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Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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A Defense For Ted Cruz: Founders Weren't U.S. Born Either

Aug 20, 2013
Originally published on August 20, 2013 5:54 pm

If Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) really wanted to put some positive spin on his birth in Canada, he could point out that none of the first seven presidents were born in the United States either.

Of course, that was because the U.S. didn't exist when presidents from George Washington through Andrew Jackson were born. They were all technically British subjects at birth. Martin Van Buren, born in 1782 in Kinderhook, N.Y., was the first president actually born in the U.S.

In any event, the news that Cruz, who was born in Calgary, Alberta, is renouncing his Canadian citizenship is a reminder that since the Revolutionary War generation of presidents, every president was born in a U.S. state.

[By the way, despite all the birther doubts about President Obama's place of birth in 1961, even if he had been born two years earlier in Hawaii — before Aug. 21, 1959, when Hawaii became a state — he still would've been a citizen of the U.S. Beginning in 1900, those born in the territory of Hawaii were automatically U.S. citizens.]

Cruz's situation rekindles a debate that surfaced during the 2008 presidential election about Sen. John McCain's eligibility to be president. McCain was born to U.S. parents but in the Panama Canal Zone, albeit on a U.S. military base.

A law professor who extensively researched the issue concluded that McCain, though a citizen, technically wasn't eligible to be president under the Constitution. But the consensus was that legally challenging McCain on such grounds would be a waste of time. That didn't stop some from trying.

Like McCain, Cruz is a U.S. citizen by virtue of having at least one parent — in Cruz's case, his mother — who was a citizen.

In that respect, Cruz, a Tea Party favorite, was more fortunate in his parentage, at least in terms of a possible White House run, than some other recent U.S. politicians with national prospects.

Jennifer Granholm, the Democrat and former Michigan governor, was born in Canada to Canadians. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor and former Republican California governor, was Austrian-born.

Back when he was a popular governor, which seems like a lifetime ago, there was talk of — and even legislation proposed for — a constitutional amendment to allow him or other immigrants to run for president. Schwarzenegger, as we all learned, turned out not to be the best poster boy for that cause.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.