Trump presses Cruz on Canadian birth in GOP debate

WASHINGTON -- Candidates in American presidential debates have often had to fend off accusations they're too liberal, too conservative, too wishy-washy or simply wrong-headed.

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One has now been forced to parry the calumny that he's too Canadian.

Sen. Ted Cruz responded indignantly upon being pressed on his Calgary birth -- by both his emerging rival Donald Trump and by the moderators of Thursday's Republican debate.

"I've spent my entire life defending the Constitution before the U.S. Supreme Court," said Cruz, who is running neck-and-neck with the real-estate mogul in Iowa.

"And I tell you, I'm not going to be taking legal advice from Donald Trump."

The partisan crowd appeared to back him up -- cheering the Texas senator and booing when the debate moderator and Trump dabbled in the country-of-origin quandary.

Trump fired back that multiple constitutional scholars have raised Cruz's birth as a legal question mark -- one being Cruz's former Ivy League law professor, Laurence Tribe.

"Take it from your professor," Trump retorted.

He urged Cruz to go get a judge's opinion certifying his right to run, lest he later become the nominee and find his candidacy tangled up in court: "There's a big question mark over the head. And you can't do that to the party."

The U.S. Constitution restricts the right to run for president to "natural-born" citizens, without specifying what that means. Most of the contemporary political class assumes that is to shield the foreign-born children of Americans, like Cruz.

But several constitutional scholars have emerged to call it a legitimate question. They say the Supreme Court has never ruled on the definition of a natural-born citizen for the purposes of seeking the presidency.

Cruz replied that Tribe is a committed Democrat. He also pointed out that his increasingly bitter adversary has only suddenly started raising the birth issue, because his poll numbers are improving in Iowa. Trump admitted it.

Cruz's critics have revelled in teasing him about the fact that he was born outside the U.S. His American mother and Cuban-American father were working in the Alberta oil industry and he spent his first few years there.

Some pranksters edited his Wikipedia page Thursday to point out his Canadian birth. A lawsuit against Cruz's candidacy has already been launched, and more are expected.

Tribe says he believes Cruz should qualify -- only because Tribe personally favours a flexible approach to interpreting the Constitution, one that evolves over the centuries.

But he notes an irony: Cruz himself sees the Constitution differently.

He's a strict originalist who believes the Constitution should be interpreted exactly as written -- which means, according to Cruz's view, that the 18th century right to bear arms for the purposes of a militia should extend to all 21st-century U.S. citizens and include new forms of high-powered weaponry.

"To his kind of judge, Cruz ironically wouldn't be eligible," the Harvard professor wrote in the Boston Globe.

"Because the legal principles that prevailed in the 1780s and '90s required that someone actually be born on U.S. soil to be a 'natural born' citizen."

When Cruz pointed out that his former professor was a Democrat, Trump replied that several other scholars have voiced similar concerns. Cruz recently relinquished his Canadian citizenship, which he received at birth.


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