Now that the gloves are off between the two and his greedy little fingers are free, Donald Trump is busy plucking flower petals over whether or not his longtime political bosom buddy Ted Cruz is actually an American citizen and eligible for the presidency, calling his citizenship “murky and unsettled.”
Seizing political strategy to undermine one’s opponent at all costs, Trump is now casting the Birther lot in Cruz’s direction, citing highly respected left-wing law professor Laurence Tribe in the process.
Why? Because Cruz was born in Canada, and while his mother was an American citizen, his father is Cuban. As a result, Trump posits publicly that Cruz may not be a “natural-born US citizen,” and hence, ineligible for the Oval Office.
Oh, the sweet, sweet irony, eh?
Tribe, interestingly, has ties to both Cruz and the former Birther target, President Barack Obama, too, having taught both politicians at Harvard Law School. In addition, he acted as an adviser to Al Gore in the midst of the 2000 Florida recount fiasco. Years later, he was also an adviser to Obama’s presidential campaign. Tribe’s been around the political block and his insight into whether Cruz is eligible to run for president bears some merit.
But, as Hunter Thompson once pointed out in a hilarious anecdote about Lyndon B. Johnson calling his opponent a “pig f*cker,” one does not need to prove his or her opponent is what one claims, but only put that question mark, that doubt or wonder, in their potential voters’ minds. Whether Cruz is or isn’t technically eligible to run for president, it is enough for Trump to put the doubt of his eligibility into potential Cruz voters’ minds, especially as the nation approaches the primaries, which is why Trump told the Guardian, “Despite Sen. Cruz’s repeated statements that the legal/constitutional issues around whether he’s a natural-born citizen are clear and settled, the truth is that they’re murky and unsettled.”
Trump uses the phrase “murky and unsettled” because Tribe has referred to Cruz’s eligibility for the presidency as “unsettled,” himself. Even as recently as Sunday, Trump echoed Tribe during a “Meet the Press” interview, underlining his point by referring to Tribe as a “constitutional expert, one of the true experts.”
Trump might as well have called Cruz a pig f*cker, too.
Following his “Meet the Press” interview, Sunday, Trump stated in a rally in Reno, Nevada, that Democrats would surely sue Cruz if he were to garner the Republican Party nomination in the primaries. He underlined his point furthermore by referring to himself as “a PhD in litigation,” adding the final jab that day that with Cruz’s presidential eligibility “[t]here is a doubt. We can’t have a doubt.”
Ironically, doubt is entirely what Trump is simultaneously attempting to raise in regard to Ted Cruz and his campaign. Trump builds it up, then says “We can’t have it.” He’s learning the political ropes fast.
As Raw Story points out, “Article II, section I, clause V of the US constitution states: ‘No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President.” With that definition of presidential eligibility in mind, Tribe points out Cruz’s own perspective on constitutional law regarding eligibility for the presidency, stating that “the kind of judge Cruz says he admires and would appoint to the [S]upreme [C]ourt – an ‘originalist’ who claims to be bound by the historical meaning of the constitution’s terms at the time of their adoption – Cruz wouldn’t be eligible because the legal principles that prevailed in the 1780s and 90s required that someone be born on US soil to be a ‘natural born’ citizen.”
Even having two US parents wouldn’t suffice for a genuine originalist. And having just an American mother, as Cruz did, would clearly have been insufficient at a time that made patrilineal descent decisive.
On the other hand, to the kind of judge that I admire and Cruz abhors – a ‘living constitutionalist’ who believes that the [C]onstitution’s meaning evolves with the needs of the time – Cruz would ironically be eligible because it no longer makes sense to be bound by so narrow and strict a definition.
Tribe concluded, “There is no single, settled answer. And our [S]upreme [C]ourt has never addressed the issue.”
Currently, Trump is trailing Cruz in the Iowa polls, so it’s entirely logical for him to attack Cruz in this manner, and virtually any other manner, as well. No one lives under the delusion that politics is played with any honor and civility. But, to back up his own argument of eligibility, Cruz has begun citing a bipartisan article from the Harvard Law Review by Neal Katyal and Paul Clement, two former solicitor generals. That pushback from Cruz, however, does not appear to be working very well, as both Rand Paul and John McCain are refusing to support him.
Cruz still has ol’ “Mittens” Romney in his corner, though, who tweeted Friday that Cruz is a “natural-born citizen.”
.@tedcruz is a "natural born citizen." Obama too. Even George Romney. This isn't the issue you're looking for.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) January 8, 2016
When Tribe was asked if he was shocked that a conservative presidential nominee would cite his work and professional opinion due to his being a leftist, Tribe responded, “What I find surreal isn’t that a Republican presidential candidate would favorably cite my legal conclusions, but that anyone should find that phenomenon so shocking.” Tribe went on to say:
The fact that I’m a lifelong liberal and a registered Democrat who taught constitutional law to President Obama (and, by the way, to Chief Justice Roberts and Senator Cruz) makes my citation by a likely Republican nominee for president surprising only because our political divisions have become so profound and so paralyzing that people no longer believe in the possibility of disinterested legal research.
That’s really sad.
Well said, Tribe, but these are, in fact, sad times, aren’t they?
Featured image via Flickr.