Friday, February 29, 2008

John McCain and Me: Natural Born Somethings

It turns out that John McCain and I have more in common that I thought.

And yes, it's more than just a rapidly receeding hairline, extremely pale skin, and a complexion that suggests bad taxidermy.

It seems John McCain was born outside the U.S. (in Panama), which got some folks to wondering if he was even eligible to become President.

His answer: Yes, because the Constitution says only a "natural-born citizen" may serve as president, not that the person must be born in the U.S.A.

McCain says the issue was put to rest in 1964 when fellow Arizonan Barry Goldwater ran for president. Goldwater was born in Arizona when it was a territory, not a state.

Well, John McCain is right.

Children born in other countries who are Americans at birth, and who are not naturalized, are also "natural-born citizens."

That would include George Washington (born in the U.K. of America). And me. I was born to U.S. diplomats in Harare, Zimbabwe (then called Salisbury, Rhodesia) back in the era before jets. And I was a caesarian section no less. And yes, my mother is tough; she can kick your mom's ass, guaranteed.

So the good news is that I too can become President. Why do you shudder at that thought? What's with the Xanax? Woah! Five is a lot! Slow down. I have no intention. I promise.

By the way, it turns out that the lawyer giving John McCain the good legal advice on this matter was none other than Ted Olson.

In the small-world department, Olson was the lawyer for the defense in the Allison Engine case I watched before the Supreme Court on Tuesday (see yesterday's post), and his wife was one of the passengers on Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

Ted Olson also represented George W. Bush in the 2000 Supreme Court case that gave Bush the presidency, and he is partners with Eugene Scalia, son of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, at the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.


Christopher said...

Is this the media's attempt to alienate McCain in the same way the traditional garb story was an attempt to alienate Obama?

Why is this news?

And as far as what's not being reported on this election season, how come we have yet another example of large scale REAL disenfranchisement (political parties--which are not in any way mandated by our constitution, and that stupid Electoral College which is).

Looney lefties complain about fake "disenfranchisement" all the time, but how come there's no rage or even serious questioning about all the bogus and arcane rules and methods that get exposed more and more every big election year.

The electoral college, the primary vs. caucus weirdness - especially the scheduling, delegates, super delegates, electors, hanging chads ... it goes on and on.

PBurns said...

Actually Chris, it's news because someone on McCain's staff wanted it to become news -- go to the link. Apparently someone on McCain's staff went to Olson to get an official opinion from him on this issue. No one else was asking. Since Ted Olson charges well north of $1,000 an hour, this was clearly a decision authorized by someone in power within the McCain campaign. They chose Ted Olson to answer the question, because he's one of the top three or four people you would go to if you want a definitive answer short of a Supreme Court decision; the fact that he is often a hired hand for big corporations defrauding American taxpayers out of billions of dollars is simply incidental.

My guess is that this same someone figured it was best to get this question out of the way early in the campaign -- plus it gets McCain a little publicity at a time when he is nearly broke and being treated as a red-headed step child by the media. One of McCain's fundraising ploys at the moment is to paint himself as a victim. The New York Times smear of him raised so much money for him that he figures that's an oil well he needs to go back to if he is going to remain solvent until he gets the election cash from Uncle Sugar. Never mind that this "smear" managed to associate John McCain with Barry Goldwater, the father of American conservatism (and a fellow Arizonan). And never mind that I even helped his cause by associating John McCain with George Washington, the Father of this great nation. Some smear!

But it seems to have worked with you, so quick like a bunny make your most generous contribution to John McCain while you can, and we are sure to see more contrived McCain-as-victim stories real soon.


Anonymous said...

you sure about all that? My wife is certain Obama started this natural born citizen thing to make McCain look bad. Damn liberals! Bet they made up the story of McCain releasing this info himself.

Christopher said...

Seems to have worked? I'm not outraged, I'm bored and disappointed in the quality of reporting of the NYT and the networks. Nor am I trying to stir the pot for donations, you are.

I didn't say it wasn't fair or that McCain is being victimized (this story is nothing like the "scandal" story of a few days ago). I said it wasn't news, not that it wasn't true. And since it's not news, you have to question the reason the story is being run and repeated.

I'm sure the McCain camp did pay to have the issue looked at. I would expect every campaign hired lots of lawyers to look into any number of non-news-worthy technical issues.

But this story is a non event. Something that sounds fantastic in the teaster "Is McCain constitutionally ineligible to run for President?" and entirely unfulfilling after you listen to the rest of the news to get to "well, not really, we have no reason to believe so nor did we 8 years ago."

PBurns said...

News is exactly what it says it is -- NEW. I do press work all day long, and if it's a NEW the press is almost always interested in it, because their readers are.
The news is a money-making proposition, and you do not stay in business long by giving folks what they don't want to read and are not interested in. The article linked to here was not from the New York Times or the networks, but from the Associated Press, which has been around since 1846. If the AP has a political slant, it's not one I have found in 27 years of banging on them.

As to whether McCain's bith locus is a "non-event" or not, that remains to be seen. Though Ted Olson says he *thinks* he would win the case at the Supreme Court, he also says he is still studying the issue (article at the link in the post).

In any case, the good news here is that the issue may soon be moot because of an event (not a non-event): Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has introduced a legislative fix which everyone thinks will sail through very fast. The legislation says that any person born to U.S. citizens serving in the Armed Services while stationed abroad, qualifies to become President of the United States. It is, in essenece, legisaltion written for John McCain and designed to put the issue to bed. But a non-event? No, not close to that. Definitely, a NEW and therefore newsworthy.


Christopher said...

It's not new. It's a rehash of an issue from 8 years ago in specific relation to McCain and is more than 100 years stale as evidenced by the other examples in the NYT Article, and it was a non-event then as it is now.

The Legislation by Claire McCaskill isn't even new:

"“They ought to have the same rights,” said Don Nickles, a former Republican senator from Oklahoma who in 2004 introduced legislation that would have established that children born abroad to American citizens could harbor presidential ambitions without a legal cloud over their hopes."

If you click on the link to the AP article you prefer, the related articles start with:

Related News
* Times Again Fails to Hit McCain
Yahoo! News - 1 hour ago

Seems like I'm not the only one who thinks this is simply the Times posting an old and meaningless story for the purpose of smearing the non-liberal candidate. They held the other non-event story (something about a female lobbyist) for months and months (and again, 8 years stale and a non-event) and dropped it at a politically opportune time with no other reason.

Frankly, your recent posts about W's fake hunting prowess and Darth Vader Cheney are more current than either of these NYT stories and you have to admit you're not dragging those up out of the archives for their freshness (W still has brown hair in those photos), but for flinging purposes.

PBurns said...

Chris, issues of law are not "settled" because someone has an opinion. They are settled because a court says so or the legislative language is REALLY unambiguous. Neither is the case here.

For example, legally and historically, we know that Thomas Edison did NOT discover the lightbulb because a court said so, and a LOT of evidence was produced in court to back up the claims of Joseph Swan. Edison ended up paying Swan money his entire life. The fact that you (or anyone else) "knows" or has an opinion about Thomas Edison and the lightbulb is interesting but irrelevant to the facts and the law. The court or Congress is what decides matters of law. And this is matter of law.

Now to recap, because you seem to be TONE DEAF, the story on McCain being born in Panama came from the ASSOCIATED PRESS and from the McCain camp. The New York Times article is one playing catchup -- it is not a story that they broke. Sorry if that does not fit into your conspiracy theory, but facts do not cease to exist because they are inconvenient.

Over 350 newspapers have written on this matter so it IS news, and though I had not read the New York Times story until you posted the link, if YOU had read it, you would know that the vague Constitutional term "a “natural-born citizen” is a very real debate because it has NEVER gone to court or been legislatively clarified -- though Congress has had every opportunity to do so. As the NYT notes:

"Almost since those words were written in 1787 with scant explanation, their precise meaning has been the stuff of confusion, law school review articles, whisper campaigns and civics class debates over whether only those delivered on American soil can be truly natural born. To date, no American to take the presidential oath has had an official birthplace outside the 50 states."

BECAUSE the issue is unsettled, the ground is set for a very real nightmare: John McCain winning election and a lawsuit (which could be brought by anyone who voted) that upsets that election. The GOOD NEWS here is that is now not likely to happen because LEGISLATION WRITTEN NARROWLY, and just for John McCain is being introduced ... by the Democrats.

If you don't see how this is news, then you are simply in denial or are a surrealist.

As to the fun video about Cheney and Bush as hunters, that was a tongue in cheek response (a substantive one had already been given) to someone who took exception to my notation that it was time that we stopped trotting out non-hunters or very infrequent hunters (like George W. Bush and John Kerry) for election season photo-ops where guns are being held by people who are swinging them around other people who are standing entirely too close and holding cameras. The photo of George Bush in the very balanced post entitled "Hunting and Fishing at the Polls in November," shows Bush beginning to swing toward photographers as a bird breaks to the right -- a situation caught on film when he was running for Governor. The notion (alleged by a commentator) that Bush was an experienced hunter is hard to reconcile with the brand new clothes, the brand new license, the borrowed shot gun, his shooting the wrong species, and the fact that he has almost never hunted since then. The fact that Dick Cheney (a very experieced hunter and a very good shot) had fired a shothun into the face of his hunting partner under similar circumstances was not (and is not) ungermane.


Anonymous said...

Yep, this is a very real and live legal issue.

Current State Department policy reads: "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." See for source.
Bottom line: According to the State Department McCain is going to need Congress to step in.

Anonymous said...

This has been a story a long time, and the issue is still not legally settled. The NYT has nothing to do with "breaking" this story. See The Washington Post at: and

- Trish

jdege said...

"Apparently someone on McCain's staff went to Olson to get an official opinion from him on this issue."

Yes, somoene did ask Olson for an opinion. Eight years ago, when McCain was first considering a run for the Presidency.

Why it's suddenly an issue now is entirely the responsibility of the New York Times.

PBurns said...

Jdege, do you just make things up whole cloth without doing ANY research at all?


You see not only are you WRONG about when Ted Olson was asked for his legal opinion on this issue, but you are ALSO wrong about the fact that The New York Times was the first newspaper to raise the issue.

And here's the interesting part: you would know this if you bothered to read the LINKS PROVIDED in the original post.

See for when Ted Olson was hired and The Washington Post link provided by Trish at to see that this story made it into the #1 political newspaper in the country A FULL MONTH before the New York Times article (and there are dozens of other examples if you will take the time go to and Google).

So do your homework.

And part of that homework should be to not only look up the articles ALREADY CITED but to also research McCain spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker quoted in the first article.

If you did this, you would not only know that she is John McCain's CURRENT press secretary (hired in 2007), but that she previously worked for Thomas Kean Jr., where she was caught posting to online bulletin boards as a Democrat in order to run down Senator Robert Menendez. In other words, Ms. Hazelbaker was caught playing dirty pool in the last election cycle. Outed as a liar, she then went to work for John McCain who did not see that as a problem or disqualification for his press secretary. See her wikipedia profile at >> for more information and background.

And while you are researchng, you also might look up why Thomas Keane failed in his campaign for Senate, as it might tell you a bit about Ms. Hazelbaker's communications weaknesses. It seems that when New York voters were asked about the failed "Kean for Senate" campaign afterwards, they said it spent more time attacking his opponent (64 percent) than explaining what he would do if elected (16 percent).

It turns out that this is a losing strategy. But gee, it DOES sound a bit like McCain's strategy so far, doesn't it?

As I noted in the post entitled "Hunting and Fishing at the Polls" ( "Obama's web site has over 20-pages of single spaced position papers on energy and the environment. McCain's has zero."




As for whinning about the press, that is what every loser on both sides of the political aisle does when their campaign goes down in flames. Look at Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Mitt Romney, or Fred Thompson as examples.

What's so funny in this case is that the Rush Limbaugh fans now bashing The New York Times are ignoring the fact this this newspaper ENDORSED John McCain, and that John McCain himself has said that he regrets likening Rush Limbaugh to “a circus clown” because of all the complaints he got from circus clowns who were insulted by the comparison. “I would like to extend my apologies to Bozo, Chuckles and Krusty" said McCain, proving once again that he has a good sense of humor, even if he has a poor communications team on his campaign staff.

So, bottom line, try Google. You'll like it. Promise.


jdege said...

Your sounding as if you're trying to make us belief that what Carl Hulse did, in his NYT column, was to mention that McCain was born in Panama, or to mention that this raised a question over whether he met the constitutional qualification to be president.

It's a nice slight-of-hand, but it doesn't hunt. What was objectionable about Hulse's column was that it left the reader with the impression that the answer to the question was in doubt.

That Washington Post article from a month ago, that you cite, does not.

The earlier Washington Post article, from 1998 addresses the question directly - and answers it clearly. Yes, John McCain is a "natural born citizen". There isn't any debate over the issue, it's an answered question.

Despite Hulse's attempt to create a controversy over it.

PBurns said...

jdege, it really DOES pay to read and look things up.

Seriously. Ignorance on this issue is a treatable condition.

As previously noted, there is no "answered question" on this issue until the law is clarified by Congress or it gets to the U.S. Supreme Court. Neither one has yet occured (though legislation has been introduced by the Democrats to settle the issue in McCain's favor). Even Ted Olson agrees that this is not a settled issue. You are simply out to lunch.

Why don't you take the time to look up the issue instead of simply typing in ignorance? Congress overturned the Dred Scott decision with the 14th Amendment, thereby reversing the earlier law (1790) on this issue. Because the Constitutional clause (Section 1, Article II) ONLY provides to the President, it is a unique situation and it has never been litigated or clarified by Congress. Newspaper articles do not settle points of law. God help us if they did! If you want to waste more time on this, I will require you to quote legal sources (or any source). So far, you have proven to be rather lazy when it comes to actually doing the work of research.