As the 2016 presidential election field takes shape, a small but zealously dedicated group of people is already arguing that Republican candidates (and potential candidates) are ineligible for the executive branch office because, they insist, these candidates are not natural-born U.S. citizens.
It’s largely the same people who have doubted and continue to doubt the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency.
Yes, America, in short: The birthers are at it again.
Arguments that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — both already officially Republican presidential candidates — are constitutionally barred from becoming the next president have cropped up in various nooks and crannies of the Internet in recent months.
Cruz was born in 1970 in the Canadian city of Calgary to a mother who was born in the United States and a father who was born in Cuba. Cruz’s father became a naturalized American citizen in 2005. He has officially renounced any claim to Canadian citizenship.
Rubio was born in Miami in 1971 to Cuban parents who immigrated to the United States in 1956. They became naturalized citizens in 1975. Rubio’s parents were legal U.S. residents when he was born.
Joseph Farah of World Net Daily has steadfastly asserted that Rubio is not eligible to be president. He says Cruz probably isn’t eligible, either, though for some reason he is less certain.
“I don’t think the founders intended for those holding dual citizenship at birth to be presidential candidates,” Farah opined in 2013, discussing Cruz. “After all, America has plenty of people who clearly meet the minimal eligibility requirements to be president. Do we really need to stretch them to the breaking point?”
In 2012, Farah appeared on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity” to declare that Rubio is ineligible to serve as vice president, saying the senator is “not a natural-born citizen. We’ve been through this with Obama now for four years.”
As recently as April of this year, WND noted that “others” question Rubio’s ability to run for president because he is “not even a natural-born citizen.” WND did not name these others.
Arguments in the same vein exist against potential candidate Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as well as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
Jindal was born in Baton Rouge, La. in 1971 to legal immigrants from Punjab, India. The couple had arrived in Louisiana six months before Jindal was born.
Haley, born in Bamberg, S.C. in 1972, also has Indian parents.
The arguments from doubters of the legitimacy of these four politicians to be elected U.S. president — and of Obama’s two-term presidency — are well-worn at this point.
With impressive frequency, the doubters post long opinion pieces online which look vaguely like court documents. Sometimes they actually create court documents. (RELATED: HERE WE GO AGAIN: Larry Klayman Just Can’t Quit Obama, Files ‘Deportation Petition’)
They also like to send emails to journalists.
“We all know to be president of the United States one of the minimal requirements is to be a Natural Born Citizen,” a typical emailer, George Fuller, has explained to The Daily Caller. (The penchant for Capital Letters is characteristic.)
“My lifelong understanding is the definition came from Vattel, the author of the book ‘Law of Nations,'” Fuller says.
Vattel is Emerich de Vattel, a Swiss-born bureaucrat who spent his life in obscurity and frequently broke, and who died in 1767.
“The Law of Nations” is Vattel’s treatise on international law and political philosophy. He wrote the book in French. It was published in 1758 — almost two decades before the formation of the United States and almost three decades before the existence of the current U.S. Constitution.
Vattel never visited North America. He spent much of his life working or waiting for foreign affairs jobs with highly monarchical governments in what is present-day Germany.
Nevertheless, it is this obscure European civil servant’s 257-year-old understanding of the term “natural-born citizen” upon which the current army of presidential eligibility arbiters heavily relies.
The term “natural-born citizen” is part of the U.S. Constitution. Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution requires that “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.”
The Constitution does not elucidate what “natural born citizen” means.
The Internet’s arbiters of eligibility who oppose some combination of Obama, Rubio, Cruz, etc. argue that “natural born citizen” can only have the meaning Vattel gave the term — in French, in 1758, while writing in a provincial Swiss town.
Precisely, they rely on § 212 of Vattel’s “Law of Nations.”
“The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens,” Vattel defines. “I say, that, in order to be of the country, it is necessary that a person be born of a father who is a citizen; for, if he is born there of a foreigner, it will be only the place of his birth, and not his country.”
In the section, Vattel makes no mention of mothers being or not being citizens, and no express mention that a child’s mother and father must both be citizens. He only expressly uses the singular word “father.”
But why is the Swiss bureaucrat’s (motherless) definition of “natural-born citizen” so important? It’s because, in 1775, Benjamin Franklin sent a cordial note to Charles W. F. Dumas, a European academic who assisted the American Revolutionary cause. In the brief note, the ever-diplomatic Franklin thanked Dumas heartily for sending him three copies of Vattel’s “Law of Nations.”
Then, at the end of the 391-word letter, Franklin, who was at the time readying for a revolution that desperately needed financing, got down to actual business: “We are threatened from England with a very powerful force, to come next year against us,” Franklin informed Dumas. “We are making all the provision in our power here to oppose that force, and we hope we shall be able to defend ourselves. But, as the events of war are always uncertain, possibly, after another campaign, we may find it necessary to ask the aid of some foreign power.”
Modern-day proponents of Vattel’s “natural-born citizen” definition also claim — with scant evidence — that other prominent founders swore by Vattel’s “natural-born” definition including John Jay, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.