The Curious Case of the Ted Cruz Birthers

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Ted Cruz birthers are like classic birthers in that they deny reality, which is that the freshman Texas senator meets the constitutional requirements to be president. They are not like classic birthers in that they are not seeking mythical documents that will prove Cruz was born outside America since Cruz has already confirmed he was born in Canada. says Cruz can't be president "because the law of Canada made him a citizen of Canada by BIRTH." The ObamaReleaseYourRecords blog notes, "What complete madness to suggest someone born in another country is a 'natural born Citizen' of the United States and eligible to be POTUS."

Unlike the President Obama birthers —who believe he was born in Kenya and his parents faked his birth certificate and his birth announcement — the facts of the case are not in dispute. What is in dispute is the law of what makes a "natural born Citizen." As The National Review's Eliana Johnson explains, Cruz's mom was born and raised in Delaware, making her an American citizen, and thus, by federal law, making Cruz an American citizen at birth. The Constitution requires the president to be a "natural born Citizen." Legal scholars agree that means a citizen at birth, as opposed to one who was naturalized, which is someone who immigrated to the U.S. and became a citizen later in life.

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This opinion is not good enough for the Cruz birthers but it is good enough for many of the birthers who rejected it when it was applied to Obama. King Birther Donald Trump has not decided whether he's a Cruz birther. Trump tells The National Review that he has "not studied his situation." Still, Cruz is "very different" from President Obama, because Cruz "has been very candid and open about his place of birth and his background." This would be a novel criteria to constitutional eligibility. But there's also another way Cruz's background is also very different than Obama's: Obama was born in America.

In 2011, there were both Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal birthers. The Atlantic Wire found some tepid Mitt Romney birthers back in May 2012, when the campaign released his birth certificate because like Obama Romney's father was born outside the U.S. Those birther complaints were different than the ones about Cruz — instead of disputing where a politician was born, the birthers say the politicians' parents weren't natural born American citizens, so their children cannot be natural born citizens, no matter where they were born. (The Fourteenth Amendment says if you're born here, you're a citizen, no matter where your parents were born.)

This helps distill the essence of birtherism: it's a maleable argument that people with weird last names should be disqualified from office on the basis of an aura of foreignness. It crosses party lines. But it's not new. In 1972, Jesse Helms campaigned for Senate against North Carolina Rep. Nick Galifianakis (born in Durham, N.C., and uncle to Hangover star Zach) with the slogan "Elect Jesse Helms: He's One of Us."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.