Words mean specific things, although it’s not always easy to determine just what. But when it is easy, yet confusion seems to abound, you can be sure there are agendas involved.
In that sense this is an important question. Not because it determines whether Ted Cruz is eligible to be president, but because it pertains to our ability to reason dispassionately and objectively, not focused on attaining a particular outcome, but rather on being correct and letting the outcome happen of its own accord, whatever that outcome might be.
The noise is deafening. That’s a lengthy article, and we don’t know much about Vox, but it’s also a troubling article in this sense: it speaks of “constitutional scholars” and being a citizen from birth and has highly suggestive little section headings like “The only definition of ‘natural born’ in US history would include Ted Cruz“, which of course concedes by implication that there are other definitions, and then those other definitions are never given, even though they are alluded to:
Scholars have looked at English precedents, US judicial decisions, bills, and congressional debates to figure out what the meaning of “natural born” is supposed to be and how (if at all) it’s changed over time. But while some scholars have maintained that the evidence supports a narrow meaning of “natural born” — one that wouldn’t include Ted Cruz — more of them agree that the evidence supports a broader one.
What is the “narrow meaning” of “natural born” they are referring to? They don’t say.
Here’s one argument they make, but it’s wrong:
The majority of constitutional law scholars who’ve written about the meaning of “natural-born citizen” have agreed that if a court were to rule on the question, it ought to rule that someone born outside the US but eligible for citizenship through parents counts as “natural born.”
One of the key arguments in favor of this point is that while there is no longer any law defining “natural born,” there used to be one — way back in 1790. The Naturalization Act of 1790 explicitly said that “the children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural-born citizens.”
See the problem? It would not be necessary to pass a law saying that children “…that may be born beyond sea…shall be considered as natural-born citizens” unless they weren’t considered natural born citizens before the law was passed. And the article doesn’t go there, and that appears to be deliberate misdirection.
We have no horse in the presidential race. In fact we are pretty agreeable to Ted Cruz, not that he’s in any sense “our man” for the White House. But we do have a stake in the honesty race: honest argument can advance reason and truth; dishonest argument can undermine both.
So this worries us. We had to travel to some obscure corner of the web to find a worthwhile and honest article dealing with the question at hand. Without quoting at length – indeed we encourage readers to click the link and read the article for yourself – here’s the essence of it:
When the US Constitution was written, the “natural law” that dealt with issues such as nationality and allegiance to a sovereign was called “the law of nations.” Modernly, we call this “international law.” In 1789, the preeminent codification, description and explanation of “the law of nations” was a work written by Emerich de Vattel, entitled THE LAW OF NATIONS, or principles of the law of nature applied to the conduct and affairs of nations and sovereigns. The Founders were not only familiar with de Vattel’s treatise, they relied on it extensively when they wrote laws and Constitutions (of their respective States, not just the Federal one.)
In Section 212 of de Vattel’s treatise, he states the following:
§ 212. Of the citizens and natives.“The citizens are the members of the civil society; bound to this society by certain duties, and subject to its authority, they equally participate in its advantages. The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens. As the society cannot exist and perpetuate itself otherwise than by the children of the citizens, those children naturally follow the condition of their fathers, and succeed to all their rights. The society is supposed to desire this, in consequence of what it owes to its own preservation; and it is presumed, as matter of course, that each citizen, on entering into society, reserves to his children the right of becoming members of it. The country of the fathers is therefore that of the children; and these become true citizens merely by their tacit consent. We shall soon see whether, on their coming to the years of discretion, they may renounce their right, and what they owe to the society in which they were born. I say, that, in order to be of the country, it is necessary that a person be born of a father who is a citizen; for, if he is born there of a foreigner, it will be only the place of his birth, and not his country.”
We are not opponents of Ted Cruz’s presidential candidacy. We greatly prefer him to front-runner Trump.
But we are forced to conclude that he is not constitutionally eligible to be president because he is not, by any rational or honest definition, a “natural-born citizen”.
Going one step further, we are agreeable to the proposition that the constitution should be amended to delete references to “natural-born citizen” and that any citizen should be eligible for the presidency. But we are not agreeable to the obfuscation and pettifoggery of self-anointed “scholars” on this point, or any other political agenda dressed up as “interpretation” or “argument”.
Words have meaning, and this is simply not a difficult call.