My interview on Iowa radio about the “natural born Citizen” controversy.
The topic was Ted Cruz and the “natural born Citizen” controversy.
For my prior analysis, which is referred to in the radio discussion, see my September 3, 2013 post, natural born Citizens: Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz. In the past 2.5 years, many people have sent me complaints and supposed analyses of things I missed; I track those down and not a one has persuaded me one iota that my analysis was wrong.
As I said in that post:
I also am not trying to “win” the argument. I have no intention (hah!) of getting into the endless argument streams this topic engenders, where for every answer there is a new obscure historical reference or convoluted theory until someone gives up. There are some things you just can’t “win” on the internet, and this is one of them.
Yet it sickens me the way Donald Trump and Ann Coulter have demagogued the issue. They may be successful in creating doubts in voters’ minds; that’s the nature of propaganda, it sometimes works.
Here are excerpts from my interview; the full audio is at the bottom of the post:
“… the words are important, because what’s not in the Constitution is a term which has been frequently used historically of ‘native born’ citizen…. The fact that the term ‘native born’ is not a requirement I think is extremely significant because it signals that had the Framers wanted to require that only somebody born within the territory of the United States could be president, they could have very easily the term ‘native born’ citizens.”
“… when it’s unclear what a phrase [in the Constitution] means, you do look to whether there was a common understanding based on British common law of a particular term because it’s presumed that the Framers were familiar with British common law at the time they framed the Constitution. The problem is, British law was not clear on the subject…. Britain didn’t have the term ‘natural born Citizen,’ it had the term ‘natural born Subject. And if we’re going to say that words matter, then you can’t simply say that ‘natural born Subject’ is synonymous with ‘natural born Citizen.” But even if you did, Britain had, depending on which colony they were in, depending what point in history, they used many different definitions of who would become a ‘natural born Subject’ of the King. And that included both territorial; but it also included parental lineage… So in looking at British law, both common law and statutes, it doesn’t give us a clear answer as to what this term means.”
… So what I can say fairly definitively was that the was no clear and common understanding of British law on the subject of who would become a natural born Subject as it related to territory because British law provided in different places in the world and at different times many different standards. So we have a term in the Constitution that is not explained in the Constitution, is not explained — no matter what anybody will say and cherry pick a case here or cherry pick something there, is not explained by British law.
But to me looking at the text, what could ‘natural born Citizen’ mean, other than you gained your citizenship through birth. I’ve never heard a logical explanation of what that term could mean other than you gain your citizenship through birth…. [there is] no identifiable, demonstrable alternative definition [from the Framers themselves]. So we’re in a situation where people are just literally taking theories about what it means.”
“I’ve written on this. This is an argument you can’t win with people because every time this comes up they’ll pull some obscure historical reference, you just can’t win it. But just because you can’t win it, because people keep pulling stuff out, and then it takes them five minutes to put it out there [but] takes you five days of research to prove that they’re not right and by the time you’ve done completing your research they’ve come up with some new obscure historical reference …, I have gone through all of the major arguments … and they are pure speculation, there is nothing substantive they can point to.”
“That’s why I come to the conclusion, because I am somebody who takes seriously the wording of the Constitution and the intent of the Framers seriously, and that should be what we look to, you have a text which I think suggests that someone who gains citizenship through birth is a ‘natural born Citizen’, you have nothing that anybody can point to that’s other than rank speculation that it means something else, and therefore I don’t believe that we should be excluding people from running who appear to be qualified based upon the plain terms of the Constitution based upon hypothetical, speculative theories…. I don’t believe it’s a serious question ….”