Legal expert says McCain may not be eligible for White House

A major new constitutional study suggests that John McCain may not be a "natural born citizen" eligible for the presidency.

Published July 11, 2008 6:42PM (EDT)

At the end of a pretty stressful week for John McCain, he's now being told by a constitutional scholar from his own state that he may not eligible for the presidency in the first place.

Professor Gabriel J. Chin of the University of Arizona wrote the analysis suggesting that McCain's birth in the Panama Canal Zone while his father was on active military duty qualified him as a citizen under a law later enacted by Congress, but didn't make him a "natural-born citizen," which is what the Constitution requires for the presidency.

This issue has been kicking around constitutional circles for a while, and Chin's opinion is decidedly a minority view. Indeed, earlier this year "the Senate approved a nonbinding resolution declaring that Mr. McCain is eligible to be president. Its sponsors said the nation's founders would have never intended to deny the presidency to the offspring of military personnel stationed out of the country."

That's almost certainly true. But it may be a tougher argument for McCain to make now that he's devoted to "strict constructionist" interpretations of the Constitution.

After all, if you start messing with the language of the Founders, next thing you know, you've got a constitutional right to privacy, and we can't have that, eh?

By Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is the managing editor of The Democratic Strategist, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, and an online columnist for The New Republic.

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John Mccain R-ariz.