Thursday, February 28, 2008

Has Bush Doomed the McCain Presidency?

John McCain's favorite news source, The New York Times, runs a story today highlighting the prickly issue of McCain's presidential ambitions vis. a vis. the presumptive Republican candidate's foreign birth. For while the U.S. constitution stipulates that only a "natural born citizen" can become president, John McCain was not born in the United States proper, but rather in the Panama Canal Zone in the year 1936.

“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.”

Mr. McCain was born on a military installation in the Canal Zone, where his mother and father, a Navy officer, were stationed. His campaign advisers say they are comfortable that Mr. McCain meets the requirement and note that the question was researched for his first presidential bid in 1999 and reviewed again this time around.


Ms. Duggin and others who have explored the arcane subject in depth say legal argument and basic fairness may indeed be on the side of Mr. McCain, a longtime member of Congress from Arizona. But multiple experts and scholarly reviews say the issue has never been definitively resolved by either Congress or the Supreme Court.
So far so good. McCain seems to be in relatively good shape (better than 50/50 odds, at any rate), even if a court challenge were mounted should McCain win the presidential vote. But then I came across this playful comment by newzhound, an astute reader of the blog Wonkette:

Since the Bush Administration has argued for several years that "Gitmo" in Cuba isn't part of the US - and US laws don't apply there - clearly Sen. McCain can not be president...

And indeed, the Bush Administration has made a great deal of the fact that our base on Guantanamo Bay Cuba is not American soil in mounting its claim that prisoners held there are not subject the the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.

Should a legal challenge be mounted to a hypothetical John McCain victory, I strongly suspect that the Bush Administration's arguments with respect to Guantanamo will be used in some fashion against the Republican senator. Oh, irony of ironies!

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