The Slatest

Ted Cruz and Donald Trump Exchange High-Energy Gibberish About Whether Ted Cruz Is American

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz at Thursday night’s Republican debate in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters

Is Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada to an American mother, eligible to be president under the “natural born citizen” clause of the Constitution? Almost certainly! He’s definitely been an American citizen since birth, and also for God’s sake let’s not do this whole thing over again. But that hasn’t stopped Donald Trump and other high-caliber trolls from suggesting this week that Cruz might face legal challenges if he were elected. Fox Business anchor Neil Cavuto brought the subject up at Thursday night’s debate in South Carolina—setting off a Cruz-Trump exchange that was highly entertaining if not necessarily highly relevant to our country’s future given that, again, Cruz has been an American citizen since birth.

Cruz’s direct response to the question:

I recognize that Donald is dismayed that his poll numbers are falling in Iowa. But the facts and law here are really quite clear. Under longstanding U.S. law, the child of a U.S. citizen born abroad is a natural born citizen. If a soldier has a child abroad, that child is a natural born citizen. That is why John McCain, even though he was born in Panama, was eligible to run for president. If an American missionary has a child abroad, that child is a natural born citizen. That is why George Romney, Mitt’s dad, was eligible to run for president even though he was born in Mexico. 

At end of the day the legal issue is quite straightforward—but I would note that [under] the birth theories that relying on, one of the more extreme ones, you must not only be born on U.S. soil but have two parents born on U.S. soil under that theory, not only would I be disqualified, Marco Rubio would be disqualified, Bobby Jindal would be disqualified, and interestingly enough, Donald J. Trump would be disqualified. Because … because … Donald’s mother was born in Scotland.

Burn! (Although, as Trump pointed out, he himself was born in the United States.) It went on for a while, with Trump admitting openly that he’d brought the issue up because Cruz’s poll numbers had gotten a little better and both candidates eventually offering each other the vice presidency. Good times, good times.

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the GOP primary.