(Ted Cruz | Source: Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)
Citizenship has become the hot topic in Washington this summer, with the firefight over immigration reform and with the news that 1,800 Americans have renounced their U.S. citizenship rather than reveal their secret Swiss or Cayman Island banks accounts and with the story that Senator Ted Cruz isn’t really American …
Back up: Ted Cruz? The Texas Senator? C’mon, surely he’s an American citizen.
Well, yeah, Cruz is an American citizen but last week, several Republicans went all “birther” on Cruz, a Tea Party Republican, because his natural-born American mother gave birth to the future senator up north, where his Cuban-born father was working for oil wildcatters in Calgary, Canada.
|Texas Senator Ted Cruz is eligible to become president for the same reason Barack Obama was. Will that be enough for Donald Trump and the birthers? Don’t count on it.
And, lo, that has created a new breed of neo-birther who says that maybe, just maybe, Cruz just isn’t enough of a citizen to be president: this cabal includes Donald Trump, Geraldo Rivera and, most importantly, Ann Coulter, who happens to be an honors graduate from one of America’s top law schools.
OK, much as I like messing with the terminally stupid, here’s the spoiler alert! Rafael Edward Cruz is every bit as American as Barack Hussein Obama, and both completely fulfill the constitutional requirements to be president.
Let’s start with Obama: if you rightfully ignore the many birther theories that defy both logic and the space/time continuum, the facts are insanely simple: Obama was born on American soil to a natural-born American mother. Q.E.D.: Obama is both a citizen and the rightful president. And by logic of birtherism, Obama has a stronger case than Cruz.
To understand this, you have to go back to the very first birther, Alfred P. Hinman, a flunky for the Tammany Hall Democratic machine of New York City, who wanted to smear the Republican’s 1880 nominee for vice president, Chester Arthur.
Long story short: while Arthur’s mother was a natural-born American, the law at the time only gave citizenship rights to dads. (With women’s suffrage, this would be fixed to give citizenship to anyone born to a natural-born parent of either sex.)
Yet even though Arthur’s dad was a naturalized American, Arthur claimed he was born in Vermont, so it didn’t matter. Except Himan claimed Arthur was really born at his aunt’s house in Canada in 1829, which was almost certainly false but there was no way to disprove it: the only witnesses were dead and Arthur could only produce an easily forged church record. After all, federal laws requiring birth certificates weren’t passed until 1902 and issuing one didn’t become mandatory until 1946.
So when an assassin’s bullet made Arthur president in 1881, opponents pushed the Canada story by creating the urban myth that the “Constitution requires a president be born on American soil,” a lie many believe to this day.
Yet even in the 1800s, it had been settled that anyone born on U.S. soil or in Indian Territory or overseas to natural-born parents had the right to run for the presidency. That was the case with Barry Goldwater (born in the Arizona Territory) and George Romney (born in Mexico to American citizens.) So for the most part, the right of citizenship extends to persons born overseas to at least one natural-born parent.
Settled for the most part: remember the last ditch effort to derail John McCain’s Republican nomination in 2008? It was silly, because he was clearly eligible by virtue of his birth on a military base to natural-born parents in the Panama Canal Zone.
As for Ted Cruz, his mother didn’t have dual citizenship, his parents didn’t apply for Canadian benefits, nor did they put down the wrong citizenship on Cruz’s Canadian birth records. And for good measure, the Cruz’s re-affirmed their son’s citizenship when they returned to Texas. And Cruz has flatly declared that he has paperwork to prove he’s A-OK, born in the US of A.
Then again, even if Cruz produces a legal document would the neo-birthers believe it?
Peter Lindstrom is a political consultant and researcher. He lives in Washington, D.C.