The bizarre carnival act known as Donald Trump’s presidential run has taken another strange and pathetic turn. Oddly enough, Trump’s latest imbecilic attack upon his rival, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), could have some legitimate basis in constitutional law.
Trump is alleging that Cruz is ineligible to run for President because he was born outside the United States, in Calgary, Alberta. That means Cruz was technically a Canadian citizen as well as a U.S. citizen, although he renounced that status. Even though that sounds silly to a lot of people, there actually could be some legal merit to Trump’s argument.
Article II of the Constitution states, “No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States.”
Why Ted Cruz Might Not Be a Natural Born Citizen
The problem for Cruz here is that the phrase “natural born citizen” has never been defined for presidential eligibility. Is a natural born citizen a person born within the borders of the United States or somebody born outside the U.S. to American parents? The Supreme Court has never ruled upon that question.
Most Constitutional scholars believe that extends to persons born outside the U.S. to American parents. Unfortunately, that’s simply an opinion, not law, because the Supreme Court has never ruled on the issue. There simply is no legal precedent on presidential eligibility.
Constitutional lawyers think the Supremes would rule that Cruz is eligible because standard legal doctrine is that a person born outside the U.S. to American citizens is a natural born citizen. The problem is that the Court would have to rule on the issue or at least reject an appeal based on it for it to be actual law.
Strangely enough, the issue has never been seriously raised even though one other serious presidential candidate, U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), was clearly born outside the U.S. McCain was born in Coco Solo in the Panama Canal Zone, then a U.S. territory but now part of the Republic of Panama, where his father was serving in the U.S. Navy. Another legendary presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater, was born in Arizona before it became a U.S. state.
That’s part of the reason why McCain never pushed the birther issue against Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential race. Bizarrely enough, McCain, whose candidacy Trump backed, has also jumped on the birther bandwagon as a means of attacking Cruz. McCain apparently hates Cruz and is simply trying to sabotage his run.
So Who Is Eligible to Be President?
McCain and Trump are making the so-called birther argument that natural born citizen can only be defined as a person born within the United States. This argument is based on the belief that it was what the Founding Fathers intended when they wrote Article II to the Constitution.
The Founders probably included that provision because at least some of them were afraid that a member of a European royal family would move to the United States, get elected president. and try to declare himself king or emperor. This was not a hypothetical threat; it actually happened in Mexico under Maximillian I, a member of the Austrian imperial family. There were also some Americans in the late 18th century that wanted a member of the British royal family to serve as monarch of the United States.
Yet the provision was left deliberately vague, probably because the Founders realized that circumstances could change. They also left a loophole that made people like Alexander Hamilton, who was born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, eligible for President. Persons born outside the U.S. who were citizens before the Constitution was adopted such as Hamilton were eligible to run for president.
Therefore nobody knows if Cruz is eligible to run for president or not. The legal consensus is that he is, but nobody knows how the courts might actually rule on the issue.
Trump and McCain’s Racist Attack on Ted Cruz
Nothing proves how bizarre our politics have become. The candidate responsible for the TV ad above is being attacked for being an immigrant and a Hispanic.
What’s truly disgusting is that Trump and a distinguished U.S. Senator are making a thinly disguised racist attack on Cruz. They are trying to allege that Cruz, who is Hispanic and of Cuban heritage is not a “real American”; in other words, not white and not eligible to run for president. The same sorry attacks were used against Obama by Trump and other bigots a few years back.
Such attacks prove that Trump’s candidacy is in serious trouble and lacking any real substance. Hopefully this is the beginning of the end of the Trump carnival act. As for Ted Cruz, he’s probably relishing it because it shows he is now the front runner in the GOP contest.