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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 05/20/2008

John McCain's Birthplace

By Michael Dobbs

Mother's Day Video.

"John McCain, widely reported to have been born in the Panama Canal Zone in the Coco Solo Naval Hospital, COULD NOT have been born in Coco Solo Hospital and probably wasn't born in the Canal Zone at all."
--News Busters blog, Feb. 21, 2008.

Some bloggers are questioning John McCain's right to run for the presidency on the basis of his birth in the Panama Canal Zone. They have produced "evidence" showing that that the hospital where the Arizona senator says he was born was not built until 1941--five years after McCain's birth. A review of the archival record shows that there was a small hospital at the Coco Solo submarine base in 1936 and also reveals the name of the U.S. Navy physician who signed McCain's birth certificate.

The Facts

I dealt with the constitutional debate on whether McCain is a "natural born citizen" in a previous post. (According to the Constitution, only "natural born citizens" have the right to run for the presidency.") The senator bases his eligibility claim on the fact that he was (1) born on a military base in the Panama Canal Zone at a time when it was effectively under U.S. sovereignty and (2) both of his parents were U.S. citizens.

As I reported earlier, the McCain campaign has declined to publicly release the senator's birth certificate. But a senior campaign official showed me a copy of his birth certificate issued by the "family hospital" in the Coco Solo submarine base. (McCain's grandfather commanded the Coco Solo Naval Air Station in 1936; his father was the executive officer of a submarine based in Coco Solo.)

The birth certificate was signed by Captain W. L. Irvine. I have now checked that name against the Naval Register for 1936, and I find that William Lorne Irvine was director of the medical facility at the submarine base hospital in Coco Solo, Panama Canal Zone, during that time period. You can see the entry here. I think this effectively disposes of any remaining doubts that McCain was born inside the Canal Zone.

The senator's 96-year-old mother, Roberta McCain, recalled the occasion in a Mother's Day video available here. She recalled "the 27 bottles of Scotch" stacked on a table of the nearby Officers' Club, gifts to her husband in celebration of the arrival of "the sweetest, nicest child I have ever known."

The Pinocchio Test

There is a valid constitutional debate about what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they decided that only "natural born" citizens should be eligible for the presidency. But there is no foundation for the rumors that have surfaced on the Internet that John McCain was born in the Panamanian city of Colon, rather than inside the U.S.-administered Panama Canal Zone.

(About our rating scale.)

By Michael Dobbs  | May 20, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  4 Pinocchios, History, Web Watch  
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Posted by: gmvje13tek | May 20, 2008 6:33 AM | Report abuse

Here is another gutless "Fact Checker". Nobody that matters is really debating this point. This is a non-issue.

On the other hand, -White House Official Slams NBC Over "Appeasement" Coverage- seem perfect for discussion.

Posted by: vcsmith | May 20, 2008 7:27 AM | Report abuse

Shouldn't you be giving McCain a Geppetto, rather than give the bloggers four Pinocchios? Seems like a rather negative way to say that McCain is legit to run for presidency.

Posted by: Dan | May 20, 2008 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Let me preface by saying that neither Sen. Clinton nor Sen. Obama were my 1st, 2nd, or 3rd choice for Democratic nominee.

Casual readers of the "Fact Checker" might assume, from its title and from its sponsorship by the Washington Post, that this blog is intended to be essentially neutral or non-partisan. But the reality is that Mr. Hobbs has a very strong pro-Republican bias. For many many weeks, the "Featured Item" has been "Top 10 Democratic Flip-Flops." Even though Sen. McCain's flip-flops have been multiple, ongoing, and well-documented (but not by Mr. Hobbs), there hasn't been a posting on "Top 10 Republican Flip-Flops" -- let alone a perennial running head -- since February.

There have been considerably more than twice as many "fact checks" on Sens. Clinton and Obama than on Sen. McCain or the Bush Administration, and the "fact checks" on Sen. McCain have primarily been on non-issues, such as the precise circumstances of his birth. Just this past week alone, there have been many vastly more substantive issues of Sen. McCain's campaign whose facts need to be checked -- and have been, but not by Mr. Hobbs. Mr. Hobbs chose to check the facts about Rev. Wright's claims, even though Rev. Wright is not running for anything. But inexplicably, except for bias, he has not bothered check the facts around the preachers, Mr. Hagee and Mr. Parsley, among others, whom Sen. McCain went out of his way to court.

"Media Matters" makes no secret of its leanings. The Fact Checker clearly does. It seems to me that Mr. Hobbs should award himself a good handful of Pinochio's. And perhaps he might consider either changing the title of his blog or covering both campaigns comparably.

Posted by: EdA | May 20, 2008 11:41 AM | Report abuse


I am a registered Independent, and it is obvious to me that Mr. Dobbs slams both sides. Could the fact that "Dems Flip Flops" or that they get more attention be based on their continued race, rather than some GOP bias. Dobbs has been dealing with all of the embarrassing McCain stuff too. I would be very surprised if McCain has much less than 1/3 of the "Fact Checker" threads since the first of the year.

Posted by: JakeD | May 20, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: JakeD | May 20, 2008 2:36 PM | Report abuse

LMGTS: Natural born means?

Sorry but I totally disagree with the authors assertions. "Natural born" is only referenced once in qualifications of elected Federal offices - ONCE - For President of the United States. Therefore, its a far stretch of the imagination to conclude that it means anything other than what it implies. BORN ON AMERICAN SOIL.


Certain rules apply to certain people one supposes.

History will bemadeifJohn MCCain becomes president - The only elected presdient NOT NATURAL BORN.

The bloggers have it half-correct.

In any case, Iam a registered Arizona Republican - LIFELONG and VET and I WILL NOT VOTE FOR MCCAIN.(More reasons exists than his place of birth - DIG DEEPER MSM- Deeper.)

Posted by: Lee GIABENELLI | May 20, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, JakeD,

If you look at your own list, you'll see how few and how old most of your cites are, with, realistically, only "Guilt by Association" (which was followed by a couple of columns on facts checked with respect to Rev. Wright, and nothing on McCain's own ministers of hate) and the join Clinton-McCain pander on the gas tax relevant and recent. And there is no excuse for not alternative Democrat and Republican "Top Ten Flipflops."


Posted by: EdA | May 20, 2008 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Well, that's not an exhaustive list, EdA. It was just the first 30 I could find. I will leave it to Mr. Dobbs to respond to your charges, if need be.

Posted by: JakeD | May 20, 2008 6:45 PM | Report abuse

"Natural born" refers to having US citizenship at birth as opposed to acquiring it through naturalization. A person can be born anywhere in the world to US citizen parents and still be a natural born US citizen.

Posted by: MM | May 20, 2008 9:41 PM | Report abuse

McCaine is so old... for his first birthday his parents gave him fire.

Posted by: pubichaironmycokecan | May 21, 2008 1:15 AM | Report abuse


Did you see the latest "Fact Checker" slamming McCain?

Posted by: JakeD | May 21, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Which one might that be JakeD...
The one about Israel "appeasing" Syria in Turkey...

Posted by: isupreme | May 21, 2008 1:07 PM | Report abuse

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