Politics

12.31.13

Ted Cruz’s Canadian Panic

The Texas senator’s vow to renounce his dual citizenship by year’s end is just a taste of all the zany good fun a Cruz White House bid promises. So why can’t the Democrats run with it?

Exclusive excerpts from Sen. Ted Cruz’s list of New Year’s resolutions:

1. Start a petition to get White Castle served in the Senate dining room.

2. Hire Phil Robertson as a speechwriter for Dad.

3. Send Matt Bevin campaign $$.

4. Send R. Perry more back meds.

5. Enroll C. Christie in bacon-of-the-month club.

6. Commission a push poll about McCain’s having made up Hanoi Hilton story.

7. See if Heidi’s insurance policy covers verbal incontinence.

8. Officially renounce Canadian citizenship

Of all the early steps being taken by politicians eyeballing 2016—Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget deal, Hillary Clinton’s upcoming memoir, Sen. Marco Rubio’s hurling immigrants under the bus—none is quite as tantalizing as Cruz’s vow that, by year’s end, he will no longer be a dual citizen of our neighbor to the north. Not only does the move indicate that Cruz is getting oh-so-serious about throwing his Stetson into the presidential ring, it reminds us all of the zany good fun a Cruz White House run promises.

For those unfamiliar with Cruz’s origin story, the 43-year-old Texas senator is really a Canuck, born in Calgary during the region’s oil boom era. At the time, Ted’s mama, Eleanor, was an American citizen who hailed from Delaware. His daddy, Rafael, was a citizen of Cuba who had left his native land in 1957 on a four-year student visa—just a few years after a short stint fighting alongside Fidel Castro in the revolution. (Don’t worry: Later, the elder Cruz felt really bad about that and, even today, remains among the loudest, proudest red-baiters around.) He told NPR this summer that, after several years in Canada, he himself received Canadian citizenship, which he eventually renounced in 2005 to become a naturalized American. Asked by NPR why it took him so long to go full American, Papa Cruz explained, “I don’t know. I guess laziness or—I don’t know.”

As for why it’s taken his son so long to get around to de-Canadianizing, the senator claims not to have known about his dual citizenship until he read about it in the Dallas Morning News on August 18. As Cruz explained it, his mother once told him he had to claim Canadian citizenship to have it. And why on earth would he ever do that? In reality, Canadian citizenship, like American citizenship, is automatically conferred on anyone born in the country. So Cruz had it whether he wanted it or not—and he could, in fact, have been considered a Canadian anchor baby.

No matter. Within 24 hours of the news breaking, Cruz had fired off an official statement reassuring fans: “Assuming that is true, then sure, I will renounce any Canadian citizenship. Nothing against Canada, but I’m an American by birth and as a U.S. Senator, I believe I should be only an American.”

So to recap: Like Barack Obama, only one of Cruz’s parents was an American citizen at the time of his birth. Unlike Obama, Cruz’s birth certificate clearly shows that he was not born in the country of which he now aspires to become commander in chief. Also unlike Obama, Cruz’s father has undisputed past ties to an aggressive, long-standing enemy of the United States government. (No, silly, not Jim DeMint.)

Talk about a campaign issue with Donald Trump’s name all over it. And sure enough, even before the News’ dual-citizenship piece, America’s favorite birther had been dipping a finger in this pool. In an August 11 interview with ABC’s This Week, Trump questioned Cruz’s POTUS eligibility. “If he was born in Canada, perhaps not.”

A boot-wearing, bomb-throwing Tea Party conservative born in the land of socialized medicine, Quebecois, and Howie Mandel? What isn’t awesome about that?

In this, as in all things, Trump appears to be wrong. Being a “natural born” U.S. citizen doesn’t necessarily mean having been born on U.S. soil. As the Congressional Research Service observed during the birther uproar: “The weight of scholarly legal and historical opinion appears to support the notion that ‘natural born Citizen’ means one who is entitled under the Constitution or laws of the United States to U.S. citizenship ‘at birth’ or ‘by birth,’ including any child born ‘in’ the United States, the children of United States citizens born abroad, and those born abroad of one citizen parent who has met U.S. residency requirements.”

Still, with so much at stake, we should perhaps be unsurprised to learn that Cruz recently had a man-to-man chat with The Donald about his multi-culti roots. In this week’s interview with the Dallas Morning News, Cruz revealed not only that he has retained a lawyer to cleanse himself of his Canadian-ness but also that he had chewed over the issue with Trump. Cruz was mum on the context of the powwow. Nonetheless, we must give him props for recognizing that no one trumps Trump at hawking crackpot conspiracy theories about presidential legitimacy. Better to kiss the ring and defuse that bomb now than to risk The Donald dredging it up again the next time he needs to goose ratings for The Apprentice.

Of course, Trump isn’t the only conspiracy-minded nutter on the political scene. And, to be fair, don’t liberals deserve their whack at this particular piñata? Even if that whole “anti-American” label doesn’t tend to resonate as loudly on the left as it does on the right, Cruz critics at least could have some fun taunting his base with his cultural impurities. I mean, a boot-wearing, bomb-throwing Tea Party conservative born in the land of socialized medicine, Quebecois, and Howie Mandel? What isn’t awesome about that?

Just looking at celebrity exports, the list of potential problems for a guy like Cruz is considerable: Matthew Perry, Tommy Chong, Seth Rogen, k.d. lang, James Cameron, Kim Cattrall, Pamela Anderson. (OK, that last one may actually play pretty well with the base.)

As for Canadian politics? Two words: Rob Ford.

For the record, I’m a big fan of Canada. Beautiful country. Lovely people. And even from a hard-right POV, the nation has many redeeming characteristics. Hockey is plenty manly. William Shatner transcends ideology. And poutine—well, who doesn’t love french fries slathered in gravy and cheese curds? (Talk about giving the finger to Michelle Obama’s healthy eating campaign.) Still, Cruz’s critics will have more than enough material to work with and plenty of time to work with it if he indeed is aiming for a promotion in 2016.

As for the paperwork in progress to free the senator from his dubious heritage: Good luck with that. Renounce all you want, Senator. If there’s one thing we learned from the Obama birthers, it’s that official documents don’t mean squat in the face of a really nutty conspiracy theory.