Bloggers on John McCain's constitutional eligibility for the presidency.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Feb. 28 2008 6:16 PM

Panama John

Bloggers assess John McCain's constitutional fitness to be president and whether or not Obama's anti-NAFTA stance is provably bogus.

Panama John: John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936, and since that's not a U.S. state, the New York Times  asks whether he is constitutionally eligibile, as a "natural-born citizen," to be president. A few legal experts are trotted out to make the abstract case that this might pose a problem if McCain is challenged, which, conspicuously, he has not been thus far (including in his 2000 bid for the White House). Bloggers are underwhelmed.

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Tom Maguire at JustOneMinute thinks the story's a dud and demonstrates it by asking: "[W]hy doesn't Mike Huckabee have standing right now to sue the entities that have allowed McCain on the ballot in upcoming primaries?  Isn't it fair to guess that the laws under which these primaries are organized include an eligibility requirement, and isn't Huckabee disadvantaged by having to compete against a guy who may not be eligible?"

Ann Althouse also sees it as a nonissue: "The real constitutional interpretation is taking place right now, as we decide whether to accept a man with this problem as the nominee, and later, as the candidate. I think we as a people have already answered the question as to McCain. None of his opponents are using disqualification as an argument and no one is concerned about it." Journalist Jules Crittenden seconds that emotion: "So is the NYT just idly sucking its thumb on an issue no one is seriously challenging, or in it's typically less than subtle way flagging it? Lack of any support for its position is no obstacle, as we saw last week. But if so in this case, the NYT report notes in balance it would be a fool's errand."

At the Huffington Post, Cenk Uygur wields McCain's place of birth as a cudgel against constructionist conservatives: "This should be especially clear for 'strict constructionist' conservatives. John McCain says he wants judges who won't legislate from the bench. He wants them to apply the letter of the law. Well, there you have it -- the end of John McCain's candidacy." Jim Geraghty puts the shoe on the proverbial other foot at the National Review Online's Campaign Spot, pointing out that, according to the Kenyan constitution, Obama might be considered a Kenyan citizen as well an American one. Geraghty begs Democrats to "go down this road": "[A] serious effort to argue that McCain is disqualified from being president will attempt to establish that a child of one American and one foreign-born parent is eligible for the presidency, but a child of two Americans, one a serving member of the U.S. Armed Forces, born in a U.S. territory (Coco Solo Air Base in the then-American-controlled Panama Canal Zone) is not."

Wonkette's not sweating it: "Just like Vermonter and secret Canadian Chester A. Arthur, John McCain is not a natural-born citizen. Of course, some experts would argue that this is fine because 'natural-born' just means he was delivered the normal way, head first. … In the end, what matters is that only people birthed vaginally in the lower 48 are qualified to be president."

Read more about the nonstory.

You're a liar, eh? More interesting to bloggers is a Candian television report alleging that a senior Obama official reached out reached out to Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador to the United States, to reassure him that all the anti-NAFTA chatter he'd hear from Obama on the stump was a feint. (Wilson has denied the claim.)

At Captain's Quarters, righty Ed Morrissey says, "If true, this would show Obama as the worst kind of demagogue. It would mean he's telling people what they want to hear while rejecting it himself, or alternately that he has begun his diplomatic relations with Canada by lying to them. Either way if true, it paints a disturbing picture of the kind of politician Obama really is."

Brian Faughnan at the Weekly Standard's Blog writes that NAFTA has worked and that if the Dems took their newfound economic populism seriously, they would focus on China, not Mexico and Canada: "When Obama and Clinton attack NAFTA, they're simply playing politics. They're offering a prescription that couldn't be implemented (since Mexico and Canada won't renegotiate NAFTA along their lines) and would only make matters worse if it was." Conservative PunditGuy is unsurprised: "I'm not saying lying to get elected is okay. It's not. But somewhere in the political playbook, this kind of thing isn't defined as lying. It's defined as nuance. It's giving your potential voting constituency a taste of where your head is at. It's about intentions, not action. The entire Obama campaign is built upon this framework."

Liberal Kyle E. Moore at Comments From Left Field slaps his forehead on Obama's blunder: "I guess we can call this a non-negotiable rule of politics, you NEVER, EVER, EVER EVER EVER say that your candidate is intentionally making promises they don't intend to at least try to keep!  NEVER!  You might as well schedule a press conference and say, 'Hey… I'm working for the Obama campaign, but you know, I really don't want you to vote for the guy.  No, I'm serious, go vote for his opponent, it'll be okay.' "

Eric Kleefield at TPM Election Central sees danger on the horizon for Obama's Ohio base: "If this report catches on, it has the potential undermine Obama's outreach to working-class whites in Ohio, many of whom still resent the Clinton Administration's passage of the free trade deal back in the 90s. It could also take the steam out of the Obama campaign's claims that Hillary favored NAFTA, something she denies."

Read more about Obama's NAFTA posturing.

Michael Weiss is the director of communications at the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think tank that promotes democratic geopolitics. He is also the spokesman for Just Journalism, which examines how Israel and the Middle East are portrayed in the U.K. media.

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