Over the last few days, Republican front-runner Donald Trump has suggested that Sen. Ted Cruz should ask a court for a written declaration that the Canadian-born Texan is eligible to be president. That's to be expected—Trump rose to prominence among conservatives by questioning the eligibility of the sitting president. On Wednesday, Sen. John McCain, one of the Republican Party's elder statesmen, told a talk radio host that he wasn't sure if Cruz was eligible to be president. That's less expected but still easily explained—McCain hates Cruz with the fire of a thousand suns.
And now House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has joined the fray. "I do think there's a difference between John McCain being born into a family serving our country in Panama than someone being born in another country, but again this is a constitutional issue that will be decided or not," she told reporters on Thursday.
This is absurd. Cruz is eligible to be president because his mother was an American citizen. And as National Reviewexplains, it's not even an especially unusual situation:
[T]here is nothing new in this principle that presidential eligibility is derived from parental citizenship. John McCain, the GOP's 2008 candidate, was born in the Panama Canal Zone at a time when there were questions about its sovereign status. Barry Goldwater, the Republican nominee in 1964, was born in Arizona before it became a state, and George Romney, who unsuccessfully sought the same party's nomination in 1968, was born in Mexico. In each instance, the candidate was a natural born citizen by virtue of parentage, so his eligibility was not open to credible dispute.
It shouldn't be a hard question for Pelosi or McCain to answer unambiguously—we've spent roughly eight years rehashing the constitutional requirements for the office over and over again (in part because of Trump and the kinds of people who support him). The fact that McCain and Pelosi both—for perfectly legitimate reasons—can't stand Cruz is just not an appropriate justification for Trumpian nativism.
The New York Republican presidential primary is in 106 days, on April 19. It is the 37th nominating contest, coming more than three months after the first votes are cast in Iowa on February 1. So naturally Ben Carson is campaigning there on Monday night.
This is kind of strange. Carson's campaign is a mess right now. When three of his top aides quit before the New Year, Armstrong Williams, Carson's top advisor, found out about it on Twitter. Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, once was at the top of the polls, but his numbers have plummeted in Iowa and elsewhere. Still, he insists he's plowing ahead and remains a contender. If so, what's he doing in Staten Island, while the other candidates rightly focus on Iowa and New Hampshire in the pre-voting homestretch? Some possibilities:
The ferry offers a great view of the harbor at a low price.
Fresh Kills is a cool name for one of the world's largest garbage dumps.
There's no real explanation for this stop. (Has Carson sold every book he can possibly sell in Iowa?) It's the latest sign his campaign—though it collected $23 million in the most recent quarter—cannot be considered a serious effort.
The group is led by the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.
Tim MurphyJan. 3, 2016 1:36 PM
Nevada rancher Ammon Bundy speaks shortly before launching an armed occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters.
As many as 100 armed militia members seized control of a Fish and Wildlife Services building in a remote part of eastern Oregon on Saturday and threatened to shoot law enforcement officers who attempt to kick them out.
Led by Ammon Bundy, the son of the Nevada rancher whose standoff with the Bureau of Land Management over cattle grazing fees made national headlines in 2015, the group took over the headquarters of Malheur National Wildlife Refugee shortly after a peaceful march in the nearby town of Burns. The militia's latest cause celebre is that of Dwight and Stephen Hammond, father-son ranchers who face prison time under an anti-terrorism statute for setting fires on federal lands. Both Hammonds already served short sentences for the crime, but after they got out, they were re-sentenced to the mandatory minumum of five years.
In addition to freedom for the Hammonds, the Bundy group is demanding that the federal government give up control of nearby Malheur National Forest.
The Malheur occupation is only the latest in a long line of armed confrontations between conservative land rights activists and the federal government on public lands. But the clearest historical precedent for Saturday's takeover came in 1966, when Alianza Federal de Mercedes, a group founded by Chicano land rights activist Reies Lopes Tijerina, occupied a part of Carson National Forest north of Santa Fe and declared it New Pueblo Republic of San Joaquin del Rio de Chama. They even arrested two Forest Rangers who come to confront them, and charged them with trespassing. Tijerina's occupation lasted all of one day. Ammon Bundy told the Oregonian on Saturday that his group might hold their position for years.
The candidate's long road to becoming a Democrat started here.
Tim MurphyDec. 17, 2015 7:00 AM
Bernie Sanders' presidential bid is frequently likened to the 1920 campaign of Eugene Debs, the union leader and Socialist Party candidate who won nearly 1 million votes while serving time in prison for urging resistance to the draft. Sanders, who has called Debs "the greatest leader in the history of the American working class," keeps a plaque celebrating the five-time presidential candidate in his Senate office, and he once recorded a 30-minute documentary about Debs' political career, which he fought hard to air on Vermont public television. But Sanders' rhetoric, ideology, and campaign coalition suggest a far more recent political model for his outsider campaign: Jesse Jackson's 1988 run for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Before Donald Trump, there were many more Donald Trumps.
Tim MurphyDec. 8, 2015 5:33 PM
On Monday, Donald Trump unveiled a plan to block Muslims from entering the United States. On Tuesday, he suggested he might have been okay with the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
Almost immediately, critics looked for historical parallels. The Philadelphia Daily News put him on its front page with the headline "The New Furor," while the New York Daily News' Shaun King wrote that Trump has gone "full-blown Nazi." Even Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling got in on the game, calling Trump worse than Voldemort.
Comparing Trump to Hitler doesn't really do justice to what made Hitler Hitler, but it also lets the country off the hook. Trump isn't introducing the idea of discriminatory immigration bans and internment campsto an innocent nation. These are American ideas, with a long dark history of being used in American elections by politicians we now hold in high esteem. As one of Trump's New Hampshire co-chairs, state Rep. Al Baldasaro, put it, improbably in defense of Trump, "What he's saying is no different than the situation during World War II, when we put the Japanese in camps."
It's a history worth grappling with, because as Richard Reeves' 2015 history, Infamy, makes clear, Franklin Roosevelt's Civilian Exclusion Orders were deeply influenced by the pressures of electoral politics. It was a governor's race in California that brought the issue to the fore in 1942. Two years later, it was a looming presidential election that compelled Roosevelt to keep the camps open long past the time the government knew they were unnecessary.
White California politicians had for years used the presence of people of Japanese descent as a political wedge, but the matter blew up after Pearl Harbor. Ironically, Reeves explains, the push for internment started with a man who would one day become a liberal icon as a Supreme Court justice, then-California Attorney General Earl Warren:
The first public call for all American Japanese, aliens and citizens, men, women, and children, to be moved into "concentration camps" was on January 14, 1942, in the Placerville Times, the newspaper in a small town forty miles east of Sacramento. Two weeks later, on January 29, California's attorney general, Warren, who had been an important voice for moderation essentially switched sides, issuing a press release that read, "I have come to the conclusion that the Japanese situation as it exists in this state today, may well be the Achilles Heel of the entire civil defense effort. Unless something is done it may bring about a repetition of Pearl Harbor."
Governor Olson, a Democrat who expected that Warren, a Republican and a member of the whites-only Native Sons of the Golden West, would be his opponent in the election of November of 1942, did the same thing, testifying before a congressional hearing a week later, saying: "Because of the extreme difficulty in distinguishing between loyal Japanese-Americans, and there are many who are loyal to this country, and those other Japanese whose loyalty is to the Mikado, I believe in the wholesale evacuation of the Japanese people from coastal California." Then he gave gave a statewide radio address, saying, "It is known that there are Japanese residents of California who have sought to aid the Japanese enemy by way of communicating information or have shown indications of preparation for Fifth Column activities."
Other elected officials were happy to inflame Californians' fears of the Japanese other. One congressman proposed sterilization; another called the conflict with Japan a "race war." Advocates for internment didn't just defend it as an extraordinary circumstance—they described it as wholly consistent with American ideals. Per Reeves:
In Los Angeles, Mayor Fletcher Bowron, after dismissing all employees of Japanese lineage, declared, "Right here in our own city are those who may spring to action at an appointed time in accordance with a prearranged plan wherein each of our little Japanese friends will know his part in the event of any possible attempted invasion or air raid...We cannot run the risk of another Pearl Harbor episode in Southern California." He later added, "There isn't a shadow of a doubt but that Lincoln, the mild-mannered man whose memory we regard with almost saint-like reverence, would make short work of rounding up the Japanese and putting them where they could do no harm."
Not unlike Trump's false claim of seeing "thousands" of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the 9/11 attacks from rooftops, the hysteria over the Japanese-Americans was fueled by a number of false reports over their activities, including allegations from coastal residents who swore they'd heard their Japanese neighbors sending radio signals to the enemy. And it wasn't just California politicians feeling the electoral pressure to put Americans in camps. As Reeves tells it, Roosevelt knew as early as May 1944 that the Japanese Exclusion Orders were unnecessary, and that it would be okay to shut down the camps. Interior Secretary Harold Ickes told him that keeping the camps open would be a "blot upon the history of this country." But FDR had the voters to consider:
Two weeks later Roosevelt refined his thoughts in a memo to [Secretary of State Edward Stettinius] and Ickes: "The more I think of this problem of suddenly ending the orders excluding Japanese Americans from the West Coast the more I think it would be a mistake to do anything drastic or sudden. As I said at Cabinet, I think the whole problem for the sake of internal quiet, should be handled gradually." Ickes and the others knew what he meant: after the elections.
It was easy for politicians to invoke internment as a logical solution to fears of a Japanese "fifth column," in part because the nation already had a long and proud history of wholesale discrimination against people of Asian descent. Just 18 years earlier, Calvin Coolidge had signed the National Origins Act, which effectively barred immigration from East Asia and the Middle East, on top of the existing prohibition of Chinese immigration that had by that point been on the books for four decades. Trump is successful not because he's mastered the German formula, but because he's tapping into something that has proven successful before in American history.