While attending a recent GOP meeting in our rural eastern Oklahoma county, I was shocked to discover that we have a substantial number of normally common-sense Republicans who, while quite passionate in their political views, still appear not to understand the constitutional requirements to serve as president of the United States.
As a final item of business, the roughly thirty hardcore Republicans in attendance were asked who they would support if they were given the chance to select the 2016 Republican candidate for president of the United States. Small paper ballots were distributed and the attendees were asked to write in the name of their first choice for president.
It was no surprise that Donald Trump received eight votes, that Ben Carson received six votes, that Carly Fiorina received three votes, or that Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum, John Kasich, and several others received no votes. What was surprising was that Senator Ted Cruz tied Donald Trump with eight votes. In other words, twenty-six percent of the Republicans in attendance proclaimed that they would seek to nominate a man who… like Barack Obama, Bobby Jindal, and Marco Rubio… is not eligible to serve as president of the United States.
One can only concluded that they are either, a) people who have no concept whatsoever of why the Founders required that all candidates for president and vice president must be either natural born citizens or citizens of the United States at the time the Constitution was adopted, or b) people who have come to believe that two wrongs make a right… that, since Democrats have been allowed to twice nominate and elect an ineligible president, Republicans should feel free to do the same. If the latter is true, and they have convinced themselves that Democrats, having twice elected an ineligible candidate, would sit idly by and let Republicans get away with the same unconstitutional fakery, then they simply don’t know Democrats.
Those who support Senator Ted Cruz, Governor Bobby Jindal, or Senator Marco Rubio are either unimpressed by constitutional imperatives, or they are unaware that, in order for an individual to be a “natural born” citizen, both parents must be U.S. Citizens at the time of the candidate’s birth. When Ted Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on December 22, 1970, his mother was a U.S. citizen, but his father was a citizen of Cuba. When Bobby Jindal was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on June 10, 1971, both of his parents were citizens of India; neither was a naturalized U.S. citizen. And when Marco Rubio was born in Miami on May 28, 1971, both of his parents were citizens of Cuba; neither was as yet a naturalized U.S. citizen. Hence, none of the three are eligible to serve as president of the United States.
At the time the Constitution was being drafted in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787, a principal concern of the Framers was that the administration of the U.S. government should never be placed in the hands of an individual who might be, through environmental or parental exposure, subject to foreign ideological influences that are incompatible with our Constitution.
For example, in a July 25, 1787 letter from John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, to George Washington, president of the Constitutional Convention, Jay expressed his concern over the prospect of allowing an individual with any possibility of foreign allegiance to serve as president of the United States. He wrote: “Permit me to hint whether it would be wise and seasonable to provide a strong check to the admission of foreigners into the administration of our national government; and to declare expressly that the commander-in-chief of the American army shall not be given to, nor devolve on, any but a natural born citizen”
Later, on March 12, 1788, as an expression of the fear of foreign influence that motivated and inspired the Founders, Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper No. 68: “These most deadly adversaries of republican government (cabal, intrigue, and corruption) might naturally have been expected to make their approach from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?”
The “natural born” requirement was necessary because the Founders rightly understood that the most influential factor in a child’s upbringing is the parenting he/she receives as a child, and that the cultural, philosophical, political, and religious influence of a child’s parents fundamentally establishes the direction of his/her future intellectual development. Accordingly, the Framers limited access to the presidency and the vice presidency only to those who are “natural born.”
There is no better exemplar of that fear than the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania, Ave. Obama’s father, a citizen of Kenya, was a Muslim and a black African socialist; his mother was a radical left wing flower-child; his stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, was an Indonesian Muslim; his grandparents were far-left communist sympathizers; his teenage mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, was a well-known Communist and political propagandist; the people who were instrumental in launching his political career in Chicago were Weather Underground terrorists who had killed U.S. law enforcement officers; and his religious mentor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was an America-hater of the first order. There are many more anti-American activists who played significant roles in Obama’s intellectual development, so is it any wonder that he has promised to “fundamentally transform” the government and the culture of the greatest nation on Earth?
Taking into account the concerns expressed by Jay and Madison, it is easy to understand why the Founders produced a draft Constitution under which only two jobs in the entire United States… public sector and private sector combined… require the incumbents to be “natural born” citizens. Those two jobs are president and vice president of the United States. Those conservatives and Republicans who now choose to ignore the “natural born citizen” requirement of Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution are quick to suggest that Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, and Marco Rubio, each successful American political figures in their own right, would make far more capable presidents than Barack Obama. So why should they be denied the presidency?
Ted Cruz graduated cum laude from Princeton University with a B.A. in Public Policy in 1992. While at Princeton he was named U.S. National Speaker of the Year, winning the top speaker award at both the 1992 U.S. National Debating Championship and the 1992 North American Debating Championship. After graduating from Princeton, Cruz attended Harvard Law School, graduating magna cum laude in 1995. While at Harvard he was a primary editor of the Harvard Law Review and executive editor of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. In 1995, he served as law clerk for J. Michael Luttig of the United States Court of Appeals, and in 1996 he served as a law clerk for Chief Justice William Rehnquist of the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1999, Cruz joined the presidential campaign of Texas governor George W. Bush as a domestic policy adviser. Following Bush’s election, Cruz served as an associate deputy attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice and as director of policy planning at the Federal Trade Commission. After leaving the Bush administration, he was named Solicitor General of Texas, serving in that capacity until 2008. During his time as Texas Solicitor General he argued nine cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, winning five cases and losing four.
In March 2001, Governor Bobby Jindal was named Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Planning and Evaluation in the Bush Administration, serving as the principal policy adviser to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Following an unsuccessful campaign for Governor of Louisiana in 2003, Jindal sought the 1st Congressional District seat vacated by newly elected Senator David Vitter. He won the 2004 congressional election with 78 percent of the vote and won reelection to a second term in 2006 with 88% of the vote. Jindal served as president of the incoming freshman class in 2004 and was elected assistant House majority whip that same year, a position he held from 2004 to 2006. In 2007, Jindal was elected governor of Louisiana, winning 54% of the vote in a field of 11 candidates.
Senator Marco Rubio earned his B.A. degree in Political Science from the University of Florida in 1993, and his J.D. degree cum laude from the University of Miami School of Law in 1996. After graduation he served as a City Commissioner for West Miami, Florida, before being elected to the Florida House of Representatives in January 2000. He was named House Majority Leader in December 2002 and was elected House Speaker in September 2005. He left the Florida legislature on December 18, 2008 when he resigned to run for president of the United States.
By comparison, any of these three men are far better qualified for the presidency than Barack Obama was when he was elected in November 2008. Compared to Cruz, Jindal, and Rubio, Obama is not the Junior Varsity or even the Little League. Comparatively speaking, he was, and still is, a member of the Peewee League. Yet, in spite of the fact that he is not a “natural born” citizen, he was elected by low-information voters in 2008 and again in 2012.
However, those Republicans who argue that Cruz, Jindal, and Rubio must be considered because they are far more experienced than Obama, are missing the point. They fail to appreciate that, as eloquent and erudite as they were, the Founders were incapable of composing language that would have made capable and competent men such as Cruz, Jindal, and Rubio eligible for the presidency, while disqualifying incapable, inexperienced, and incompetent men such as Barack Obama. Accordingly, it was imperative that a single standard for the term “natural born Citizen” apply to all potential candidates for president and vice president, regardless of party or ideology.
If either Cruz, Jindal, or Rubio are nominated for the presidency or the vice presidency, legal scholars will one day look back on this era as a time when the U.S. Constitution was amended by fiat, without so much as a nod to the amendatory requirements of Article V of the Constitution.
Paul R. Hollrah is a retired government relations executive and a two-time member of the U.S. Electoral College. He currently lives and writes among the hills and lakes of northeast Oklahoma’s Green Country.