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Matt Rosenberg

John McCain Born in Canal Zone: Can He Be President?

By March 26, 2008

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Presumptive U.S. Republican nominee for President, John McCain, was born in the the U.S. Canal Zone in 1936. The geographic location of his birth causes some question as to whether his birth outside of the fifty United States qualifies as a "natural born" citizen according to the Constitution. The Canal Zone was a U.S. territory from 1914 to 1999. Thus far, no President has been born outside the fifty states. The New York Times has an interesting article on this topic. What do you think?


March 26, 2008 at 3:54 pm
(1) George S. says:

McCain was born to U.S. citizens who were stationed on a U.S. base in the Canal Zone and therefore on U.S. soil.
I’d like to see anyone legitimately challenge McCain’s eligibility and do so in the courts. They would be a laughing stock and the outcry would be deafening. Think of the implications…”You can serve your country in the military, but if you give birth, your child won’t have all the same rights as if you didn’t serve your country.”

Its absurd….

Not to mention that the Naturalization Act of 1790 ( just a couple of years after the law was passed) did in fact define Natural Born….In the Spirit of Full Disclosure…The Act was overturned a couple of years later for other reasons. But it clearly shows the intent behind “Natural Born.”

March 26, 2008 at 3:56 pm
(2) Jenifer Ross says:

If the CanalZone was US territory from 1914 till 1999,& McCain was born in the 30′s then that should make him a US citizen,he shouldn’t have a problem,becoming presedent.

March 26, 2008 at 4:25 pm
(3) antisocialist/antifascist says:

What a stupid, stupid question. Only from The New York Times would such a stupid question come. McCain is far more fit to be President than Hillarious or Uh-OhBama.

March 26, 2008 at 6:26 pm
(4) Ron M. says:

I have voted for the lesser of the “two evils” for a long time now. As a veteran i would never question McCains loyalty to country. I know folks who were born in forgiegn countries on military bases or to active duty parents etc. and they are US citizens. There should not be a question about this to my mind.

March 30, 2008 at 11:52 pm
(5) Beckie says:

Sure, McCain can run for President this year, but we have to allow the Govenor of California, Arnold, run next time!

March 31, 2008 at 12:04 am
(6) KatieT says:

This is not complicated. There are two ways to be an American citizen by birth. One is to be born on U.S. soil and the other is to be born to American citizen parents. I’m not familiar with the details of American possession of the Canal Zone, but a military base qualifies as American soil for other legal issues. Additionally, American parents simply (okay government paperwork is rarely simple) have to file to have a child born in another country recognized as a citizen. To my knowledge this is a technicality and those children are citizens by birth. (My cousin’s children were born in Amsterdam and London and they are American citizens.)

It is not a stupid question, but a question aimed at addressing the finer points of the American system. It is not an issue of qualification for office nor does McCain’s canidacy mean that Governor Schwarzenegger (apologies if I spelled that wrong) will be running any time soon.

March 31, 2008 at 2:38 am
(7) Bob Davis says:

I too was born overseas of U.S. citizens. I am a naturally born U.S. Citizen – so says my birth certificate issued by the U.S State Department!

March 31, 2008 at 8:13 am
(8) Larry King says:

This whole argument is preposterous. I was also born in the Panama Canal Zone of military parents. The issue here is not so much whether his parents were American citizens or not – although that in itself should qualify anyone to be a “natural born citizen” – but of territory Sen. McCain was born in. The Panama Canal Zone – up until the great giveaway by Pres. Carter – WAS part of the United States, just as any embassy in any foreign country is considered property of the country who’s embassy it is; just as the District of Columbia (not a state) is considered part of the United States; just as Puerto Rico is (I believe) considered part of the United States although not a state; etc. So, the two issues: born of American citizens and born in US states or territories – these should qualify anyone to be “natural born citizens”

March 31, 2008 at 9:02 am
(9) Christopher J. Schuberth says:

Let the lawyers of the Constitution resolve what seems to be an absolute no-brainer. Both John McCain’s grandfather and father were admirals in the United States Navy. Admirals!! John McCain himself graduated the Naval Academy in 1958 and retired from the Navy in 1981. To even raise the matter with someone as steeped in U.S military tradition as is John McCain is simply ludicrous. Even if the term of “native born” questions U.S. Canal Zone birth turns on some technicality, the matter should not even be referenced.

Christopher J. Schuberth

March 31, 2008 at 9:51 am
(10) Rex Mauldin says:

Matt’s comment about no president thus far has been born outside the U.S. might be in question in regards to Howard Taft. In August of 1953, the first item on the agenda for Congress was to set the admission date of Ohio, where Taft was born. Apparently, confusion existed about the actual date of Ohio’s admission as a state. So much so, that Congress was compelled to act. AS I recall, we fought the British over issues such as ex-po facto laws, among others, meaning Ohio could only be a state from 1953 onwards which would mean the Ohio territory was just that at the time of Taft’s birth. Mind you, this is the shortened version of my comments for this forum. It has to do with the Toledo War between Ohio and Michigan.

March 31, 2008 at 11:07 am
(11) Andrea Hamilton says:

My husband was in the USAF for close to 30 years, and we spent many of them stationed overseas. I have one daughter born in Morocco (Navy managed Base)… and one grandson born in W. Berlin, and another born in Naples (Navy Hospital

I guess anyone could make a case of any of these births, but they’d be on the losing end. The subject has come up and we have been assured that all is ok “just in case”

March 31, 2008 at 11:45 am
(12) Roobah says:

I guess the problem is solved.


McCain seems to have bigger problems with his failure to follow his own campaign finance reform law and might get a more serious legal challenge concerning his run for president along those lines.

March 31, 2008 at 3:00 pm
(13) Tom says:

This is easy. If both your parents are US citizens you are automatically a US citizen no matter where you’re born. The whole debate is completely ubsurd. What next? If you were born through Cesarian birth you aren’t Natural Born and therefore not elegable to be President. This whole article was a waste of ink and paper.

March 31, 2008 at 3:08 pm
(14) Viki says:

WHY does everything become such drama these days? ANYONE would know that he’s an American by birth, etc. Geez.

March 31, 2008 at 4:27 pm
(15) Girl says:

Isn’t this putting the cart before the horse a bit? I mean, this would only be a problem if (and this is a big if) he won the election, right? I say, don’t worry about it now. If he somehow beats Obama then we can question it. :)

March 31, 2008 at 6:55 pm
(16) Rollando says:

This is really not an issue. The Canal zone at the time was under US control. so it is considered a U.S. Territory or possession. If McCain were to have been born in a U.S. Embassy any where in the world or in other U.S. territories, such as, Puerto Rico, some Islands in the Pacific and Atlantic owned by the US, Guam, etc and military bases through out the world, he would still be considered a natural born citizen. Don’t forget Washington, D.C. is not a state but a district. So, if one is born there is considered a U.S. citizen.

March 31, 2008 at 7:07 pm
(17) Jody says:

Consider the source…

March 31, 2008 at 9:11 pm
(18) Win Barber says:

There is some uncertainty about whether President (1881-1885) Chester A. Arthur was born in USA (northern Vermont) or Canada (Quebec). Many of the Arthur family’s old documents had been destroyed by fire. When he was promoted to President after the assassination of President Garfield, old letters written by his late mother were examined which indicated he was probably born in Vermont.

In the 1960′s, Michigan Governor George Romney (father of Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney) ran for the Presidential nomination. George Romney had been born in Mexico where his parents had fled because they were Mormom polygamists. Because of this, his qualification to run, became a Constitutional issue at the time.

March 31, 2008 at 10:12 pm
(19) Steve McCarville says:

It was my understanding that “native born” meant born on American soil, therefore, a U.S. military base or a U.S. Embassy would qualify as American soil. I may teach geography but befopre I saw the light I was a history guy and it was my impression that the “foreign born” part was added to keep Alexander Hamilton out of the presidency. He made a lot of enemies and he was born in the Caribbean. He might have been the most disliked of the founding fathers.

April 1, 2008 at 1:20 pm
(20) Ilyas Ansari says:

I think McCain can run for the election since he was born in 1936 as “American citizan”.

April 2, 2008 at 10:25 am
(21) Colin says:

This is all a big settup for Shwarzy to come in and run. “Allah be back!” lol :)

April 11, 2008 at 2:19 pm
(22) Steve wittlake says:

Some people should do their research before voicing opinions. Article 2 Section 1 of Constitution lists 2 classes for President.
One lists natural born citizens born after Constitution was put into effect. None of these people would have been old enough to hold office until 1787 +35 year or probably much older before they had the political clout
to run for office. The other class lists citizens of the United States at time constitution was put into effect. George Washington and others were President up until
the 1840′s. George Washington was a citizen of the United States, a natural born citizen of Virginia and a natural born subject of Great Britain. It just depends on time frame you are talking about. Have not any of you people heard of the standard grandfather law cluase used in law.
The Canal Zone was not a territory of the United States. Look up the treaty Panama and the USA signed. The United States was permitted use of the land above and below the water. Another part lets the United States practice sovereignty as if it had jurisdiction. USA paid 250,000 dollars in Gold every year for use of Canal after paying a down payment of 10 million in gold. John McCain was supposed to have been born at the Coco Solo hospital. Could not have happened. Hospital was not built until 1941 on property USA seized from Panama supposedly to Protect the Canal by Executive Order of the President (Legal or not legal??)and John McCain was supposedly born at Colon which is and was Panamanian territory.
John McCain is a citizen under the term jus sanguines (Law of the blood line) but he is nogt a citizen under 14th amendment or jus soli (law of the soil) which would be natural born if he had been born in one of the 50 states.
I will have about 50 pages of absolute law
ready to go on the internet in about 10 days
with about 100 reference from library of Congress on the term natural born citizen of USA, natural born citizen of colonies and natural born subjects of Great Britain.

May 1, 2008 at 2:01 pm
(23) PanamaJohn says:

This is a very big issue that much of the popular press has dismissed. It is not generally a popular issue today, but if elected, a year from now, this issue will be bigger than ever. Those who would protest McCain’s presidency might use this. It is important to settle this before the election.

It would be an embarrassment for McCain to be sworn in by the Chief Justice of the SCOTUS and later have to objectively deal with the issue in court. It makes the 2000 election and the vote recount look like so much of nothing.

See more discussion at http://PanamaJohn.dominates.us/forum and take part.

July 7, 2008 at 4:33 pm
(24) honorthee says:

Beckie, you’re an idiot.

July 20, 2008 at 11:23 pm
(25) Jimm Johnson says:

According to John Westlake’s 1904 book on International Law. Childern born on foriegn soil to English soldiers were NOT “natural born.” If the U.S. constitutional recognition of “natural born citizens” is an extension of the accepted English common law definition of “natural born subjects,” it would seem that John McCain is not qualified.



August 14, 2008 at 1:22 pm
(26) dramaguru says:

This is not a stupid question, nor is it “preposterous” for any American to raise the issue of the constitutionality of any action. The only stupidity that exists in this forum is the stupidity of those who would call the question stupid. Debate respectfully. Your bad behavior reflects on you as well as on your candidate when he behaves as badly as you do.

August 24, 2008 at 1:51 am
(27) john blake says:

Mccain was not born in the Panama Canal. He claims he was born in Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone, but the Coco Solo Hospital was built in 1941. He was actually born in Colon, Republic of Panama. He is not eligible to be president. And definitely not mentally fit to be president.

And of his military experience, that only serves him to be more gong ho about always keeping us in a war. And will definitely take us into WWIII. And he will follow in Bush’s footsteps in all policy making. He is a danger to this country people.

McCain has written immigration laws and then claimed he didn’t. He does one thing today then backs out of it tomorrow. And goes wild when he is questioned about it. He has a very bad temper and a jekel and hyde personality. Maybe byproducts of his time as a pow, or he was born that way who knows.
Obama and Biden are the right combination, think for yourselves, don’t be fooled.

August 27, 2008 at 10:09 am
(28) Ron Harris says:

John, John, John. The hospital you mentioned was built in 1941 and it replaced the earlier facility that was used as a Naval Hospital. Gees, dude, get over it. McCain was born on a US Naval Base and that qualifies as being “natural born” unlike your Boy, the Big Zero, who no one really knows where he was born and if he is even a US citizen. They won’t produce the actual birth certificate, only a fake one. Hmmmmm.

October 6, 2008 at 11:40 am
(29) Miranda says:

You put down why McCain for president and dont have an answer.You need to get that posted or you won’t have any viewers.

October 6, 2008 at 11:49 am
(30) Crystal Wilson says:

I think you need to tell the truth about McCain.You are telling something you heard because I was watching TV one night and he told us about his life why he wants to become a president and what he wants to change in the world.If I were John McCain I would do something about are world and what is happening.I would say what is true if I were you.You can maybe say the wrong thing one day and get your self in some big trouble.You can just wait and see.

October 13, 2008 at 2:08 am
(31) judy baker says:

Since Obama was born in Kenya,(supposedly his mother tried to board an airplane in Kenya for Hawaii when she was close to birthing Obama and was not allowed due to the chance she might give birth inflight). She came to Hawaii with Obama in tow after his birth in Kenya and filled out the birth certificate application as if he were born in Hawaii, so McCain’s birthplace on a U.S. military installation is moot for this election if the Obama information is allowed.

October 21, 2008 at 5:49 pm
(32) hey says:

john mccain was born in the coco solo hospital in 1936 but the hospital wasn’t built until 1941. somebody please help me grasp how this works

November 4, 2008 at 5:10 pm
(33) Big Tom says:

if you go down to the public registry in Panama as I have, you will see that he was NOT in fact born in the Canal Zone..even though his birth certificate shows it so. He was born in a hospital off the base and outside the Canal Zone. I dont care either way..I dont have problem with him running for president. I dont question his loyalty to America. I do however question the loyalty of barack obama who was not born in the US either. I wrote in Ron Paul. but for the sake of this article…McCain…not a “natual born” citizen

December 8, 2008 at 12:22 pm
(34) Scott says:

My dad was a cold war USAF fighter pilot ( F-4 ) whom was killed in the line of duty. My brother and I were born on a european U.S. base and our sister born in Florida. Our mother, a school teacher, had always explained to us ( since we were school aged ) that my brother and I would never be able to run for president as a result of where we were born. However, my Florida born sister was informed that she was entitled to all rights a privileges of U.S. citizenship from the start and was eligible to become president. That kind of thinking messed with me and my brother’s mind, obviously. And, in some ways set the tone of how we identified ourselves as citizens ( not really… “complete” ). Nothing good about that. This issue needs to be corrected and placed in writing. Everyone is second guessing this concern. It’s huge.

July 25, 2009 at 9:52 am
(35) Linda says:

I’m just thinkinig here………A U.S. territory is NOT a United State, nor is the District of Columbia. If you want to split hairs on “natural born” could we not split hairs on territories verses State? That being the case, the United States is governed by a U.S. territory!!

June 23, 2012 at 2:10 pm
(36) Mike says:

The Constitution is very clear that one must be an “natural born citizen” of the United States. Natural born does NOT mean one can be born in a United States controlled territory, a military base overseas, an embassy or any other piece of land that is under U.S. rule, control or occupation. Period. There are no “yeah buts” “what abouts” or “well maybes”. It’s clear: you have to be born HERE, in this country.

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