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"Natural-Born Citizen":

I'm not an expert on this, but I'm pretty sure that Sen. McCain is a "natural-born citizen" and thus eligible to be President: He was a citizen from birth, having been born to citizen parents (his father was stationed in the Canal Zone). My sense is that "natural-born citizen" is most plausibly interpreted as being a citizen from birth.

Nonetheless, I'm pretty sure that the Senator erred when he said,

Barry Goldwater was born in Arizona when it was a territory, Arizona was a territory, and it went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Unless I'm mistaken, the Supreme Court has never decided the issue, nor have lower courts. They certainly didn't do it in Goldwater's case. On the bottom line, Sen. McCain is right, but not because of any Supreme Court precedent.

Many thanks to Prof. William Funk for pointing this out.

tvk:
I am no expert either (are there any experts on this issue, which has never been litigated?). But I think the case is easier because the Canal Zone was also U.S. territory at the time; and citizens born in the Canel Zone are thus as much natural born citizens as people born in the District of Columbia.

But I wonder if the answer might be different, or at least closer, if he was born to one U.S. citizen expatriate parent who was married to, say, European royalty?
2.28.2008 8:12pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
If "natural born (U.S.) citizen" doesn't mean being a U.S. citizen from birth (rather than having naturalized later), what else could it possibly mean? I suppose it could mean that you had to be born naturally rather than via c-section. But that's a stretch.
2.28.2008 8:12pm
John Jenkins (mail):
@tvk,

The answer to your question is, probably not. See 8 U.S.C. § 1401(e).

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/8/1401.html
2.28.2008 8:19pm
zman:
Bruce makes a good point it is obvious that the founders were trying to prevent a macduff like president who can defeat the prophecy. >;)
2.28.2008 8:22pm
BRM:
If "natural" means born on US soil, which is also a plausible reading, then it would be a question whether the Canal Zone was US soil at the time of McCain's birth.
2.28.2008 8:25pm
Ed. (mail) (www):
Calvin Massey has an informative post on McCain's Birthplace at The Faculty Lounge.
2.28.2008 8:29pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
If you claim that the Canal Zone was not part of the United States because it was not one of the then 48 states, what about the Distict of Columbia? It's never been one of the states, either, and residents can't vote, but Al Gore, born in D.C., ran for president without anyone suggesting that he was ineligible.
2.28.2008 8:32pm
BRM:
Also worth noting that in the beginning of Democracy and Distrust, John Hart Ely uses the "natural-born citizen" clause as his example of a constitutional provision that has an obviously fixed meaning (assuming you ignore the "is he a bastard child" interpretation) as opposed to more vague clauses that require more interpretation.
2.28.2008 8:35pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
BRM: the canal zone was U.S. soil.
2.28.2008 8:36pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Another point: If you say that D.C. is at least contiguous with the then 48 states, what about Hawaii? If Obama were only two years older than he is, he would have been born in a non-contiguous territory of the U.S., not a state. Does anyone seriously think that being born in Hawaii before August 1959 instead of April 1961 should and would have made him ineligible for the presidency?
2.28.2008 8:36pm
Ex-Fed (mail) (www):
I have a vested interest in this subject getting some press this election cycle, as I hope to see renewed public interest in an amendment modifying the "natural-born citizen" requirement. The bloom went off that rose when Gov. Schwarzenegger's political misfortunes a few years back. But I have three kids adopted from abroad -- all of whom became citizens at under a year old -- and I see no good reason that they shouldn't get the same chance to work out their issues through presidential candidacy that I have. For that matter, why shouldn't Eugene be able to run? I'd pay good money to see Eugene in a presidential debate with, say, Kos and Clayton Cramer. Tim Russert would shit himself.

Anyway, it would also have the virtue of clearing up silly ambiguities like this one.

I propose to change the requirement to allow any person who has been a U.S. citizen for 35 years to be eligible (that has symmetry because people born here must live 35 years to be eligible).
2.28.2008 8:36pm
Philistine (mail):

But I think the case is easier because the Canal Zone was also U.S. territory at the time; and citizens born in the Canel Zone are thus as much natural born citizens as people born in the District of Columbia


Canal Zone doesn't do it -- citizenship is granted to those born in the canal zone by statute-- 12 U.S.C. Sec. 1403 (but nothing about not being natural born)

What gets McCain into the White House (if elected) is probably 12 U.S.C. Sec. 1401 ("The following shall be nationals and citizens of the United States at birth: . . . (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") (My emphasis)
2.28.2008 8:37pm
Cornellian (mail):
Reading "natural born citizen" to mean "citizen at birth" is a plausible reading. On the other hand, the Constitution provides (admittedly not until the 14th Amendment) for automatic citizenship for those born in the United States; it doesn't provide automatic citizenship to people born outside the United States to American parents.

So if Congress enacted a statute saying someone born outside the United States is NOT a citizen, even if born to American parents (or maybe just had no statute on the subject) would such a person be a "natural born citizen" eligible to run for President even though they are not actually a citizen?
2.28.2008 8:39pm
Philistine (mail):
Oops--statutes are 8 U.S.C. (not 12)-- but links are right
2.28.2008 8:40pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
"McCain was born on August 29, 1936, at the Coco Solo Air Base in the then-American-controlled Panama Canal Zone[2] to Navy officer John S. "Jack" McCain, Jr. (1911–1981) and Roberta (Wright) McCain (b. 1912)."

This is also somewhat instructive: Canal Zone: Citizenship.

In 1953, Congress passed legislation to specify the status of Americans born in the Canal Zone--and to exclude non-Americans born there from citizenship. Title 8, Section 1403 of the United States Code grants citizenship to those born in the Canal Zone with at least one parent who is a United States citizen. This differs from the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment which grants citizenship to all born in the United States, regardless of parental nationality.

These provisions came to public attention in 2008, when Senator John McCain's Presidential bid raised questions concerning whether he was a "natural born citizen" of the United States entitled to seek the presidency (only "natural born citizens", resident in the United States for fourteen or more years and aged at least 35, may be president, pursuant to Article II of the United States Constitution). McCain was born in the Canal Zone to United States citizen parents.
2.28.2008 8:41pm
Bill Funk (mail):
People seem to assume that anyone born in a US territory is automatically a US citizen. Not so. Not everyone born in the Canal Zone became a US citizen. It is my understanding that no statute provided for such citizenship. McCain's claim is properly based on parentage; both his parents were US citizens. Not everyone born in the Canal Zone automatically became a citizen, unlike DC and Hawaii and Arizona before they were states, and unlike Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands today, where anyone born there was a citizen by reason of where they were born. There are specific statutes providing for the latter three situations. If everyone born in a US territory was a US citizen, every Filipino born between 1898 and 1946 (?) would have been an American citizen.
2.28.2008 8:44pm
Richard Nieporent (mail):
Let’s cut to the chase. Which of the Supreme Court Justices do you think would vote to deprive McCain of his citizenship?
2.28.2008 8:50pm
Cornellian (mail):
Let’s cut to the chase. Which of the Supreme Court Justices do you think would vote to deprive McCain of his citizenship?

Zero. No one questions that he's a citizen. The issue is whether he's a "natural born citizen" as that term is used in Article II of the Constitution.
2.28.2008 8:53pm
Just Saying:
Based on the Goldwater precedent, it seems clear that soil which wasn't American at the time, but becomes American later, qualifies. If "on American soil" is the requirement, perhaps Panama could ceremonially gift the square foot where McCain was born.
2.28.2008 8:55pm
Syd (mail):
Bill: I've often maintained that if Imelda Marcos remained in the US she could run for President.
2.28.2008 8:57pm
AnneS (www):
No Supreme Court justice of woman born will ever vote that the child of two American citizens, born outside the country while one of his parents was serving in the armed forces and who was statutorily defined as a citizen from the moment of his birth, is Constitutionally ineligible to serve as president. It will never, ever, ever happen, even if the law weren't as clear as it is on this point.
2.28.2008 8:58pm
Displaced Midwesterner (mail):
The issue is what the Constitution takes to be a natural-born citizen, so in many ways all the various naturalization statutes Congress has passed are basically irrelevant. Congress has the power to naturalize--which is what statutes such as section 303 of the INA, dealing with the Canal Zone, do. Such naturalization can occur at birth, or it can occur later. John McCain is, by statute, a naturalized citizen from birth.

The open question, however, is whether or not this makes him a "natural-born citizen." The 14th Amendment of course post-dates the Article II clause, but the language there seems to make it clear that while it may expand birthright citizenship, it does not narrow it. Thus, it leaves open the possibility that people born outside the US can be natural-born citizens.

Both jus soli (citizenship based on place of birth) and jus sanguinis (citizenship based on parentage) were known at the time of the founding and both give citizenship from birth. So there is a good case to be made that McCain, being born to US citizen parents, is a natural-born citizen. Where he was born, and its territorial status, etc., don't play a role in this at all (for what it's worth, despite common misconceptions, military bases and embassies are not US soil and people born on them are not birthright citizens under the 14th amendment).

It's also possible that you could read Articles I and II together to give Congress the power to establish who is and is not a natural-born citizen, in which case McCain could also be a citizen by virtue of naturalization at birth pursuant to act of Congress. This one seems more like a stretch though.

Of course, at the end of day, standing and political question doctrines are likely to prevent this from every reaching the merits in the Supreme Court (although Bush v. Gore does show a certain willingness to wade into the election thicket).
2.28.2008 9:04pm
Richard Nieporent (mail):
Thanks AnneS for answering the question. I'm not sure that there would not be votes against him (Souter and Ginsberg?). And no thanks to you Cornellian for dodging the question.
2.28.2008 9:08pm
The Drill SGT:
agreeing with AnneS,

The McCain camp has to be praying that somebody with Democratic fingerprints (DNC, ACLU, Obama, etc) will make this a bigger issue.

McCain, war hero, son, grandson, great grandson, etc of war heros back to at least the Civil war, born of 2 US citizens on US territory, while pop was in the Service of his Country isn't a eligible to be President?

a Son of a Mexican Illegal that sneaks over the border and delivers at San Diego General is eligible to be President?

sounds like a lot of good press to me.
2.28.2008 9:11pm
Cornellian (mail):
I said zero justices would vote "to deprive McCain of his citizenship." How is that "dodging the question?"
2.28.2008 9:15pm
PersonFromPorlock:
My wife simply snorted and said "those idiots!..." I suspect she got it about right.
2.28.2008 9:17pm
Dave N (mail):
I think that McCain is clearly a "natural born" citizen. The most logical reading of that phrase is "citizen from birth." On the other hand, McCain's daughter, Bridget, certainly is ineligble, since she was born in Bangladesh.

Thus, assuming McCain is elected President, she will be a pretty good bar bet 20 years from now as the only Presidential offspring ineligible for the Presidency herself.
2.28.2008 9:22pm
ChrisIowa (mail):
Buncha etreme libral dems grasping at straws, awaiting their inevitable November demise.
2.28.2008 9:25pm
AlanP (mail):
I somehow recall this was discussed a number of years ago with Romney the elder having been born in Mexico to US citizen parents.

In his case, the status of his parents citizenship at the time was more ambiguous but the consensus was it was not a problem
2.28.2008 9:26pm
Cornellian (mail):
McCain, war hero, son, grandson, great grandson, etc of war heros back to at least the Civil war, born of 2 US citizens on US territory, while pop was in the Service of his Country isn't a eligible to be President?

No doubt plenty of people here will be quick to condemn the very idea that a judge ought feel some empathy for a person in those circumstances.
2.28.2008 9:26pm
AnneS (www):
Sorry to disappoint, Chris, but the only places I've seen this issue raised against McCain so far is on right wing and Ron Paul websites. I never underestimate the ability of my party to shoot itself in the foot and don't doubt that a few whackos on the left will embrace this nonsense, but the Democratic party really isn't THAT stupid.
2.28.2008 9:31pm
GV:
I thought all that mattered when interpreting the constitution was what the original public meaning of the phrase at issue is? But all I see in this thread is arguments about fairness, common sense, and current U.S. statutory law.
2.28.2008 9:39pm
DG:
It was mentioned in the NYT - not a bastion of the far right
2.28.2008 9:41pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Suppose that one of the Marines at Guantanamo Bay gives birth to a child? Will this child be eligible to be President?
2.28.2008 9:42pm
Dennis Nicholls (mail):
At issue is the fact that the last two states, Alaska and Hawaii, were territories for a long time. There aren't any humans alive today that were born before either were a territory. This is as bad as debates on the Rule Against Perpetuities.

I'm writing a book in which Scotland becomes a state in the US. Would Sean Connery be eligible to run for President under these circumstances? He was after all born in Scotland, although obviously before it became a state.

Wasn't Andrew Jackson born in TN before it became a state?
2.28.2008 9:42pm
Eric Titmas (mail):
I've read that the original understanding of "natural born citizen" is unknown. No democrat will risk the enmity of the electorate by challenging this until after the election. The only person with standing should be Hillary/Obama (or the VP candidate). I think either Hillary or Obama will challenge if they lose and the courts will refuse this as a political question. But if the courts accept and rule against McCain, what's the remedy? a)Give it to McCain's VP b) give it to the dem c) Have the electoral college revote d) send it to the House?
2.28.2008 9:48pm
Cornellian (mail):
Suppose that one of the Marines at Guantanamo Bay gives birth to a child? Will this child be eligible to be President?

Apparently not, if the other parent is not a U.S. citizen.

Interestingly, the whole issues seems inevitably to lead one of two conclusions, neither of which seem correct. Either Congress effectively controls who qualifies as a "natural born citizen" under Article II for anyone born outside the U.S., regardless of parentage or someone can be a "natural born citizen" for purposes of Article II and thus constitutionally eligible for the Presidency without actually being a U.S. citizen at all.
2.28.2008 9:51pm
The Drill SGT:
AnneS, Not only was it a story in the NYT's, that wonderful traditional media outlet, full of checks, balances, editors and fact checkers. The lede graf said:


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.

Story

The analysis, or knowledge of geography or fact checking of the NYT's must come as a shock to the residents of those Non continental US locations such as Alaska (traditionally the lower 48 are called continental US) , Hawaii, and Puerto Rico as well as to the Obama camp, since Barack was born outside the continental US. There may be a chance for Hillary yet :)

Maybe they should emply bloggers to do their editing.
2.28.2008 9:51pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
New York Times is on the case, which will probably raise McCain another million, although Hillary has averaged over a million a day this month.
2.28.2008 9:51pm
Dennis Nicholls (mail):
The only person with standing should be Hillary/Obama (or the VP candidate).


I'm not sure either would have standing. In your fact pattern, they would have lost the election fair-and-square. How would they have been harmed by McCain not being held to be a native-born citizen?
2.28.2008 9:57pm
Cornellian (mail):
The only person with standing should be Hillary/Obama (or the VP candidate). I'm not sure either would have standing. In your fact pattern, they would have lost the election fair-and-square.

So Arnold Schwarzenegger is de-facto eligible because no one would have standing to challenge him?
2.28.2008 10:01pm
Displaced Midwesterner (mail):
Cornellian, Bill,

Assuming the Marine is a US citizen who lived in the US at some point as a kid, any child that person has, whether at Gitmo, in Iran, or on the moon, will be a US citizen.

GV, I have to agree, this is about the meaning of the Constitution. My earlier post tries to go into this. It's a pretty interesting issue, probably because it serves no practical purpose. All the interesting questions are ones that will never really get litigated.
2.28.2008 10:06pm
Displaced Midwesterner (mail):
Sorry, forgot to add this to my response to the Marine question--

The kid will be a citizen. Whether the kid will be natural-born is pretty open to question. Exactly what sort of parentage is required for that is pretty unclear. I suspect what Blackstone had to say on English citizenship would be instructive, but I'm not really up on Blackstone.
2.28.2008 10:08pm
Brian G (mail) (www):

McCain, war hero, son, grandson, great grandson, etc of war heros back to at least the Civil war, born of 2 US citizens on US territory, while pop was in the Service of his Country isn't a eligible to be President?

No doubt plenty of people here will be quick to condemn the very idea that a judge ought feel some empathy for a person in those circumstances.


Cornellian,

I see you recall the "what kind of judges will Obama nominate" discussion here. Let me tell you, your comment was pretty silly. It doesn't take empathy for McCain to rule for him on this issue. What Obama seemed to be saying is that he wants judges that rule for people becuase of their status as disabled individuals rather than what the law requires. Kind of like that nameless state court judge who denied my Motion to Dismiss based on the statute of limitations, despite the Plaintiff filing a year after it expired, on the legal basis that "a single mother of three deserves her day in court." (I must have missed that authority during my research). That isn't how judges should rule, and Obama's judges will be exactly like that, which is what the Plaintiff's bar wants.

McCain is eligible, and that's that. If you or anyone feel otherwise, you have a way to pass your own judgment: Vote against him.
2.28.2008 10:08pm
Cornellian (mail):
12 U.S.C. Sec. 1401 ("The following shall be nationals and citizens of the United States at birth: . . . (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") (My emphasis)

This is a statute that an earlier commenter cited. If that's the applicable statute, then the Marine's kid born in Cuba would not be a citizen unless the other parent was also a U.S. citizen. There may be some other statute applicable specifically to service personnel.
2.28.2008 10:12pm
Cornellian (mail):
What Obama seemed to be saying is that he wants judges that rule for people becuase of their status as disabled individuals rather than what the law requires.

Much like the earlier commenter suggested that one should consider McCain eligible because he's a war hero, born to parents serving in the military etc. Looks a lot like empathy to me, since I don't see what being a war hero has to do with the meaning of "natural born citizen" in Article II.

Personally I'm not "against" McCain and have no interest in going to court on the issue even if I had standing and unlimited funds to pursue it with, I just find the question interesting, not least for the way it seems to bring forth all kinds of penumbras and demands for empathy from people who like to call themselves fans of original intent, strict constructionists etc. on any number of other constitutional issues.
2.28.2008 10:18pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
8 U.S.C. 1403

§ 1403. Persons born in the Canal Zone or Republic of Panama on or after February 26, 1904

(a) Any person born in the Canal Zone on or after February 26, 1904, and whether before or after the effective date of this chapter, whose father or mother or both at the time of the birth of such person was or is a citizen of the United States, is declared to be a citizen of the United States.

(b) Any person born in the Republic of Panama on or after February 26, 1904, and whether before or after the effective date of this chapter, whose father or mother or both at the time of the birth of such person was or is a citizen of the United States employed by the Government of the United States or by the Panama Railroad Company, or its successor in title, is declared to be a citizen of the United States.
2.28.2008 10:18pm
AnneS (www):
Stop the presses, the New York Times reported on an issue that has, in fact, been discussed on the web for some time. I've been seeing this stuff for at least the last two months. The original attacks THIS cycle seem to have come from Ron Paul supporters, although some were attributed to Romney or Huckabee supporters before Super Tuesday. A quick review of the first couple Google results of "john mccain citizenship" confirms this - there was one liberal site supporting this nonsense, the Daily Kos concluding (as the NYT article does, btw) that it's an interesting question that will ultimately resolve in McCain's favor, several recent results related to the NYT article, and a whole bunch of older results that are either (a) right wing sites supporting this attack or (b) sites of various political stripes attacking the attack and attributing it to supporters of McCain's Republican rivals.

History doesn't start with the most recent article - this particular attack has been around for a while. Just because the NYT is picking it up now doesn't mean it originated or was driven by Democrats seeking to derail McCain's candidacy.
2.28.2008 10:20pm
Displaced Midwesterner (mail):
Sorry, I exaggerated the time lengths for simplicity, but the relevant section is 8 USC 1401(g):

a person born outside the geographical limits of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom is an alien, and the other a citizen of the United States who, prior to the birth of such person, was physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than five years, at least two of which were after attaining the age of fourteen years
2.28.2008 10:20pm
lucia (mail) (www):
I've been wanting this cleared up since sometime around 1969 when I was told I can't be President because I was born in El Salvador (of American presidents.)

So, a definitive answer would be welcome! :)
2.28.2008 10:20pm
Cornellian (mail):
BruceM,

I was responding to an earlier commenter's hypothetical about a child born to a Marine serving in Guantanamo Bay, so the Canal Zone statute won't apply.

Displaced,

So if 12 U.S.C. 1401(g) applies, then the child of the Marine serving in Guantanamo may or may not be a U.S. citizen. Further facts would be required to answer that.
2.28.2008 10:24pm
Cornellian (mail):
I've been wanting this cleared up since sometime around 1969 when I was told I can't be President because I was born in El Salvador (of American presidents.)

If both your parents were American presidents, I sure want to hear who your mother was :)
2.28.2008 10:25pm
frankcross (mail):
The NYT story essentially concluded that McCain was eligible to run. This is in contrast to redstate, which suggested it was an open question, and the paleocons, who think he is ineligible. This is not a liberal argument.
2.28.2008 10:29pm
TechieLaw (mail) (www):
OK, reality check time. If somebody actually tried to sue on this issue, the answer from a court would be one of the following:

(1) Yes, he's a citizen.
(2) Political question.
(3) (least likely, I think) No standing to sue.

(This feels like a Con Law I question.)

On another note, if the issue had been about a Democratic candidate, who thinks that certain right-wing talk radio people (who generally don't get much applause on this blog) would be screaming about it constantly?

And I would feel profoundly sad if any mainstream Democrat even tried to bring up an issue as silly as this one.
2.28.2008 10:29pm
Displaced Midwesterner (mail):
Cornellian,

Yes, we'd need to know more. I'd guess 99% of Marines meet the statutory requirements to be able to pass citizenship to any of their children, but it's not automatic. Of course, it's still an open question whether having a single citizen parent can make you natural-born. Having 2 citizen parents seems to be a strong case, but only having 1 is a murkier issue as far as whether at the time of the founding that would be considered enough for citizenship.

"If both your parents were American presidents, I sure want to hear who your mother was :)"

Well, there are a few little known things about Richard Nixon...
2.28.2008 10:31pm
Dave N (mail):
Lucia,

I never realized that an American President hsd a child in El Salvidor.

Yes, I knew you meant "of American citizens" but I couldn't resist.

And I think the answer to that is yes, IMHO.
2.28.2008 10:36pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
I thought we were going to amend the Constitution to get rid of this "natural born citizen" requirement to be president so that Arnold could legally run. Regardless, it's an outdated rule that made sense at the time of the framing (loyalists to England, etc.), but serves no legitimate national security interest nowadays. As long as someone is a U.S. citizen and has lived here the requisite amount of time, why shouldn't they be president if the people so desire it?
2.28.2008 10:37pm
Displaced Midwesterner (mail):
Blackstone on this issue is interesting. Presumably the meaning of natural-born citizen at the time was something like what Blackstone wrote.

From Book 1, Chapter 10:

"Natural-born subjects are such as are born within the dominions of the crown of England..."

however

"by several more modern statutes ... all children, born out of the king's ligeance, whose fathers were natural-born subjects, are now natural-born subjects themselves, to all intents and purposes, without any exception;"

So the law of England in Blackstone's time was understood to make someone a natural-born citizen even if born outside the realm, so long as the father was a natural-born citizen. This, however, was by operation of statute, which also might support the idea that Congress does have the power to decide who is natural-born.
2.28.2008 10:42pm
Dave N (mail):
On another note, if the issue had been about a Democratic candidate, who thinks that certain right-wing talk radio people (who generally don't get much applause on this blog) would be screaming about it constantly?
I agree--and it is a sad state of affairs that some people let the answer to legal questions depend on who the litigants are.
2.28.2008 10:42pm
Cornellian (mail):
I seem to recall back when Arnold was first elected Governor and this issue was in the news, someone did a poll and it turned out that keeping this restriction in the Constitution was quite popular, so I don't see any amendment being proposed in the immediate future.

One might well ask if the American people are willing to vote for someone for president who isn't a natural born citizen, why should the Constitution prohibit that? Of course, you could say the same thing about other eligibility requirements, like having to be 35 years old.

Maybe this will be an issue some day in a hard sympathy case, like a kid born to a U.S. citizen outside the country for a day, then immediately enters the U.S. lives here all his life then can't run for president because he feel outside the scope of the "citizen at birth" statute.

The problem is you need the kid to grow up to be a serious candidate for president, and the numbers of such people are so small it's hard to imagine this case ever arising.
2.28.2008 10:42pm
Dennis Nicholls (mail):

So Arnold Schwarzenegger is de-facto eligible because no one would have standing to challenge him?



They had better challenge him before the election.
2.28.2008 10:44pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Eric: You forgot option e) enraged military overthrows Congress/Supreme Court.

Not that it would happen, no federal judge, not even Stephen Reinhardt, would declare a major party nominee ineligible.

AnneS and Eric are absoloutely correct that no Democrat in their right mind would come within a million miles of a lawsuit. The blowback would be a tad severe.

Ralph Nader on the other hand...
2.28.2008 10:55pm
LarrySheldon (mail):
I have not read all the comments so I mave have missed this being covered, but ...

I am not a lawyer.

I have always understood "natural born" to mean "born of citizens".

And while we are picking fly shit out of the pepper, another blog I read in the last hour (but don't remember the name of now--if it is important I'll run the list again to find it) said that Eisenhower did not live in the US for the required 14 years.

That one seems a little tougher to get around except that in his time US military didn't (by law) lose as much of their rights as citizens as they do now. (I don't know if Patton had WACs on his staff, but can you imagine him telling them they had to wear Burquas?)
2.28.2008 10:56pm
LarrySheldon (mail):
And I don't think lack of standing to challenge is the same as qualifying.

And I'm not sure the lack of standing thing has any legs.

Somewhere there is a judge that would take the case.
2.28.2008 10:58pm
Cornellian (mail):
Somewhere there is a judge that would take the case.

Besides, there are always plenty of fringe candidates floating around who can easily be hauled into court on this issue without causing a nation-wide uproar.

Even if the issue never sees the inside of a courtroom it's still worth talking about, if only because blogs would be a lot less fun if you couldn't spend your time speculating about hypotheticals.

For example, suppose the Republican party has a rule saying you can't be nominated unless you're constitutionally eligible to be elected. Suppose Huckabee files suit to enforce the party rule.
2.28.2008 11:05pm
Don Miller (mail) (www):
BruceM, One of the websites that started this discussion quoted that law and pointed out
is declared to be a citizen of the United States.


If the law "declares" him a citizen, does that mean he is a naturalized or native-born citizen.

A later law that tries to clarify that wasn't passed until John McCain was in his teens. Can you be declared natural-born years after the fact?

Honestly, I can't see any Federal Judge granting standing to anyone to contest John McCain's eligibility. Except maybe his opponents
2.28.2008 11:12pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
I should have been more precise in my question about Guantanamo Bay. If we assume that "natural born" refers to jus solis, or if we simplify matters by assuming that neither parent is a US citizen, is the child eligible to be President. My intention was semi-humorously to raise the question of the claim that Guantanamo Bay is not US territory.
2.28.2008 11:14pm
Cornellian (mail):
I have always understood "natural born" to mean "born of citizens".

That position has some interesting implications.
If anyone born of U.S. citizens is a "natural born citizen" for purposes of Article II regardless of where they are born, it would mean such a person could be a "natural born citizen" eligible for the presidency without actually being a U.S. citizen. The Constitution guarantees citizenship only to those born inside the United States. All other citizenship is up to Congress and not every person born to two American parents outside the U.S. is a U.S. citizen under current federal law. Hence, on your view, someone who is born outside the U.S. of two American parents, under circumstances in which he is not a citizen according to current federal law, would nevertheless be a "natural born citizen" for purposes of Article II and thus eligible to run for president, assuming he meets the other requirements.
2.28.2008 11:14pm
Dave D. (mail):
...Since the clause issues from a letter John Jay wrote to George Washington on July 25, 1787, suggesting the term and the wisdom of preventing " foreigners " from
being Commander and Chief of the Army, it appears that Mr. McCain meets the criteria of not being a foreigner by virtue of his birth location and the American citizenship of his parents. George Washington was presiding over the Constitutional convention when he received the letter.
2.28.2008 11:17pm
Jay:
This controversy demonstrates the downside of blogs. As far as I can tell, no serious scholar questions that "natural born citizen" includes those born to US citizen parents overseas. This is simply classic jus sanguinis citizenship. And yet, we get nonstop uninformed debate, creating the appearance that McCain's eligibility is somehow gravely in doubt. Most frustrating is people like Cornellian claiming that this illustrates grave hypocrisy on the part of those normally sympathetic to originalism; of course,
2.28.2008 11:18pm
Cornellian (mail):
As far as I can tell, no serious scholar questions that "natural born citizen" includes those born to US citizen parents overseas.

Would it also include those born overseas to US citizen parents under circumstances where the child is not a US citizen according to current federal law? In other words, can the child be a "natural born citizen" without being a citizen?
2.28.2008 11:21pm
Jay:
Most frustrating is people like Cornellian claiming that this illustrates grave hypocrisy on the part of those normally sympathetic to originalism; of course, this is only true if you begin by assuming, with no supporting evidence, a definition of "natural born citizenship" that supports your conclusion, then claiming that anyone who uses historical evidence to illustrates what the phrase does mean is being a hypocrit and relying on "penumbras."
2.28.2008 11:21pm
Cornellian (mail):
Most frustrating is people like Cornellian claiming that this illustrates grave hypocrisy on the part of those normally sympathetic to originalism

If I cause originalists to think about what they mean by originalism, I will have performed a valuable service.
2.28.2008 11:22pm
Sid (mail) (www):
Lucia,

What is your platform? I might vote for you this November, but I need to know about your views on the issues?
2.28.2008 11:25pm
TechieLaw (mail) (www):
LarrySheldon: Why would any federal judge want such a case? It would be the equivalent of standing up in a foxhole during a battle at night and waiving around a flashlight. Even if such a maverick federal judge existed -- and declared McCain ineligible -- don't you think a Circuit Court would reverse immediately?

In regards to standing, the clause's context make it unclear precisely who has the right to sue. Is it a right of a candidate to appear on a ballot (and, based on state law requirements for a number of signatures, etc., it would seem that this right is not absolute) if the candidate is a natural born citizen, or is it the right of "the people" to not have a presidential candidate not a natural born citizen?

Regardless, the clause is probably one of those parts of the Constitution that should be excised from the document given its almost complete lack of relevancy.
2.28.2008 11:25pm
Adam J:
um, what about all them Founding Fathers who became president? Obviously, none of them were "natural-born citizens", seeing as when they were born they were English citizens.
2.28.2008 11:26pm
Displaced Midwesterner (mail):
Bill,

The claims that Gitmo is not US territory are pretty humorous as a practical matter. Of course, practicality is a dirty word in the law, particularly regarding grand issues of constitutional jurisprudence. There are all sorts of distinctions between territories, unincorporated v. incorporated territories, possessions, and so on and on. But basically the US, legally speaking, an exercise a great degree of control over a place without making it US territory for citizenship purposes. For example, embassies and bases are not US soil, the Canal Zone was not US soil. Today, if you are born in American Samoa you are a national of the US, but not a citizen of the US. Of course, what counts as US soil for the 14th amendment is not the same as the big issue with Gitmo--what is US territory for the purposes of the writ of habeas under the Suspension Clause.
2.28.2008 11:28pm
Jay:
That's an interesting question. My first impulse is to say no--such a person might constitutionally have been eligible to be a natural born citizen, but they aren't actually a natural born (or any other kind of) citizen if Congress statutorily deprived them of that status. So in a sense, the constitutional provision sets an outer limit on who can be president, which can to some degree be constricted statutorily (subject to the 14th amendment in the case of those born within the US).
2.28.2008 11:29pm
MarkField (mail):

um, what about all them Founding Fathers who became president? Obviously, none of them were "natural-born citizens", seeing as when they were born they were English citizens.


There's a follow-up clause which includes all of them. They noticed that particular problem.
2.28.2008 11:32pm
Jay:
To be clear, I was responding to Cornellian a few posts up. Another way of thinking about it is this—the Constitution says you have to be a "natural born citizen" to be president. That phrase has a particular meaning in historical context, and so makes certain people born overseas constitutionally eligible to be president. But it doesn't say that Congress actually does have to let anyone born overseas be a natural born citizen; such people are presumptively citizens, but I don't see anything in the constitution that forbids Congress from adopting a narrower definition (maybe some sort of EP or P&I argument.
2.28.2008 11:36pm
MarkField (mail):
I think Cornellian is right to point out the problem this issue raises for originalists. If we take Blackstone as stating the common understanding of the clause as of 1789, then what he said was that Parliament had the power, by statute, to change the traditional definition. If that is now to be included within the original meaning, I suppose Congress can change the definition to include Arnold. Or Kissinger. Or pretty much anyone.

OTOH, if we don't take Parliamentary power as part of the original understanding, then why should we accept the changes Parliament made to the traditional definition as part of the original meaning? That would limit the phrase "natural born" to those born in the US.*

*McCain would qualify under the traditional definition if the Canal Zone were under US "dominion" at the time of his birth.
2.28.2008 11:42pm
Bretzky (mail):
Cornellian:


Reading "natural born citizen" to mean "citizen at birth" is a plausible reading. On the other hand, the Constitution provides (admittedly not until the 14th Amendment) for automatic citizenship for those born in the United States; it doesn't provide automatic citizenship to people born outside the United States to American parents.

Yes, but the citizenship clause of the 14th amendment was an answer to a specific SCOTUS decision (Dred Scott v. Sanford). I can't begin to say what the law was at that time, but I think it's clear that who is and who isn't a natural-born citizen is at least in part determined by Congress.

The very first naturalization law passed by Congress on March 26, 1790, said: "...the children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond the sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered natural born citizens: Provided, That the right of citizenship shall not descend to persons whose fathers have never been resident in the United States: Provided also, That no person heretofore proscribed by any state, shall be admitted a citizen as aforesaid, except by an act of the legislature of the state in which such person was proscribed."

The text can be found here.
2.28.2008 11:47pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Displaced Midwesterner,

I suspect that even the Bushies think that US law applies at Guantanamo Bay, except when they want to violate the Constitution. Does anyone really think that if a crime were committed on the base they would call the Cuban cops?
2.28.2008 11:58pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
Let's see: what are the actual arguments that the child of an American woman and her American husband, an American military officer, born while his parents were stationed on an American military base in an American territory, entitled to automatic citizenship at birth by multiple statutes (including the statute granting citizenship to children born in the Canal Zone provided they have at least one American parent), is not a "natural-born citizen"? That's as natural-born as it gets. Is there any evidence that "natural-born citizen" refers only to people entitled to citizenship solely on the basis of birth in a state or the District of Columbia? Did that kind of birthright citizenship even exist when the Constitution was written?
2.28.2008 11:58pm
David Hecht (mail):
FWIW George Romney, former governor of Michigan and Republican Presidential candidate in 1968, was born in Mexico, and--as far as I am aware--it was never an issue for him.

From the Wikipedia: "It is notable that while Romney was born in Mexico, he was still considered to be a viable and legal candidate to run for office. His Mormon grandfather and his three wives fled to Mexico in 1886 but none of them ever relinquished their citizenship. While the Constitution does provide that a president must be a natural born citizen, the first Congress of the United States in 1790 passed legislation stating that "The children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond the sea, or outside the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural-born citizens of the United States." Romney and his family fled Mexico in 1912 prior to the Mexican revolution."

I would think this would put this tired old question to rest.
2.28.2008 11:59pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Suppose a child has two US citizens as biological parents, but the birth mother is a surrogate. Is it the natural born child of US citizens? More complications.

A. Surrogate mother is a foreign national, and only on US soil for the birth.

B. Surrogate mother is a foreign national, and the child is born in a foreign country.

C. Surrogate mother is a foreign national and child is born in a US territory.

D. Surrogate mother gives birth on the high seas. Does the registry of the ship matter?

Suppose one day we can incubate a fetus in a machine as in Brave New World. Now there is no birth mother. What then?
2.29.2008 12:04am
BruceM (mail) (www):
Don Miller:

Do you think an elector in the electoral college (particularly one supposed to vote for McCain) would have standing to seek a declaratory judgment re: McCain's status as a natural born citizen to become President? It's an interesting issue how someone elected president (or on the ballot for that matter) could ever definitively be found by a court to not be eligible to be president. Even if the issue is not as nebulous as citizenship. Say two 30 year olds are running against each other for president. Neither wants to attack the other for being too young (under 35) to constitutionally be president. Who would have standing to do anything about it in court? Would the Chief Justice violate his oath to uphold and defend the Constitution if he were to swear in a 30 year old as President of the US (assuming one of the 30 year olds won because nobody had standing to do anything about it)?
2.29.2008 12:19am
Hoosier:
Re: Eisenhower--I know what the 14-year clause is assumed to say. But look at what it actually says:

"and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States."

Ike easily meets that standard: He was a "resident within the United States" for many more years than that, even before graduating from West Point. Nothing in the text says those fourteen years have to immediately precede the election, nor even that the years must be consecutive.

Am I quibbing? Heavens, no! James Buchanan was living outside the US when the Democratic Party big whigs started considering him for office. He returned the same year he was elected.

So case closed on Ike's eligibility. And let no one ever call into question *anything* about this Great Man's life ever again.
2.29.2008 12:30am
Hoosier:
"Suppose one day we can incubate a fetus in a machine as in Brave New World. Now there is no birth mother. What then?"

Where was the patent for the machine first registered? (It's just black letter law, mon frere.)
2.29.2008 12:32am
Cornellian (mail):
We can dispense with people born inside the United States - no one can doubt that if anyone is a "natural born citizen" for purposes of Article II, they are.

So let's consider only those alive today and born outside the United States with at least one U.S. parent. Nothing in the Constitution requires that these people be granted citizenship - it's entirely up to Congress and whatever citizenship statute it chooses to enact from time to time. So we can divide these people into four groups:

1) People who would have citizenship at birth under the citizenship statute as it existed when Article II was adopted, but would not have citizenship at birth under the citizenship statute as it existed when they were born (i.e. they're not citizens)

2) People who would not have citizenship at birth under the citizenship statute as it existed when Article II was adopted, but would have citizenship at birth under the citizenship statute as it existed when they were born (i.e. these people are citizens)

3) People who would have citizenship at birth under either statute (these people are citizens too)

4) People who would not have citizenship at birth under either statute (these people are not citizens)

So which of these four categories qualifies as "natural born citizens" eligible to run for the presidency under an originalist meaning of the Constitution and why is that choice the correct originalist view?

There is also a fifth possibility, that "natural born citizen" in Article II means something other than who gets citizenship under federal statute, and if that's your view, then what does "natural born citizen" in Article II mean and why is that an originalist view?
2.29.2008 12:46am
Adam J:
duh... "or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution"- guess I should have read the clause before adding my two cents.
2.29.2008 1:12am
Tony Tutins (mail):

In 1953, Congress passed legislation to specify the status of Americans born in the Canal Zone--and to exclude non-Americans born there from citizenship. Title 8, Section 1403 of the United States Code grants citizenship to those born in the Canal Zone with at least one parent who is a United States citizen.


This opens up an endless scope of discussion.Can one be retroactively declared a "natural-born citizen"? What if McCain had been the product of artificial insemination?

Before you toss out the natural born citizenship requirement, remember that Hitler was naturalized a German citizen the year before he was named Chancellor of Germany. Had Germany had that requirement, Hitler could not have gone far as a politician, as he had given up his native Austrian citizenship years earlier.
2.29.2008 1:18am
Cornellian (mail):
Excellent point Mr. Godwin.
2.29.2008 1:23am
Dave N (mail):
Let's change the hypothetical (just for grins and giggles).

Barack Obama's father was a citizen of Kenya. What would Senator Obama's citizenship status (and Presidential eligibility) be if:

1) He had been born in Kenya, but taken by his mother to the United States immediately after birth and then spent the rest of his life as he has subsequently lived it?

2) He was born in a third country, and like my first hypothetical, immediately taken to the United States? Does that change the analysis?

3) Would these results change if Senator Obama had been raised in a foreign country for any length of time before his mother returned with him to the United States?
2.29.2008 2:02am
Jay:
Cornellian,
I don't claim to know what, as applied to every concievable possible set of facts, the constitutional phrase means, but the way an originalist would go about determining that meaning is by looking to such sources as offered by Jim Lindgren a couple of posts up. This is a great illustration of the point that originalism is a methodology, not a set of answers. In McCain's case--both parents citizens; abroad only as a result of military duty; no attempt to claim or live as the citizen of any other state--it strikes me as not being very doubtful that he qualifies under any test that has "loyalty" or "blood" as its primary criterion. Of course, it's easy to imagine closer cases--illegitimate children; only one parent is a US citizen; parents are dual citizens and never plan to come back to the US, etc. Whether those fall on one or the other side of the line is a question that, from an originalist view, would require a deeper historical understanding of what the phrase was thought to mean at the time. But to reemphasize, that's just the constitutional question of who can /possibly/ be a natural born citizen. Even if all those people /could/ qualify as natural born citizens under the constitutional test, I think Congress is completely free legislatively to declare that none of them actually are citizens (so no, I don't think you can be natural born citizen without actually being a citizen). So while the default rule for determining NBC status is the common law concept imported into the constitution by that clause, Congress can contract it. I think this means that the answer to your hypo is no to 1 and 4 and yes to 2 and 3, although that assumes that none of the statutes expanded the definition of NBC beyond what the constitutional phrase could historically bear. I think this whole issue is a bit like the federal judicial power. There is a constitutional maximum beyond which Congress can't grant jurisdiction, but, (as has in fact been the case) Congress can define the jurisdiction of federal courts more narrowly than the constitutional maximum.
2.29.2008 2:07am
George Weiss (mail):
legal realism:

if this did reach the supreme court-given their current makeup-its always much easier to declare something a non justiciable political question (guarantee of a republican form of government) then it is to rule on it..unless you need to to support your view about who should become president (bush v gore)
2.29.2008 2:10am
Can't find a good name:
In the case of the two 30-year-olds running for president (and neither wanting to challenge the other), I wonder if at least a member of Congress would have standing to enjoin the inauguration of the underage president-elect.

The member of Congress's standing could be based upon the fact that allowing the underage candidate to take office would mean that the president's salary would be paid to someone who could not constitutionally hold the office. I don't know whether current standing doctrines would allow such a lawsuit, though.

The 30-year-old's running mate, if that person was over 35 and otherwise eligible to be president, would definitely have standing to enjoin the inauguration of the underage president-elect, since the running mate would then become president if the underage president-elect were enjoined, pursuant to the 20th Amendment. However, if someone were willing to run as the vice presidential candidate to an underage person, they probably wouldn't want to bring such a lawsuit.
2.29.2008 5:06am
GSW:
Two points for discussion (assuming anyone is still interested):

First, could the challenge be raised by a point of order-type challenge asking the President of the Senate to disqualify any electoral votes for McCain when he tabulates the EC votes before the Senate and the House? I would think that such a point of order, and its denial, would the best way to lay the groundwork for future PQ abstention by the Courts -- by showing that the issue was resolved via another procedure that the Constitution textually grants to another part of the government. (Frankly, I also thought that the Bush v Gore challenge should have been dealt with in the same manner and the SCT should have dimsissed the federal claims under PQ doctrine).

Second, the Blackstonian argument above (that mentions Parliamentary statutes defining all children whose fathers were natural-born subjects as natural-born subjects themselves) is contrary to modern naturalization law, which requires that children of US fathers and non-US mothers (but not the reverse -- US mothers and non-US fathers) to take extra steps by the time they are 18 or 21 to have their US citizenship recognized (namely, to establish paternity by that age).

Assuming that the Blackstonian doctrine was the original meaning (and that originalist interpretation of this clause is the most proper one), then there very well could be a situation where a non-citizen (by statutory disqualification due to lack of establishing paternity by age 18) could still be President.
2.29.2008 10:02am
Tricia (mail):

Suppose that one of the Marines at Guantanamo Bay gives birth to a child? Will this child be eligible to be President?

Apparently not, if the other parent is not a U.S. citizen.



Cornellia? How does that figure?

I was born on Subic Bay Naval Station to a US Sailor and a Filipino National. I never had to naturalize. I was given a "Certification of (citizen) Birth Abroad " by the US department of State -- marking me as a citizen from birth.

If I correctly recall, only one parent has to be a US citizen.
2.29.2008 10:15am
Bravo587:
Art. II of the Hay - Brunau-Varilla Treaty between the US and Panama (1904) grants to the US the exclusive control of the Canal Zone as "if it were sovereign" and specifically denies Panama any sovereign rights over the land and waters of the Zone. The Zone was a territory of the US until the Torrijos-Carter Treaties (1977/78), and therefore John McCain was "natural born".
2.29.2008 10:32am
Don Miller (mail) (www):
BruceM:

Who has standing and doesn't have standing is sometimes a fun game.

In your hypothetical of two 30 year olds running for President, I can see a Judge being willing to give standing to almost anyone who wanted to challenge a cut and dried case like that.

In the hypothetical of someone challenging McCain for being a naturalized instead of natural-born citizen, I would bet a great many Federal Judges would be unwilling to hear the case. Many would be highly tempted to define Standing as narrow as possible so that they didn't have to hear the case.
2.29.2008 11:19am
TruePath (mail) (www):
Interesting technical exception in the law:

Based on the wording of 8 U.S.C. § 1401(e). (http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/8/1401.html ) if you are

1) Born in an outlying US possession and
2) Born to parents who left the US at least once a year during their entire life.

Then you are not a natural born citizen even if both your parents are citizens and they didn't spend a continuous year in the US just because they lived near the US/Mexico border, US/Canadian border or just took the boat out to international water once a year. All the other clauses in the statute require you to be born OUTSIDE a US possession while the only clause allowing you to be born inside a US possession requires the continuous presence of a parent for a year in the US.

Is there some other law correcting this? Would the courts really apply this exception? Wasn't McCain born into a US possession so doesn't this mean that his natural born citizenship depends on one of his parents having spent a continuous year in the US?
2.29.2008 12:25pm
burke almquist:
I'm not a lawyer, so I'm going to take a different tack here. I'd argue that naturally born citizens are citizens by virtue of originally understood constitutional criterion and the 14th ammendment; they were born to a US citizen or legally born on US territory(IMHO, illegal alien children weren't INTENDED to be granted citizenship under this provision, under an originalist interpretation)
I'd also argue that natural born citizens can't have their citizenship revoked by simple statute, as it a constitutional guarante, unless otherwise ammended. The Constitution, of course, has other requirements for the presidency, age and period of residence; but I'd say being born to US citizens or to any legal resident on US soil makes one a citizen by virtue of the consititution (as ammended). Naturalized citizens are those who are granted citizenship by virtue of statue but would not qualify as citizens under the constitution, hence the naturaliztion process.
I'd say McCain is clearly a naturally born US citizen under this interpretation, as he was born to two US citizens and has never renounced his citizenship.
Basically, the constitution provides that individuals who were understood to be citizens unambiguously under common interpretation of the time (citizen parent or born as a subject of the government) are "natural citizens" and those granted citizenship by immigration and naturalization process are "naturalized citizens." More or less, you are a natural born citizen if you are a citizen and did not have to be "naturalaized."
2.29.2008 12:59pm
lucia (mail) (www):
@Cornellian-- Whoops typos....

Well... my Cuban grandmother's America father's second cousin was a US president. Naturally, it is one of the Presidents often thought to be the worst, though some polls rank him as high as 6th worst. My grandmother's maiden name, was, as you may well have guessed: Harding.
2.29.2008 2:30pm
Steve2:
Who cares where McCain was born? It's when he was born that makes him unqualified and should make him ineligible to hold any Federal office. Of course, the Constitution's flat-backwards and has age minimums instead of age caps...
2.29.2008 5:25pm
Public_Defender (mail):

In the hypothetical of someone challenging McCain for being a naturalized instead of natural-born citizen, I would bet a great many Federal Judges would be unwilling to hear the case. Many would be highly tempted to define Standing as narrow as possible so that they didn't have to hear the case.

Sometimes it's easier to deny a case on the merits than on a procedural ground. Here, the court need only cite Blackstone and end the matter.

As to the subject of who should be able to run for president, it would make sense to allow foreign-born citizens to run for president, but only 35 years after they both became a US citizen and renounced any other citizenship. That way, everyone would have to be a citizen for the same amount of time before running.

I'm not a fan of Arnold the governor, but I see no reason why people shouldn't be allowed to vote for the guy.
2.29.2008 9:20pm
Redlands (mail):
Y'all missed the point. "Natural born" is a natural birth as opposed to C-section. "Unnatural birth?"

Hey, it's better than that gobbledygook email that VC received.
2.29.2008 10:11pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

For that matter, why shouldn't Eugene be able to run? I'd pay good money to see Eugene in a presidential debate with, say, Kos and Clayton Cramer.
That's why we need that "natural born" clause in there--it's the only way that I can be sure to win a race like that!
3.1.2008 5:10pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Well... my Cuban grandmother's America father's second cousin was a US president. Naturally, it is one of the Presidents often thought to be the worst, though some polls rank him as high as 6th worst. My grandmother's maiden name, was, as you may well have guessed: Harding.
Wow! Harding was my eleventh cousin! We're related!
3.1.2008 5:11pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Who cares where McCain was born? It's when he was born that makes him unqualified and should make him ineligible to hold any Federal office. Of course, the Constitution's flat-backwards and has age minimums instead of age caps...
I believe that the rationale behind the minimum age was the hope that it would mean that people with some maturity and wisdom would hold the various offices (25 for House, 30 for Senate, 35 for President).

Now, it is certainly true that age alone is no sign of wisdom and maturity. I'm probably going to be voting for McCain in November, but he's certainly a reminder that you can be old and not terribly mature. It is the case, however, that while there are immature and foolish old people, the odds are definitely better with age.
3.1.2008 5:17pm
Steve2:

I believe that the rationale behind the minimum age was the hope that it would mean that people with some maturity and wisdom would hold the various offices (25 for House, 30 for Senate, 35 for President).

Now, it is certainly true that age alone is no sign of wisdom and maturity. I'm probably going to be voting for McCain in November, but he's certainly a reminder that you can be old and not terribly mature. It is the case, however, that while there are immature and foolish old people, the odds are definitely better with age.


Oh, I understand that and I'm not sure that I'd support a proposal to drop the age for the president to 18. On the other hand, I think that by allowing people in their upper 60s, their 70s, and beyond to hold office amounts to holding the future hostage to the past and is just asking for decisions whose short-term value and validity is debatable but whose long-term impact is self-evidently detrimental.
3.2.2008 11:31am
e:

On the other hand, I think that by allowing people in their upper 60s . . . to hold office amounts to holding the future hostage to the past and is just asking for decisions whose short-term value and validity is debatable but whose long-term impact is self-evidently detrimental.

This makes me wonder how old Steve2 is. Perhaps I'm wrong about that, but I do think that age allows a longer view: recognition that you have to look well beyond the current decade to lasting consensus solutions for your grandchildrens' grandchildren.

35 is usually too young and still self-absorbed. Obama is barely old enough, but he does seem to have a mature temperment and ability to see all sides. I'll admit that my fave McCain seems to sometimes be immature with jokes and interpersonal skills, but I think he is absolutely right on his distaste for partisan delay on growing problems like social security, immigration, etc. He's not interested in changing policies for himself or party. Age does necessarily mean a loss of imagination or desire for change.
3.2.2008 11:46pm