Korwin: The founding fathers were specific in using "natural born citizen" in the Constitution. That means something.
Can just anyone be elected president of the United States?
No, of course not. Foreigners, for example, are not eligible.
The Constitution spells out the standards in Article II, Section 1: “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President.”
MY TURN: Yes, Cruz is eligible to be president
Words mean something
Article II distinguishes between "citizens" and "natural born Citizens." Although the Founding Fathers used language with extreme care, this is now raising a ruckus over who is eligible.
The answer, fortunately, is in the historical record. It’s not a logic problem, or a legal matter for courts as some people suggest.
At the time of America’s founding, Benjamin Franklin obtained three copies of "Law of Nations" by Emer de Vattel. A record of the acquisition still exists. It was the preeminent guide on the subject. Franklin brought one to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia for delegates to use, which they did.
From the record: “I am much obliged by the kind present you have made us of your edition of Vattel. It came to us in good season, when the circumstances of a rising state make it necessary to frequently consult the law of nations. Accordingly that copy, which I kept, has been continually in the hands of the members of our Congress, now sitting …” A letter from Benjamin Franklin to Charles Dumas on Dec., 9, 1775.
This book defines “natural born citizen” as a person born in a country, both of whose parents are citizens of the country at the time of birth. It was a clear three-part requirement: two citizen parents and native birth.
It allows for no foreign birth (jus soli) or parentage (jus sanguinis) in a person who is a natural born citizen. It’s distinct from ordinary citizenship. Article II recognizes the distinction, and includes exceptions for people alive “at the time of the Adoption,” since before the Constitution’s adoption everyone was a foreign subject.
From the record: “The citizens are the members of the civil society: bound to this society by certain duties, and subject to its authority, they equally participate in its advantages. The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens.” Excerpt from Vattel’s “Law of Nations.”
John Jay, who became our first Supreme Court chief justice, sent George Washington a letter confirming that the only way to ensure the U.S. presidency remains free of what today we’d call “foreign entanglements” was to limit eligibility to natural-born citizens.
Washington replied, thanking him for the advice. In editing the final version of the Constitution, the framers changed Article II from "citizen" to "natural born Citizen." Records of all this exist.
From the record: “Permit me to hint, whether it would not be wise & seasonable to provide a strong check to the admission of Foreigners into the administration of our national Government; and to declare expressly that the Command in chief of the American army shall not be given to, nor devolve on, any but a natural born Citizen,” John Jay wrote to George Washington on July 25, 1787.
There, in a nutshell, is the entire situation.
The meaning is clear
The idea that a court must speak because the Founders didn’t define the term is nonsense. It’s the same type of nonsense modern people created to undermine other fundamental elements of our Constitution. The Founders knew exactly what the term meant.
The presidency is the only office in our entire legal structure with this requirement. "Citizen" appears throughout our laws. "Natural born citizen" appears in only one place — as a requirement for the highest office in the land.
How foreign is too foreign? The Founders' proposed pedigree was absolute.