my lay understanding of international law is that military bases and embassies in foreign countries were considered to be American soil, but after consulting my brother in law the attorney, there does appear to be a little technical problem:

"Despite widespread popular belief, U.S. military installations abroad and U.S. diplomatic or consular facilities are not part of the United States within the meaning of the 14th Amendment. A child born on the premises of such a facility is not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and does not acquire U.S. citizenship by reason of birth."

However, the Panama Canal zone was under U.S. sovereignty at the time of McCain's birth. The question stands on whether that constitutes being part of the United States.

It's a question for legal minds now, but how funny would it be if after all this, John McCain would be forced to bow out of the race on grounds of ineligibility?


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