Chris Matthews was, if possible, smugger than usual last night as he gleefully lambasted "Canadian anchor baby" Sen. Ted Cruz and the "homeschooling" Iowa Republicans who plan on voting for him.
Matthews essentially latched on to Cruz birtherism – the argument that the Texas Republican, born in Alberta, Canada is not constitutionally eligible for the presidency – to challenge constitutional conservatives to either abandon Cruz or to forsake the notion that the Constitution should be interpreted according to original intent.
"[D]on't those who answer no, who say it's not a violation of the founders' intent have some explaining to do?" Matthews asked, sneering:
Are you listening in Iowa? Are the teachers listening? Are the homeschooling parents listening? Isn`t this a tricky lesson to teach our people, that what the writers of the U.S. Constitution clearly intended should be dismissed?
I thought conservatives believed in a strict reading of our founding documents, especially the Constitution, which binds the states together. And don't Justice Antonin Scalia and those who follow him and the Supreme Court who believe in original intent, see that it's crystal clear that when the founders said natural-born, they meant just that. And why I have to ask people who believe so religiously and solemnly that the right to bear arms means just that, now flinch from reading natural-born to mean just that, natural born.
So, I put it to the good Republicans of Iowa, the question: Do you believe in the United States Constitution or is it a reference guide to be used when helpful and convenient, left in the drawer at the public library when it gets between you and picking the right wing candidate now at the top of your political shopping list?
In Matthews' [small] mind, there quite simply IS no case that original intent is on Cruz's side on the question. But, in fact, there IS such a case to be made, and two former U.S. solicitors general – one who served President George W. Bush, the other President Obama – made it in the Harvard Law Review back in March 2015, shortly before Cruz kicked off his campaign. Essentially they argued that English common law at the time of the framing of the Constitution, plus the first-ever federal naturalization statute under the U.S. Constitution, are perfectly clear as to what a natural-born citizen is and that, yes, Ted Cruz fits the bill (emphases mine; footnotes omitted but accessible at link here):
The Constitution directly addresses the minimum qualifications necessary to serve as President. In addition to requiring thirty-five years of age and fourteen years of residency, the Constitution limits the presidency to “a natural born Citizen." All the sources routinely used to interpret the Constitution confirm that the phrase “natural born Citizen” has a specific meaning: namely, someone who was a U.S. citizen at birth with no need to go through a naturalization proceeding at some later time. And Congress has made equally clear from the time of the framing of the Constitution to the current day that, subject to certain residency requirements on the parents, someone born to a U.S. citizen parent generally becomes a U.S. citizen without regard to whether the birth takes place in Canada, the Canal Zone, or the continental United States.
While some constitutional issues are truly difficult, with framing-era sources either nonexistent or contradictory, here, the relevant materials clearly indicate that a “natural born Citizen” means a citizen from birth with no need to go through naturalization proceedings. The Supreme Court has long recognized that two particularly useful sources in understanding constitutional terms are British common law and enactments of the First Congress. Both confirm that the original meaning of the phrase “natural born Citizen” includes persons born abroad who are citizens from birth based on the citizenship of a parent.
As to the British practice, laws in force in the 1700s recognized that children born outside of the British Empire to subjects of the Crown were subjects themselves and explicitly used “natural born” to encompass such children.These statutes provided that children born abroad to subjects of the British Empire were “natural-born Subjects . . . to all Intents, Constructions, and Purposes whatsoever." The Framers, of course, would have been intimately familiar with these statutes and the way they used terms like “natural born,” since the statutes were binding law in the colonies before the Revolutionary War. They were also well documented in Blackstone’s Commentaries, a text widely circulated and read by the Framers and routinely invoked in interpreting the Constitution.
No doubt informed by this longstanding tradition, just three years after the drafting of the Constitution, the First Congress established that children born abroad to U.S. citizens were U.S. citizens at birth, and explicitly recognized that such children were “natural born Citizens.” The Naturalization Act of 1790 provided that “the children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens: Provided, That the right of citizenship shall not descend to persons whose fathers have never been resident in the United States . . . ." The actions and understandings of the First Congress are particularly persuasive because so many of the Framers of the Constitution were also members of the First Congress. That is particularly true in this instance, as eight of the eleven members of the committee that proposed the natural born eligibility requirement to the Convention served in the First Congress and none objected to a definition of “natural born Citizen” that included persons born abroad to citizen parents.
The proviso in the Naturalization Act of 1790 underscores that while the concept of “natural born Citizen” has remained constant and plainly includes someone who is a citizen from birth by descent without the need to undergo naturalization proceedings, the details of which individuals born abroad to a citizen parent qualify as citizens from birth have changed. The pre-Revolution British statutes sometimes focused on paternity such that only children of citizen fathers were granted citizenship at birth.The Naturalization Act of 1790 expanded the class of citizens at birth to include children born abroad of citizen mothers as long as the father had at least been resident in the United States at some point. But Congress eliminated that differential treatment of citizen mothers and fathers before any of the potential candidates in the current presidential election were born. Thus, in the relevant time period, and subject to certain residency requirements, children born abroad of a citizen parent were citizens from the moment of birth, and thus are “natural born Citizens.”
There are plenty of serious issues to debate in the upcoming presidential election cycle. The less time spent dealing with specious objections to candidate eligibility, the better. Fortunately, the Constitution is refreshingly clear on these eligibility issues. To serve, an individual must be at least thirty-five years old and a “natural born Citizen.” Thirty-four and a half is not enough and, for better or worse, a naturalized citizen cannot serve. But as Congress has recognized since the Founding, a person born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent is generally a U.S. citizen from birth with no need for naturalization. And the phrase “natural born Citizen” in the Constitution encompasses all such citizens from birth. Thus, an individual born to a U.S. citizen parent — whether in California or Canada or the Canal Zone — is a U.S. citizen from birth and is fully eligible to serve as President if the people so choose.
Here's the complete transcript:
January 13, 2016
CHRIS MATTHEWS, teasing upcoming segments: …Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the problems facing that Canadian anchor baby from Alberta province. And there he is.
MATTHEWS: When we return, "Let Me Finish" with that Canadian anchor baby himself from Alberta province.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with that Canadian anchor baby from Alberta province.
Here's the lay of the land. Were Ted Cruz actually elected, he would be the first U.S. president born outside this country. In other words, from abroad.
Does this raise the question among American conservatives that this would violate the requirement of the founding fathers that to be eligible for the White House, you must be a natural-born citizen?
Let me put it to the Republicans of Iowa. Was it or was it not the intention of those who wrote the Constitution in Independence Hall back in 1789 that presidents be born in this country? And if so, would not the inauguration of a foreign-born person in that office be a strict but clear violation of that constitutional intention?
And don't those who answer no, who say it`s not a violation of the founders' intent have some explaining to do? Are you listening in Iowa? Are the teachers listening? Are the homeschooling parents listening? Isn't this a tricky lesson to teach our people, that what the writers of the U.S. Constitution clearly intended should be dismissed?
I thought conservatives believed in a strict reading of our founding documents, especially the Constitution, which binds the states together. And don't Justice Antonin Scalia and those who follow him and the Supreme Court who believe in original intent, see that it's crystal clear that when the founders said natural-born, they meant just that. And why I have to ask do people who believe so religiously and solemnly that the right to bear arms means just that. Now flinch from reading natural-born to mean just that, natural born.
So, I put it to the good Republican voters of Iowa, the question: Do you believe in the United States Constitution or is it a reference guide to be used when helpful and convenient, left in the drawer at the public library when it gets between you and picking the right-wing candidate now at the top of your political shopping list? It's getting near time to vote for the Constitution or what it quite clearly says quite clearly, or ignore what Al Gore calls an inconvenient truth. And pick the guy from Calgary, Alberta Province, Canada.
And that’s Hardball for now. Thanks for being with us.
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