A morsel from the spin room after last night’s debate. Trump is making a prudential argument, I take it, not a legal one since there’s zippo in the Constitution barring senators from holding dual citizenship, which Cruz did until 2014. In fact, Article I explicitly permits someone to become a senator even if they haven’t been an American citizen since birth: “No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the age of thirty years, and been nine years a citizen of the United States and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state for which he shall be chosen.” Until now, Trump has maintained the ruse that he’s talking about this subject only because he fears those dastardly Democrats will exploit the cloud over Cruz’s “natural-born” status to challenge his eligibility for the presidency once he’s nominee. Here, though, he’s finally owning it. No Democrat is going to sue Cruz for holding his Senate seat. The point of this comment is to question, pretty overtly, whether Cruz was/is a fully loyal American who could be trusted to do what’s best for Texas and the United States instead of for Canada when he was elected as a dual citizen to his seat in 2012. When he said the “bromance is over,” he wasn’t kidding.
I don’t agree with the conventional wisdom that Cruz destroyed Trump with his Birther rebuttal last night either. He gave as good an answer as it was possible to give, but talking about this subject for any reason is a losing battle for Cruz. Most voters won’t care; some voters will care but may side with Cruz after hearing his defense last night. In that sense, as a matter of stopping any bleeding, his rebuttal to Trump at the debate surely did him some good. A few voters, though, are only hearing about this now thanks to Trump raising it and have decided that it’s an issue no matter what fancy legalese Cruz deploys to try to spin it away. Unless you think there are voters who will choose Cruz over Trump because they’re irked at Trump for bringing it up, the issue is pure win for Trump: It’s purely a question of how many or how few votes Cruz will lose because of it. New from Reuters:
A quarter of Republicans think White House hopeful Ted Cruz is disqualified to serve as U.S. president because he was born in Canada to an American mother, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll found.
Republican voters nearly mirror independents and the broader electorate in their belief that Cruz cannot hold the White House, with 27 percent of all voters and 28 percent of independents responding he should be disqualified…
Only 47 percent of all voters surveyed responded that they thought Cruz is qualified to be president with regard to his citizenship, with 26 percent saying they were not sure.
That was taken before the debate. Assume that 10 percent of Iowa’s Republican electorate is trying to decide right now between Trump and Cruz, and further assume that they have the same rate of people who believe Cruz is disqualified — 25 percent — as Republicans and independents nationally do, per Reuters. That’s 2.5 percent of the caucus vote. The margin between Trump and Cruz in RCP’s poll average of Iowa as I write this is 0.4 percent. You still think Cruz is the big winner from that long exchange on his eligibility in front of a national audience last night?
There’s an irony to all of this, though. See if you can spot it in this hypothetical from Orly Taitz in BuzzFeed’s story about Obama Birthers taking up their new project of challenging Cruz’s eligibility:
Taitz also dismisses critics of birthers who say their complaints are trivial, saying that Article Two was included in the Constitution for national security.
“Let’s imagine the wife of Ayatollah Khamenei comes to the U.S. and gives birth here, then takes the kid back to Iran,” Taitz said. “The kid comes back to the U.S., resides here for 14 years, and is over 35 years old. He would become citizen. This child would have allegiance to another country but could still run for president. You wonder which side he’s gonna be on.”
She thinks the same can be said of a potential child by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.
If we’ve got 51 percent of Americans ready to hand the nuclear launch codes to Khamenei Jr after a life spent in Iran, we’re past the point where the Constitution can save us. That’s how I think a court would rule on any ambiguous case of “natural-born” eligibility — side with the candidate in deeming him eligible and let voters render the final verdict on whether he’s loyal enough to the United States to be trusted with the presidency. The fact that this issue is being raised in the primary, thanks to Trump, is a vindication of that approach. Why do you need a court to decide whether a candidate is sufficiently loyal to America when you could have the electorate do it instead?