John McCain was born in Panama. Arnold Schwarzenegger was born in Austria. I was born in Turkey. Article II of the Constitution clearly 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." (emphasis added)
End of the question, right? None of us can be president of the United States of America.
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.
Now McCain supporters are saying a plain reading of the constitution isn't fair because his parents were on an American military base in Panama's Canal Zone. Boo hoo. Sad day for you. Strict constructionism!
The Canal Zone is not US land, neither is the military base. He'd have a legitimate argument if he was born in the embassy, but alas, he wasn't. Now, do I think it's unfair that kids born on military grounds to patriotic parents serving their country overseas aren't eligible to serve as US presidents? Yes, I definitely do, but then I'm not a strict constructionist.
Lucky for McCain, I think the legal scholars are looking at this all wrong. He shouldn't have to rely on a fairness or common sense argument. I think there is a plain letter of the law argument to be made in the US constitution that allows McCain, Schwarzenegger and even me to become president.
It's called the Fourteenth Amendment. Look at it. It clearly states:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. (emphasis added)
The Fourteenth Amendment is an... amendment. It amended many parts of the US constitution, including Article II. Historians say it applied to the newly freed slaves. Of course, it did. But it doesn't say that it doesn't apply to the rest of us. It doesn't mention slaves at all. Plain reading!
If a freed slave had made the improbable journey to the White House after the Fourteenth Amendment was passed, would the Supreme Court blocked him from becoming president since he was not "a natural born citizen" of the United States? No way. The Fourteenth Amendment made clear that all of the laws were supposed to apply equally to born or naturalized citizens. It would have been a clear violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to deny him the office he earned and not treat him as equal to any other citizen.
So, why isn't it equally clear that it's a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to prevent other naturalized citizens, or in McCain's case, a citizen born outside of the United States, from becoming president? Remember, these clauses are not equal in weight. It's not hard to pick between the two. The Fourteenth Amendment wins because it is an amendment -- it changed earlier clauses in the constitution, like Article II.
Fortunately for John McCain he doesn't need liberal jurists or an amendment to the constitution to become president because there already is a clear amendment on this matter -- the Fourteenth Amendment.