Friday, March 28, 2008

Campaign Silliness

I’m just thinking through all the things I’ve heard or read about over the last week or so trying to find something that is more absurd than the assertion that a child born to US citizens, one of whom is serving in the US military, and both living outside the US at a base in a US territory, is not a “natural born” citizen of the United States of America.

This question arises out of the (presumably) honest question over the wording of the US Constitution governing who can be elected President of the United States, and the (supposedly) honest belief that the Constitution is unclear on this point. The relevant Constitutional language is contained in Article II, Section 1, and says: “No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States.”

It severely strains the imigination that any intelligent person actually believes that the framers of the Constitution intended to disqualify someone otherwise qualified to be President because they had the misfortune for their mother be outside the United States when she gave birth. Yet, in American politics during campaign season, virtually anything is possible.

This issue has been mentioned by opponents of Sen. John McCain, the likely Republican nominee, but to date there has been no formal challenge to his eligibility. In order to circumvent some mischief from his opponents, the McCain campaign staff asked for a legal review to put the issue to rest. The review concluded that "Based on the original meaning of the Constitution, the Framers' intentions, and subsequent legal and historical precedent, Senator McCain's birth to parents who were U.S. citizens, serving on a U.S. military base in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936, makes him a 'natural born citizen' within the meaning of the Constitution.”

Now we have one less silly distraction to interfere with the proper evaluation of candidates seeking to be our president.

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