The NY Times Presents: John McCain, Disqualified at Birth -- the Sequel

July 11th, 2008 1:04 PM

Here they go again: Today the New York Times ran yet another flaky story questioning the presidential eligibility of John McCain, born in 1936 in the Panama Canal Zone, where his Navy father was stationed.

Back on February 28, Congressional reporter Carl Hulse wrote a big story on the "controversy," even though Hulse himself admitted little was likely to come of it. The Senate later approved a resolution declaring McCain eligible for the presidency.

Law reporter Adam Liptak's story today, which led the paper's National Section, ran under the hopeful headline, "A Hint of New Life to a McCain Birth Issue," and detailed findings from a Democratic college professor allegedly showing McCain unable to satisfty the constitutional requirement of being a "natural-born citizen."

In the most detailed examination yet of Senator John McCain's eligibility to be president, a law professor at the University of Arizona has concluded that neither Mr. McCain's birth in 1936 in the Panama Canal Zone nor the fact that his parents were American citizens is enough to satisfy the constitutional requirement that the president must be a "natural-born citizen."

The analysis, by Prof. Gabriel J. Chin, focused on a 1937 law that has been largely overlooked in the debate over Mr. McCain's eligibility to be president. The law conferred citizenship on children of American parents born in the Canal Zone after 1904, and it made John McCain a citizen just before his first birthday. But the law came too late, Professor Chin argued, to make Mr. McCain a natural-born citizen.

"It's preposterous that a technicality like this can make a difference in an advanced democracy," Professor Chin said. "But this is the constitutional text that we have."

Several legal experts said that Professor Chin's analysis was careful and plausible. But they added that nothing was very likely to follow from it.

"Nothing" but a meaningless, but prominently placed, 900-word story to further chip away at John McCain's stature. (The Times has yet to bring up Internet rumors about the validity of Obama's birth certificate.)