Ted Cruz is trying to nip Cruz birtherism in the bud by releasing his birth certificate and renouncing his Canadian citizenship — though the de-Canadaization process could take up to eight months. Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban father, so he is an American citizen. But that is not good enough for some birthers. The GOP's winking not-quite-embrace of birther movement and the nativism it represents is not without consequence. At the core of birtherism is the sense that an outsider has infiltrated the nation and clawed his way to illegitimate power in order to serve foreign interests. For a party that is worried about its standing with Latino voters, it's not a good look.
But don't take our word for it. Orly Taitz, long known as the Birther Queen, wove these two issues together seamlessly when we spoke to her about Cruz. Some people in Congress, Taitz said, are "pushing this huge amnesty" bill, which would offer a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that she says will cost Americans jobs. "They're saying, 'Trust us, we'll check E-Verify,'" Taitz says, "but they're failing to address the issue that Obama failed E-Verify."
Cruz is one of the most famous Latino Republicans in public office, and unlike fellow Latino Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, he hasn't infuriated the conservative base by supporting a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Even so, Cruz has to deal with suspicion from conservative voters that he's disqualified to be president because of where his dad was born.
"With Ted Cruz we have similar issues as we do have with Barack Obama," Taitz told us. She's focused on two problems: verifying the documents, and dual citizenship. Even if you believe President Obama's birth certificate and Social Security number are genuine — Taitz does not — you still haven't settled the problem of dual citizenship, she says. Obama's father wasn't an American citizen, therefore, she claims, Obama was also a British citizen at birth, and a Kenyan citizen at age 2. "There has been no decision by a court about whether someone who was a dual citizen at birth, and has split allegiance, is eligible" to be president, Taitz says. And that goes for Ted Cruz. Renounce his Canadian citizenship? So what? "How did he gain his American citizenship? He wasn't born in the United States of America… He inherited his citizenship from his mother. But at the same time his father was a citizen of Cuba."
Further, she asks, "If you renounce your foreign citizenship, is it enough?" She floats the idea of a Muslim Brotherhood member born in the U.S. with dual citizenship in a place like Iraq, who traveled to Iraq for some time and then came back the U.S. and renounced his Iraqi citizenship. Would that be good enough?
Ed Tower, a reader who had emailed The Atlantic Wire about Obama's birth certificate, had other concerns when we asked him about Cruz:
Not unusual to be born in a foreign country and have dual citizenship as my self, my daughter, Senator McCain etc etc. but to not realize and only denounce it when it becomes public knowledge seems disingenuous or display of ignorance. I would now move to investigate if he took advantage of Canadian banking laws.
Update 5:58p.m.: Reader Nick Walsh also responded:
My own personal opinion is that Cruz should not be taken seriously. I am forever baffled how these clowns create controversy in an effort to get themselves talked about. He does not qualify to be president in my opinion. The fathers of the constitution made that pretty clear in the language of the time. It is only sleeze-bag lawyers of today that want to make an issue of it.
When we spoke to Taitz, she sounded frustrated. She's annoyed that some reporters have referred to her as a dentist with a hint of derision. ("I'm a licensed dentist and a licensed attorney," Taitz said. "When people read about eligibility, they're not coming for dental work.") And it's not just the press that doesn't take birthers seriously. "Congress said 'it's not up to us,'" she complains, while the courts said it's up to Congress. State court said go to federal court, federal court said go to state court.
Indeed, those frustrations came through with other birthers I spoke to. Some sensed that implicit in my question was the suggestion that their attention to the birth certificate issue did not stem from a sincere concern about constitutional law, but something else. They did not like this. Reader Larry Johnson said:
I see that you still have your head squarely placed up your ass. So the issue is what? Ted Cruz released his birth certificate with no hesistancy? I'm not a Cruz supporter, but his conduct in this matter stands in stark contrast to what Obama did.
Cruz's status as a "natural born" American was and is a valid question. Unlike you, I don't pull my punches depending upon the political affiliation of the subject. You do.
Mickey Mathis, another reader, was especially upset:
Disgusting piece of human feces. You will lie, cheat, smear, intimidate, everything, to protect that illegal Marxist thug you helped put in the Oval Office to destroy this country from the inside. It is so laughable that you sewer slime have to already smear Cruz. So funny. Crawl back in the sewer you crawled out.
Mathis emailed a couple hours later to say:
I would say something else to you to, you piece of scum. At least Senator Cruz has a valid birth certificate, something your illegal thug can't even produce.
Pete Philips, another reader, felt The Atlantic Wire should have investigated Obama's background, not Cruz's:
Did Cruz seal ALL his college papers, did Cruz seal EVERYTHING about his life including which passport was used to exit the USA to go to Kenya or Pakistan, did Cruz Assume the Social Security Number of a deceased guy, did Cruz assume a SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER from a state where he NEVER lived, did Cruz have a grandmother who worked for the US Social Security Department, did Cruz have some identity during his school years where fellow students actually remember him as a class mate, did Cruz actually have a girlfriend or two during his schooling years? Did Cruz immediately release his birth certificate instead of holding off for a few years to then release one that is shrouded in doubt? No I had no doubt about Cruz’s citizenship, what I have a doubt about is your inability to do honest investigative reporting or your desire to even do so! I’m sure you have YOUR DOUBTS because he isn’t a liberal like you perhaps.
I surveyed chatrooms and comment sections for discussions of Cruz's release. Some thought it was plainly obvious Cruz is a citizen. Others were skeptical. But many were simply ambivalent — worried the Constitution might be subverted, but happy it might be subverted for the right person. "It’s not like anyone in Washington is going to force Obama to obey the law, so why make a good man like Cruz obey it," one commenter said on Free Republic. "America is doomed anyway." And here's a comment on TheRightScoop.com, which is not a birther site.
As much of a constitutional conservative as I am, in my opinion, we are at war. At war with the communist left that wants to dilute and destroy America. Rarely do those involved in war play by the rules - that does not mean we should disregard our Constitution, but if we are to take back this country and save it, we need to bend the rules a bit - use the left's weapons against them and hijack their narrative. You see, Cruz is the perfect candidate. The left had no choice BUT to deem him eligible because not deeming him eligible would mean that Obama is not eligible either - classic Catch-22.
You cannot attack Ted Cruz because of eligibilty - because you'd be a phony birther (by their own logic). You cannot attack Ted Cruz because he's Hispanic, that would make you a racist.
Over the last few years, many Republicans have flirted with birtherism — that is, the legalities of eligibilty for being president — without embracing the claim that President Obama was born in Kenya. By March 2011, 11 state legislatures were considering birther bills, which required more proof that presidential candidates were citizens. In August 2012, Mitt Romney joked, "No one asked to see my birth certificate." (This was not actually true. As The Atlantic Wire reported, there was a small contingent of Romney birth certificate skeptics since his father was born in Mexico.) Romney embraced Donald Trump, who fake-ran for president on the birther platform in 2011. Though the Republican National Committee tried to keep Trump out of its 2012 convention by giving him an award somewhere else, the RNC didn't repudiate him. Trump was a major draw at the Conservative Political Action Conference in March. He's a regular political pundit on Fox and Friends.
And Republicans haven't quite figured out how to deal with their birther voters at town halls. Oklahoma Rep. Markwayne Mullin was accused of supporting birtherism when he answered a question from a self-described "Birther Princess" earlier this month. (Mullin's staff said he is not a birther.) In Texas, Rep. Blake Farenthold suggested to a birther constituent that he sympathizes with her cause, but it's a lost one. "I think unfortunately the horse is already out of the barn on this, on the whole birth certificate issue," Farenthold said. "The original Congress when his eligibility came up should have looked into it and they didn’t. I’m not sure how we fix it."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.