Green Room

Is Ted Cruz eligible to be president?

posted at 12:20 pm on January 8, 2013 by

Alternate headline: “Liberals to discover strange new respect for ‘Natural Born’ Clause circa 2016/2020.”

The newly sworn-in Texas senator and rising Republican star was born in Canada, to a mother who was born in Delaware and Cuban father. That’s triggered a debate about whether he’s eligible for the nation’s highest office — nevermind that he’s been in Congress less than a week.

While there’s no legal precedent for Cruz’s situation, most constitutional scholars surveyed by POLITICO believe the 42-year-old tea party sensation would be OK. But there’s just enough gray area to stoke controversy, as Cruz learned during his campaign for Senate last year…

“Ted is a U.S. citizen by birth, having been born in Calgary to an American-born mother,” said Cruz spokesman Sean Rushton, who declined to elaborate on the matter, saying his boss is focused on his work ahead in the Senate…

“He’s a birthright citizen but his birthright citizenship derives from his parents, and the question is, does that fit with the definition of natural born citizen?” added University of Pennsylvania law professor Kermit Roosevelt. “I think it does.”

Why should the presidency uniquely be limited to natural-born citizens when other important government positions aren’t? Give me an argument on the merits, not just “because the Constitution says so.” As a measure of loyalty, the Natural Born Clause is weak; there are plenty of naturalized citizens whom I’d trust to act in America’s interest before I’d trust certain natural-borns. And as far as I know, virtually every other sensitive federal job — Congress, military, intelligence — is open to U.S. citizens who were born elsewhere. Why would you be willing to promote a guy to, say, four-star general or director of national intelligence irrespective of birthplace but not to C-in-C?

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