There’s been a controversy… well, not “raging,” but always there in the background, about whether Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, and Governor Bobby Jindal are eligible to serve as President of the United States based on the Constitution’s “natural born” clause. It’s the modern version of the controversies surrounding the candidacies of Barack Obama and John McCain. Heck, it’s been “in the air” since the presidency of Chet Arthur (1), who was accused of being born in Canada.
I’ve always assumed these men (and McCain and Obama) were eligible, since it seemed like the most reasonable reading of the Constitution and the Framers’ intent. But, I’ll also admit the question does not avail itself of clear, bright-line answers. Well, today at Legal Insurrection, William Jacobson takes a long look at the eligibility question and concludes that, given the preponderance of law, logic, and constitutional theory, the three men in question are, by a reasonable standard of interpretation, eligible, and that the burden of proof lies with their opponents. Here’s an excerpt from his introduction:
The arguments that the term “natural born Citizen” excludes Rubio and Jindal (because their parents were not citizens) or Cruz (because he was born abroad to a citizen mother only) at most raise doubts. Those doubts, however, never rise anywhere near the level of making the case that Rubio, Jindal and Cruz are excluded. Most of the counter-arguments are historical conjecture, at best, and rely on speculation not connected to the text of the Constitution or any demonstrable actual intent or understanding of the Framers.
In the circumstance of candidates who appear to qualify based on the text of the Constitution and the traditions upon which “natural born Citizen[ship]” is believed to derive, and as to whom there are at worst some doubts raised, I believe the proper constitutional outcome is to leave the issue to the political process. To exclude apparently eligible candidates based on speculation as to what the term “natural born Citizen” might have meant is no better, and I would argue much worse.
Remember, these are merely eligibility requirements, not requirements that a person be elected. It would be consistent with the Framers’ demonstrable concerns to consider loyalty to the United States as a political factor, even if not absolutely legally disqualifying. If you don’t trust the loyalty of a candidate because of how he or she became a “natural born Citizen,” don’t vote for the person.
Like I said, it’s a long post, but well-worth your time if you’re interested in the topic.
(1) Or, as I like to refer to him, “the great Chester A. Arthur.”