Via Mediaite and MFP, forget the legal niceties about what “natural born” might or should mean and look at this from a court’s perspective. Realistically, no judge is going to disqualify a national figure who stands a real chance of being the nominee of one of the two major parties unless the law leaves them no wiggle room to rule otherwise. Tens of millions of Americans would be willing to vote for Ted Cruz; to strike him from the ballot on a technicality in an ambiguous case would be momentously undemocratic. Against that backdrop, the Supreme Court would almost certainly end up reading “natural born” in the narrowest way, excluding anyone who was born abroad of two non-citizen parents but including everyone else. Cruz, who was born in Canada but whose mother was a U.S. citizen, would qualify, not only for the reason Ace gives here but more broadly because courts don’t want to be seen as hard-ass enforcers of what’s perceived by many to be an unusually archaic bit of the Constitution. They’ll dump a true foreigner because they have to. They don’t have to dump the son of an American citizen like Cruz, so they won’t. Take it to the bank.
But never mind that. Given the angst and ambiguity over the “natural born” clause in the last two cycles, why not pass an amendment to replace it with something like, say, a 25-year residency requirement? The point of the clause was to make sure that rich foreigners couldn’t cross the ocean and buy their way into the presidency, which wasn’t a baseless concern for a group of former British subjects who worried about loyalists to the throne subverting the revolution. In practice, though, it means that someone who’s born on U.S. soil but lives their entire life abroad, only to return and run for president decades later, is constitutionally more trustworthy than someone like Cruz who was born abroad but has lived his entire life here. Does anyone question whether Ted Cruz, decades later, might be more loyal to Canada than to the U.S.? Right at this moment, House Republicans are gearing up to pass a variation of the DREAM Act that would grant citizenship to illegals who were brought here at a young age by their parents on the theory that the place where you’re raised is more likely to shape your patriotic loyalty than the happenstance of your birth. If those kids are trustworthy enough to help decide at the polls who the president should be, why shouldn’t they be eligible for the presidency themselves? In a democracy, the president is, or should be, drawn from the citizenry. People who take certain draconian disqualifying actions, like committing felonies, are an exception, but what action has Cruz taken? Replace “natural born” with a residency requirement, which gives people the power to prove their loyalty, and you solve that problem.