Just like those questions over Barack Obama’s eligibility to be president that dogged him during and after the 2008 campaign, the same questions are being raised over and over again now about one of the GOP’s leading contenders, Sen. Ted Cruz.
The latest to join the inquisition of Cruz was Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican whose own credentials were questioned during his run against Obama for the White House in 2008.
AP reported McCain argued this week that such questions are reasonable.
On a talk show in Phoenix on Wednesday, McCain said, “I think there is a question. I am not a constitutional scholar on that. But I think it’s worth looking into. I don’t think it’s illegitimate to look into it.”
The facts for Cruz are that he was born in Alberta, Canada, to an American mother and Cuban father, and he gave up any claim to Canadian citizenship in 2014.
Cruz has responded that it is “settled law” that a child born to a U.S. citizen, even if they are abroad at the time, is “natural born citizen,” as required by the U.S. Constitution.
McCain himself was born on a U.S. military base, where his father was in service in the Panama Canal zone, which was raised as an issue during 2008.
At the time, the U.S. Senate approved a nonbinding resolution stating, “Whereas John Sidney McCain, III, was born to American citizens on an American military base in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936: Now, therefore, be it resolved, that John Sidney McCain, III, is a ‘natural born citizen’ under Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution of the United States.”
Obama, then a senator, supported the resolution.
The Cruz campaign hit back at McCain Thursday, with communications director Rick Tyler suggesting the senator is just trying to boost Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. “I imagine that the Gang of Eight will stay together and he’ll be for Rubio, so … why not help?” he told Fox News, referencing the 2013 “gang” that worked on an immigration reform bill.
Pro-Cruz super PAC Keep the Promise 1 also said in a statement: “As Cruz rises in the polls, his opponents are looking for anything to stop his momentum. Raising a matter of law shows there is nothing else to attack him on, and that he’s gotten into their heads. Let’s end these sideshows and get back to talking about who is going to restore peace and prosperity to our nation.”
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was removed from that leadership post by the results of the House elections, said she wasn’t expert enough on the Constitution to answer whether Cruz is eligible or not.
One issue is that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused, despite repeated requests to rule on the fight, to get involved.
Just earlier this week, Republican front-runner Donald Trump raised the issue about Cruz, saying, “Republicans are going to have to ask themselves the question: ‘Do we want a candidate who could be tied up in court for two years?’ That’d be a big problem. It’d be a very precarious one for Republicans because he’d be running and the courts may take a long time to make a decision. You don’t want to be running and have that kind of thing over your head.”
Trump also had supported questions into Obama’s eligibility back in the day, even opennig the door to the idea Obama was born in Kenya and his birth registered in Hawaii to allow him the advantages of American citizenship.
Among the dozens of lawsuits that were brought against Obama, few arguments challenging his eligibility were missed. One even contended that Obama was occupying the Oval Office as an illegal alien in the country.
Some of the legal challenges alleged Obama was not born in Hawaii, as he insists, but in Kenya. Obama’s American mother, the suits contend, was too young at the time of his birth to confer American citizenship to her son under the law at the time.
Other challenges focused on Obama’s citizenship through his father, a Kenyan subject to the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom at the time of his birth, thus making him a dual citizen.
The cases contend the framers of the Constitution excluded dual citizens from qualifying as natural born. Several details of Obama’s past have added twists to the question of his eligibility and citizenship, including his family’s move to Indonesia when he was a child and on what nation’s passport he traveled to Pakistan in the ’80s, as well as conflicting reports from Obama’s family about his place of birth.
But rather than answering definitively, the Obama campaign, and then White House, repeatedly obtained orders from judges based on side issues, such as standing, to shut down inquiries.
Eventually, Obama’s White House provided a document it claimed was his official birth certificate from the state of Hawaii, only to be met immediately by accusations that it was forged.
The only official law-enforcement review of Obama’s documentation, done by Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, concluded that there is probable cause to believe the White House document is a fraud.
His investigators said it appears Hawaiian officials engaged in a systematic effort to hide Obama’s records, and although they said there was a person of interest in the forgery, that person never was identified.
Interestingly, even years after the challenges mostly faded from the headlines, Obama still has yet to release many of the ordinary documents valued by presidential historians, such as his passport records, kindergarten records, Punahou school records, Occidental College records, Columbia University records, Columbia thesis, Harvard Law School records, Harvard Law Review articles, University of Chicago articles, Illinois State Bar Association records, Illinois State Senate records and schedules, medical records, an Obama/Dunham marriage license, Obama/Dunham divorce documents, a Soetoro/Dunham marriage license and adoption records.
Trump actually had raised the issue of Cruz’ eligibility nearly a year ago. At the time, before he announced his own campaign, he said, “Well, he’s got, you know, a hurdle that nobody else seems to have at this moment,” referring to the Canadian birth. “It’s a hurdle and somebody could certainly look at it very seriously. He was born in Canada … if you know … and when we all studied our history lessons … you’re supposed to be born in this country. So I just don’t know how the courts would rule on it. But it’s an additional hurdle that he has that no one else seems to have.”
Section One, Article Two 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.”
But the document doesn’t define “natural born citizen,” and the Supreme Court has never clarified it.
“The origins of the Natural Born Citizenship Clause date back to a letter John Jay (who later authored several of the Federalist Papers and served as our first chief justice) wrote to George Washington, then president of the Constitutional Convention, on July 25, 1787,” wrote Sarah Helene Duggin, professor of law and director of the Law and Public Policy Program at Columbus School of Law at Catholic University of America, in a 2013 post for the National Constitution Center.
She went on: “At the time … framers worried about ‘ambitious foreigners who might otherwise be intriguing for the office.’ … [So] the natural-born citizenship language appeared in the draft Constitution the Committee of Eleven presented to the Convention. There is no record of any debate on the clause.”
Still, Duggin wrote, “it is reasonable to conclude that the drafters believed that foreign-born children of American parents who acquired citizenship at birth could and should be deemed natural born citizens.”
That’s the consensus of most modern-day legal analysts, wrote Ben Brody of Bloomberg in a March 23 piece titled, “Yes, Canadian-Born Ted Cruz May Run for President.”
Byron York at the Washington Examiner noted that the controversy also touches Sen. Marco Rubio, who was born in Miami but whose parents were not yet citizens. He wondered whether there will now be a court ruling.
“Until there is a court case, there is no absolutely definitive definition of ‘natural born citizen.’ Which means that for the moment, the argument is as much political as it is legal. Which is not the best news for Cruz, who not only has rivals on the campaign trail – Donald Trump set off this controversy by saying Cruz’s situation could be a ‘big problem’ for the Republican Party – but enemies in the Senate as well.”
He continued, “Will the question finally be settled by Cruz? Will there be a court case in the heat of the campaign?”
Following McCain’s interview on the issue, Trump tweeted: “It was a very wise move that Ted Cruz renounced his Canadian citizenship 18 months ago. Senator John McCain is certainly no friend of Ted!”
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