If you question Ted Cruz’s right to be president, he just might go after your mother. That’s one of the many things we learned during a heated exchange between Cruz and GOP front-runner Donald Trump early in Thursday night’s Republican debate.
For the first six months of the campaign, Cruz and Trump appeared to be operating under a nonaggression pact. Then Cruz surpassed Trump in the Iowa polls, and the mogul suddenly remembered that his good friend was born in Canada. Since Trump has always had a deep scholarly interest in the constitutional requirements for presidential eligibility, he felt compelled to voice his concerns about the Texas senator’s qualifications for the Oval Office last week.
That prompted Fox Business Channel’s Neil Cavuto to ask Cruz whether he wanted to use this debate to “close this topic once and for all.”
Cruz proceeded to try and slam that topic closed as hard as he possibly could.
“Back in September, my friend Donald said that he’d had his lawyers look at this every which way, and they said there was nothing to this. Now since September, the Constitution hasn’t changed, but the poll numbers have,” Cruz said, with all the coldness of a true Canadian. “And I recognize that Donald is dismayed that his poll numbers are falling in Iowa. But under longstanding U.S. law, if an American citizen has a child overseas, that child is a natural-born citizen.”
In fact, the precise meaning of “natural-born citizen” remains unsettled law. So unsettled, that some have suggested its original intention might have been to limit presidential eligibility not merely to those born on American soil, but to those born of two parents who were themselves born on American soil. Cruz cheerfully noted the implications that such an interpretation would have for a certain reality star turned right-wing demagogue.
“Interestingly enough, Donald J. Trump would be disqualified because Donald’s mother was born in Scotland,” Cruz said, going on to note that Marco Rubio would also be disqualified under such a criterion.
Trump responded, as always, by focusing on what was truly important — his poll numbers. But after clarifying that he was, of course, still beating Cruz in all the classy polls, Trump explained that he didn’t care where the senator was born. Not personally, anyway. But he was concerned about how Democrats could exploit the vulnerability of Cruz’s northern birth — so concerned, that he felt he’d probably have to rule out picking Cruz as his vice-president when he inevitably wins the nomination.
“I’ll tell you what, if I win the nomination, I’ll consider you as VP,” Cruz replied. “And so, if you happen to be right, you can get the top job at the end of the day.”
The crowd loudly applauded this magnanimous compromise.