The race for president is going to feature a new media sport: “Cruz Crushing.” Yesterday’s announcement by Ted Cruz that he is running unleashed a vat of vitriol and skepticism about the Texas senator.
Cruz is fair game, and certainly his filibuster that became part of the 2013 government shutdown was tactically questionable. But is it is surprising how much he rattles fellow Republicans into joining liberals in questioning his qualifications.
Representative Peter King, a New York Republican who is himself considering going the 2016 field, was first out of the gate grabbing anti-Cruz airtime. He first issued a written statement saying “Shutting down the federal government and reading Dr. Seuss on the Senate floor are the marks of a carnival barker not the leader of the free world.”
That was catnip for CNN, which promptly invited King on to expand on his sneers. He didn’t disappoint, claiming that Cruz was a “counterfeit” conservative. (King’s voting record has been rated at an average of 53 percent “conservative” the last three years by the non-partisan National Journal). King went on to claim that Cruz “has shown no qualifications, no legislation being passed, doesn’t provide leadership and he has no real experience. So, to me, he is just a guy with a big mouth and no results.” Asked if he could support Cruz should he win the GOP nomination, King replied “I hope that day never comes. I will jump off that bridge when we come to it.”
Donald Trump then phoned in to Fox News to say he doubted that Cruz could legally run for president because he was born in Canada in 1970, when his father was working in the oil industry. “It’s a hurdle; 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 are supposed to be born in this country, so I just don’t know how the courts will rule on this.”
Trump, who, like King, is also threatening to run for president, should know better. Legal experts and lower courts have long held the view that people in Cruz’s situation are eligible to run for president if they are born to an American citizens, as Cruz’s mother was. (His father was a legal U.S. resident at the time.) Other examples include former presidential candidates John McCain (born in the Panama Canal Zone) and George Romney (Mexico).
In tact, a recent Harvard Law Review article features a prominent Republican and a prominent Democratic lawyer making that argument. Here is Paul Clement, the solicitor general in the George W. Bush administration, and Neal Katyal, a former acting solicitor general in the Obama Justice Department, on this point:
“Despite the happenstance of a birth across the border, there is no question that Senator Cruz has been a citizen from birth and is thus a ‘natural born Citizen’ within the meaning of the Constitution.”
Cruz himself formally renounced the Canadian citizenship he belatedly learned he had acquired by reason of his birth there in 2014: “Nothing against Canada, but I’m an American by birth and as a U.S. senator, I believe I should be only an American.”
I doubt such facts will stand in the way of talk-show hosts from rehashing the issue of Cruz’s citizenship or inviting on Cruz’s potential Republican competitors to trash him. On one level, it’s refreshing to see political correctness cast aside and see Cruz criticized so openly despite his Hispanic heritage. On another level, I wonder if the media would be quite as eager to give the critics a platform if the candidate they wanted to trash was a liberal Democratic Hispanic.