Online Journal
Front Page 
 Special Reports
 News Media
 Elections & Voting
 Social Security
 Editors' Blog
 Reclaiming America
 The Splendid Failure of Occupation
 The Lighter Side
 The Mailbag
 Online Journal Stores
 Official Merchandise
 Join Mailing List

Commentary Last Updated: Mar 5th, 2008 - 01:04:42

Trying to have it both ways
By Bev Conover
Online Journal Editor & Publisher

Mar 5, 2008, 01:02

Email this article
 Printer friendly page

When is a US military base built in a foreign land American soil and when is such a base foreign soil?

It's American soil when John McCain, born at a US naval air station in the Panama Canal Zone, is running for president of the United States.

It's foreign soil when George W. Bush needs somewhere to indefinitely incarcerate, torture and even execute those he labels "unlawful enemy combatants."

Now which way is it? American soil or foreign soil? It can't be both.

While some legal gurus and pundits think the accident of where McCain was born should not make him ineligible for the presidency, the plight of the Guantanamo detainees, denied the protections and due process embodied in the US Constitution, are either not mentioned or are shrugged off.

Article II of the Constitution states, "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 . . ." It even goes on to rule out a natural born citizen who has not "been fourteen years a resident within the United States," alluding to Americans returning from abroad.

While Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) would seek to fix McCain's problem by introducing legislation declaring any child born abroad to citizens serving in the US military to be a natural born citizen under the constitution, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley says that "it's not clear whether legislation can resolve the constitutional issue."

What Turley doesn't say is that McCaskill's proposed "Children of Military Families Natural Born Citizens Act," which Senator Barack Obama, calling McCain's predicament a "loophole," has stated he will co-sponsor, is, on its face, grossly discriminatory by elevating children born abroad to citizens serving in the US military over children born abroad to civilian citizens. That doesn't trouble Turley one bit.

Moreover, Turley favors an amendment that would throw the whole provision out: "There should be universal agreement that the question of McCain�s eligibility for president shows a grossly unfair and unnecessary limitation within Article II. Indeed, we should amend the Constitution to get rid entirely of the ban on naturalized citizens becoming presidents."

Turley's view that 8 USC, Section 403, which states, "Any person born in the Canal Zone on or after February 26, 1904, and whether before or after the effective date of this chapter, whose father or mother or both at the time of the birth of such person was or is a citizen of the United States, is declared to be a citizen of the United States," is insufficient to resolve the issue.

"Absent a constitutional amendment (which has been introduced in prior years), the issue is simply one of constitutional construction. The zone was a foreign military base like Guantanamo Cuba. Ironically, the Bush Administration has been arguing for years (with Senate support) that U.S. laws and jurisdiction do not extend to Cuba in the cases of the detainees. If such bases are now treated as U.S. soil, it is unclear how that would affect this long-standing claim that it is not for purposes of civil liberties," Turley said, bringing us back to the issue of the detainees.

If a foreign-based US military installation is adjudged to be American soil for the purpose of declaring John McCain a natural born citizen, then how can all foreign-based US military installations not be adjudged to also be American soil? Thusly, the Guantanamo detainees are entitled to the protections and due process embodied in the US Constitution.

The Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments don't distinguish between citizens and non-citizens -- and non-citizens applies to those here legally and illegally, as illegal immigrants are given their day in court.

As the old saying goes, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

And if we amend the Constitution to repeal the natural born citizen requirement, think of this: Henry Kissinger might have become president and Arnold Schwarzenegger might yet sit in the Oval Office. The framers may have been thinking of foreign princes when they made being a natural born citizen a requirement for seeking the presidency, but they were no fools.

Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor

Top of Page

Latest Headlines
Harbingers of war?
Canada�s response to Israel�s actions in Gaza is biased, ignorant and ineffective
A Mecca of hypocrisy, a Vatican of double standards
Trying to have it both ways
Israel�s moral compass is flawed
How Republicans created executive branch hegemony
America�s right knight of the wrong: William F. Buckley, Jr. (1925-2008)
How could they have known? It wasn't on Oprah or Fox News
Somalia's leadership: substance or rhetoric?
Canada, NATO, and nuclear terror
Where are we going?
Obama, McCain, March 19 . . . yawn
Dying to die in Afghanistan
Abbas needs a miracle
The Israeli Holocaust in Gaza
Send them to Gaza: Gimmicks and education
Hezbollah and the �unknown knowns�
Keeping the memories of Jewish suffering alive
You load $168 billion, whadaya get?
How swing state Ohio got nuked