Pundits are now writing obituaries for Sen. John McCain's sinking campaign for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.
I hereby join them with a fundamental question: Does the Arizona senator fulfill our Constitution's eligibility requirements to be president?
Like several other prominent American politicians, John McCain was not born in the United States.
Article II of the Constitution specifies that "no person except a natural born Citizen . . . shall be eligible to the Office of President."
Because of this, California's Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, born in Austria in 1947, is ineligible to be president. He moved to the United States in 1968 and became a U.S. citizen in 1983.
Because of this, Michigan's Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in 1959, is ineligible to become president. She moved at age 4 with her family to Hollywood and failed at acting before entering politics. Granholm became a U.S. citizen in 1980.
Questions arose about another Michigan governor in 1968 when George Romney, father of current GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney, sought the Republican nomination.
George Romney was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, where his Mormon father had fled in 1886 with his three wives after the U.S. government outlawed polygamy — what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints had previously called "plural marriage."
The Romney family went to Mexico but never gave up their U.S. citizenship. On the eve of Mexican revolution in 1912, they returned to the United States. At age 32, George Romney settled in Michigan in 1939.
Democratic political foes later nicknamed Romney "Chihuahua George," but the general consensus was that he was eligible to seek the presidency.
The first Congress of the United States on March 26, 1790, had passed legislation that said: "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."
Most of us could infer that this opinion during the era of America's founding settles the question of whether citizen-sired children like Romney are eligible to become president.
But this 1790 legislation was not the Constitution itself. A future U.S. Supreme Court ruling might reinterpret the vague language of our bedrock legal document otherwise.
This matters because, as mentioned earlier, Sen. McCain was not born in the United States.
John Sidney McCain III was born on Aug. 29, 1936, in Coco Solo in the Panama Canal Zone, where his U.S. Navy admiral father was serving our country.
Panama itself was created by the United States at the whim of Theodore Roosevelt, who backed rebel claims of Panamanian independence from Colombia. T.R. won agreement from the new nation of Panama to build the Panama Canal in a territory called the Panama Canal Zone, controlled by the U.S. from 1903 until 1979, when Democratic President Jimmy Carter surrendered it.
The place John McCain was born was controlled by the U.S. in 1936 but is no longer American controlled today.
Nobody disputes that John McCain was from birth a United States citizen.
And most of us agree that it would be unfair to deny presidential eligibility to patriotic citizens born to parents serving overseas in the U.S. military. Such people are likely to be among the most patriotic and worthy of Americans.
But the Constitutionally-mandated term "natural born citizen" remains subject to reinterpretation by future Supreme Courts.
And, frankly, there is much that seems unnatural and un-American about Sen. John McCain.
Why has he been so eager to extend rights and a path to citizenship to millions of illegal aliens in ways that would benefit the Democratic Party?
Why did he push the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, a measure that manifestly gags freedom of political speech and, again, benefits the Democratic Party?
Why as a nominal Republican has he spoken and voted so often against cutting taxes?
More than any other recent presidential candidate, McCain is a genuine war hero who suffered torture as a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton.
But his odd political positions leave many with a suspicion that this experience turned him into a Manchurian Candidate, secretly programmed by the enemy in ways even he might not understand to do their bidding by advancing the American left.
During his 2000 Presidential run, McCain was lionized by the liberal media as a "maverick," i.e., as someone who criticized and undermined conventional Republican positions.
McCain's campaign is foundering today for two reasons.
He has taken positions too far left to win the hearts and minds of conservatives, who dislike and mistrust him. (Ironically, they prefer Fred Thompson, who as a U.S. senator from Tennessee was close to McCain and in the words of American Conservative Union head David Keene was "a chief water-carrier for McCain-Feingold.")
But of late McCain has staunchly supported the war in Iraq and moved right in other ways that alienated his former boosters in the liberal mainstream media. They therefore no longer find him a useful club with which to bash Republicans.
His flagging campaign, which reportedly has only $2 million on hand but has been burning money at the rate of $3 million per month, recently jettisoned half its staff.
McCain has a long and honorable family history as a warrior. He can remember at age 17, the year he entered the Naval Academy Annapolis, drinking a toast with Adm. Halsey to mark the naming of a destroyer for his grandfather. (The USS John S. McCain was sold for scrap in 1980.)
McCain might enjoy, even prefer, fighting for the presidency from his current position as underdog.
And in theory he could yet win — but his chances of a comeback grow slimmer with each passing day.
When federal authorities were unable to convict gangster Al Capone of other crimes, they jailed him for tax evasion.
For the safety of America, John McCain should never be president. If stopping him requires invoking the petty technicality of his Panama Canal Zone birth, then let it be so.
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