Springtime for birthers

A few days ago I wrote about the surprising discovery that Tea Party darling and Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, now strongly hinting at a presidential run in 2016, was born in Canada to an American mother but a Cuban immigrant father who was not a US citizen.

The birthers who have been waging a futile quest to delegitimize president Obama by saying that the ‘natural born citizen’ requirement for the position of president and vice president take the extreme position that only those people who were born in the US to parents who were both US citizens at the time of birth meet that threshold. (The actual law says something quite different.) So at least in the birthers’ eyes it would seem that Cruz strikes out.

But it turns out that he is not the only one with a birther problem. Another potential candidate Marco Rubio, Republican senator from Florida, was born in the US in 1971 to Cuban parents who came to the US in 1956 but became naturalized citizens only in 1975. This article goes into great detail as to why Rubio is ineligible. This is not because of standard birther reasoning but apparently because when he was born he had dual citizenship with Cuba and the US under both country’s constitutions and thus did not have allegiance only to the US.

Then we have Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal. His parents came to US as immigrants from India just six months before he was born. So his mother was pregnant when she came to the US and that makes him one of the right-wing’s much-despised ‘anchor babies’, popularly assigned to babies whose pregnant mothers deliberately came to the US to deliver. The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as “a disparaging term for a child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially when the child’s birthplace is thought to have been chosen in order to improve the mother’s or other relatives’ chances of securing eventual citizenship”, though some restrict the term to just children born to undocumented immigrants.

So will the birthers use the forensic skills they honed in their opposition to Obama to try and torpedo Cruz, Rubio, and Jindal as well? Or is their ire reserved only for Democratic candidates? After all, John McCain was born in Panama and we did not hear much of a fuss about that in 2008. But McCain’s father was in the US navy and he was born in the Panama Canal Zone which at that time was under US control, so maybe he got a pass for that reason.

It may be that the birthers will be quiet about these three candidates. Political partisans tend to be quite willing to jettison principles in order to support candidates they like. For example, conservative evangelical Republicans praise ‘traditional values’ and see unwed motherhood as a sign of moral degeneracy. But they abruptly changed gears when Sarah Palin’s daughter was revealed to be pregnant. Suddenly that fact was praised as showing that it demonstrated that Palin was a ‘real American’ dealing with the kinds of issues that ordinary people faced. Similarly many Democrats who condemned Bush’s violations of civil liberties suddenly became apologists for those same actions when Obama did them.

But it will be fun to see how the party deals with these birther issues. I would not be surprised if the other putative Republican candidates Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, and Rick Santorum bring it up covertly. Rick Santorum may be tempted to do so since he is the oldest and desperate to be president and may feel that 2016 is his last chance.

But the best chance of this happening is if Donald Trump decides that he wants to be the outsider businessman candidate, 2016’s version of Herman Cain. He is crazy enough to say and do anything just to draw attention to himself.

So I think we should urge Donald Trump to run for president in 2016! Run, Donald, run!


  1. slc1 says

    Actually, Trump’s mother was a citizen of Great Britain at the time of his birth so, under birther rules, he isn’t eligible either.

    In some fairness, the whacknutdaily site has been questioning Rubio’s eligibility.

  2. Uri says

    McCain’s case was a little different, since there is legitimate legal doubt about whether he was born a citizen. The Michigan Law Review had a symposium on “birther” issues in 2008, and the dubiousness of McCain’s claim to natural born citizen status is evident from the contributions. Gabriel Chin, a law professor at the University of Arizona, made a pretty plausible case against McCain’s eligibility here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract-id=1157621

  3. Trebuchet says

    My understanding is that there are specific laws covering McCain’s situation as a child of military personnel serving overseas.

    The birthers, of course, will ignore Cruz, Rubio, and Jindal because none of them are socialist-commie-nazi-Muslims. Or, of course, black.

  4. Uri says

    According to the Chin paper, McCain’s type of situation was indeed covered by law, but that law was passed about a year after he was born. The law conferred citizenship on him retroactively, but it’s doubtful whether that makes him a natural born citizen.

  5. Trebuchet says

    I don’t know, Jindal is pretty dark complected.

    That’s a good point. He’s also Roman Catholic, which as far as many fundies are concerned isn’t even Christian.

  6. Mano Singham says

    I think that as long as you toe the line on the issues dear to social conservatives, they will overlook his Roman Catholicism. After all, Romney’s Mormonism wasn’t as big a deal as it was once feared.

  7. Chiroptera says

    Political partisans tend to be quite willing to jettison principles in order to support candidates they like.


    Except that the birther nonsense about Obama was never based on pricnicple to begin with.

  8. Mano Singham says

    I think they would say they were driven by their desire to uphold the constitution.

  9. slc1 says

    Just to further confuse the issue relative to McCain, it is not clear that he was actually born in the Canal Zone. There is some evidence that he was actually born in a hospital in Panama adjacent to the Zone.

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