Cruz is qualified

tedcruz3Ted Cruz, who may now be the Republican front-runner, is constitutionally qualified to be president of the United States. The questioning of this is rather silly and based mostly on a flagrant misunderstanding of the Fourteenth Amendment.  That is not to say that there is no room for debate on this point at all. The question has never been resolved in court, but the meaning is fairly clear.

The actual qualifications are nothing to do with the Fourteenth and are set out in Article II. They are simply that the president must be a natural born citizen (or a citizen at the time the Constitution was adopted), at least 35 years old and at least 14 years resident. It is the phrase “natural born citizen” that has caused some dispute. But one thing is clear: it cannot be a reference to the Fourteenth Amendment, because that was not adopted until 1865, by which time 16 presidents had already been elected. The Fourteenth is the only part of the Constitution which refers to someone’s place of birth.

Clearly, the phrase “natural born citizen” is to be read as contrasting with the qualifications for Congress defined in Article I: Representatives must be at least seven years a citizen and Senators at least nine. This mean that naturalized citizens – such as Arnold Schwarzenegger – are not qualified to be president. Ted Cruz, who was born a US citizen, but whose mother happened to be in Canada at the time, is a natural born citizen. 

What the Fourteenth does is specify that everyone who is born in the US is a citizen. This is a sufficient qualification, but not a necessary one. It is sufficient to include people such as Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, whose parents were living in New York when he was born, but it does not exclude Americans born abroad. The context of the Fourteenth, of course, was preventing Democrats in Congress or the states from defining citizenship to exclude black people or people descended from slaves.

The notion that the phrase “natural born citizen” has some meaning independent of the laws Congress passes to define citizenship is bizarre. Article II refers back to Article I, not forward to an amendment that would not even be proposed for almost 80 years.

Congress has consistently – since the First Congress, which included many of the Founders – defined Americans born abroad as citizens.

Still, the Cruz birther conspiracy theory is different from the Obama (or Chester A. Arthur) conspiracy theories. The Supreme Court has never ruled on the meaning of “natural born citizen” and the legal opinion that it excludes people born abroad is eccentric, but not actually insane. The Obama conspiracy theory is based not on the law but on fantastical and imaginary facts: the claim that he was born in Kenya or Indonesia and not in Hawaii as all the documentation shows. In Obama’s case, because his mother had not lived in the US as an adult and his father was not a citizen being born in the US was a necessary condition for citizenship as well as a sufficient one. In the case of Cruz it is not necessary. 

Ted Cruz meets all the constitutional qualifications to be president. Whether he is suitable is a question for another time.

qlQuentin Langley is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Bedfordshire Business School as well as a freelance columnist published in the UK and all parts of the US. He blogs on social media and crisis communications at brandjacknews.com

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