Sunday, November 02, 2008

Natural Born

The US Constitution requires that all presidents be natural born citizens of this country. Candidates born as citizens of another country then naturalized can serve in all but this highest of government roles.

But what is a "natural born citizen"? It is not defined by the Constitution at all.

Interestingly, people have questioned both Obama's status and McCain's status.

* * *

Obama was born in Hawaii according to his campaign and the birth certificate they published on his website.

Some have suggested, based on what most people see as extremely problematic evidence, that he was in fact born in Kenya. In order to question Obama's qualification, you have to accept this argument. (I am not telling you to believe it at all in real life--I certainly don't--but just play along with me for a minute.)

Very few people believe one actually has to be born on US soil to be "natural born"--since you are born a citizen if one of your parents is a US citizen, as Obama's mother was. But the complication in this case is that the law at the time required the parent to reside for 5 years after the age of 14 within the US--and Obama's mother was only 18yo and therefore had not resided anywhere for 5 years after the age of 18. Surely this is not what the founders of the Constitution were fighting against....

The law was later changed and made retroactive so Obama would in fact be covered anyway, even if he was born in Kenya.

But if you really want to get nit-picky (which can be an enjoyable intellectual activity at times), you could argue that it is impossible to be a natural born citizen if you've already been alive for a few years. A natural rebirth?

* * *

McCain's case is pretty similar. He was by all accounts born in the Panama Canal in 1936. At the time of his birth, birth in the Canal Zone did not lead to US citizenship. Although his parents were both US citizens, if you believe that "natural born" means you have to be born on the soil of the country, then McCain would not qualify.

But he's safe--right?--since a law passed when he was a year old retroactively made him a citizen. But, oops, just like in the case of a Kenyan-born Obama, McCain's situation would require a rebirth....

All of this is pretty crazy, as Senator Lindsey Graham says(who I never ever agree with in any other case): It would be incomprehensible to him if the son of a military officer was born in a military station and could therefore not run for president. Just as crazy as being penalized for having an underage mother.

* * *

When I was talking about this absolutely inconsequential quagmire of a game with David, our 9yo son explained the he in fact knew exactly what "natural born" means.

"I could be president!" He realized. "I was born at home, and you didn't have drugs or anything, right? I was natural born!"

Shakespeare's Macbeth would approve.


Donna Lee said...

In another 26 years that child could be President!

greeen sheeep said...

That's priceless.

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

"I could be president!" He realized. "I was born at home, and you didn't have drugs or anything, right? I was natural born!"

*excellent* made me smile!

Sara said...

that's excellent :)

Lisa said...

He is such a smarty. Love him.


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