(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Born Citizen

Donald Trump must be feeling Ted Cruz nipping at his heels. Having at one time declared Cruz’s birth in Canada a nonproblem, Trump now professes himself troubled by the question of his eligibility for the presidency. Does Cruz’s birth on foreign soil render him something other than a “natural born Citizen” as required by Article II of the Constitution?

Trump now claims to have heard that Cruz’s foreign birth to an American mother may raise a constitutional problem. It could be a “very precarious” issue for Republicans. Hey, “people are bringing it up.”

He wouldn’t want Hillary Clinton to be able to discredit or the Democrats to disqualify him with it. He encourages Cruz to go to court and get a ruling from the federal courts: “You don’t want to be running and have that kind of thing over your head.” It may be too late to get this question resolved by November 2016! Trump expresses a touching concern for Cruz: “I’d hate to see something like that get in his way.”

Allahpundit traces the vagaries of Trump’s musings on the question. They go back 20 2013. There are a few twists and turns along the way.

Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother. If he was born an American citizen, as he was, rather than naturalized, he should be good to go. Neal Kaytal and Paul Clement have a definitive piece addressing the issue here, citing statutory and case law: “While some constitutional issues are truly difficult, with framing-era sources either nonexistent or contradictory, here, the relevant materials clearly indicate that a ‘natural born Citizen’ means a citizen from birth with no need to go through naturalization proceedings.” Nevertheless, I should add, contrary to the weight of scholarly opinion, the Heritage Guide to the Constitution credits the issue as serious: “the question remains whether the term ‘natural born Citizen’ used in Article II includes the parliamentary rule of jus sanguinis in addition to the common law principle of jus soli.”

Cruz himself cites Barry Goldwater, George Romney, and John McCain as precedents. This seems to me somewhat short of the mark. None was elected. If Cruz stands in this line it’s not exactly auspicious. It’s not much of an argument either.

In McCain’s case, Congress addressed the issue by a resolution in McCain’s favor. I’d love to get Cruz’s opinion on the efficacy of a congressional resolution to resolve the issue. (I doubt it.)

At the least, Trump’s treatment of the issue is transparent in a political sort of way. That is, Trump is talking like a garden-variety mealymouthed politician.

Last month before an Iowa audience Trump cast doubt on the evangelical bona fides of the candidates with Cuban parents (Cruz and Rubio). I found that unsavory in an extraordinary way. This attempted knock on Cruz is unsavory in an ordinary way, or so it seems to me.


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