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Jewish World Review
Feb. 29, 2008
/ 23 Adar I 5768
NYT grasping at straw thinks they're darts; Buckley v. Cunningham
The New York Times, apparently having learned nothing from the adverse reaction to
its story hinting, without a shred of evidence, that Sen. John McCain may have had
an affair eight years ago with an attractive lobbyist, tried another tack in its
effort to derail the presumptive Republican nominee.
The Times published Thursday a lengthy story questioning whether Sen. McCain is
eligible to run for president because he was born in the naval hospital in what was
then the Panama Canal Zone.
"The question has nagged at the parents of Americans born outside the continental
United States for generations," wrote reporter Carl Hulse.
No it hasn't. The Constitution specifies that "no person except a natural born
Citizen... shall be eligible to the Office of President." That clearly eliminates
naturalized citizens such as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (born Austrian)
and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (born Canadian).
The Constitution does not further define "natural born Citizen." But a law passed
by the first Congress, in March, 1790, did: "The children of citizens of the United
States, that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States,
shall be considered as natural born citizens of the United States."
What this means is that if both of your parents are U.S. citizens, you are a
"natural born citizen" no matter where in the world you are born. No one questioned
the right of George Romney to run for president in 1968, though he had been born in
Current law (Section 1401 of Title 8, Chapter 12) extends birthright citizenship to
"a person born outside of the United States or its outlying possessions" under
certain conditions to a person only one of whose parents is an American citizen.
Both of Sen. McCain's parents were American citizens, and the Panama Canal Zone at
the time of his birth was an "outlying possession" of the U.S. Case closed. But to
nail the lid even tighter, Congress passed a law making anyone born in the Panama
Canal Zone automatically a U.S. citizen. This was a redundancy in the case of Sen.
McCain, who already was a citizen by virtue of his parents' citizenship. It was
meant to apply to the children of non U.S. citizens who were born in the Canal Zone,
in the same way that anyone born in Pennsylvania or Maine is an American citizen,
regardless of the nationality of his or her parents.
Apparently the editors of the New York Times believe that if they keep slinging mud,
some of it will stick. But this nothingburger makes the lobbyist story seem
substantive by comparison. I wait -- more with mirth than with trepidation -- to
see what the Times will try next, and how far its reputation will fall.
Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Those of us who drew our
inspiration from William F. Buckley, or claim we have, can honor his memory best by
trying our best to be like him.
Few of us can approach, much less emulate, his erudition, his charm, his raffish
wit. But we can emulate his manners. Bill contended without being contentious. He
attacked the ideas of liberals, not their characters.
The most distressing element of this presidential campaign for me has been the
extent to which so many conservatives have substituted name calling for political
argument. (Reading the threads on conservative Web sites is often like wading
through a sewer.)
Those on the right who make a cottage industry of being upset with John McCain are
upset with him now for apologizing for the remarks made by radio talk show host Bill
Cunningham before a McCain rally in Cincinnati. These consisted mostly of repeating
Sen. Barack Obama's middle name "Hussein" repeatedly, and insinuating he was a
crook, on the basis of evidence only the New York Times would consider substantive
(if, of course, Sen. Obama were a Republican.)
I think Barack Obama would be a terrible president because he has terrible ideas,
not because he's a terrible person. He seems anything but. He's winning the
Democratic nomination chiefly because he's so much more likeable than Hillary
Invective is not a substitute for argument. Rudeness is not a sign of toughness.
Sen. McCain (whose toughness has been vetted more thoroughly than that of any other
politician in the country) wants to run a civil campaign based on issues. It
appears Sen. Obama does, too. Most Americans would welcome that, and Bill Buckley
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