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Published: Wednesday, August 21, 2013, 4:03 p.m.

Canadian bacon meets presidential politics

Like another erstwhile freshman senator, named Barack Obama, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, blew into Washington and promptly began eyeing the Oval Office. Also like Obama, the Cuban-American Cruz has to suffer the charge that he's not really American and hence not presidential material.
Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta, to an American mother and a Cuban father. According to most legal eagles, he is "natural born" in the eyes of the U.S. Constitution.
In 2011, President Obama felt compelled to release his birth certificate to counter louche louts such as Donald Trump, who questioned whether the president was born in the United States.
Now it's the GOP's turn. To inoculate against "birther" rumors and show that he has nothing to hide, Cruz released his Canadian certificate of birth to The Dallas Morning News. The paper concluded that Cruz is a dual American and Canadian citizen.
And dual citizenship won't do for the Texas tea party favorite. "Assuming that is true," quoth Cruz in a statement released to the media, "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."
On the one hand, an elected official's allegiance to this country and its Constitution should be unassailable. Hence, Cruz did what he had to do.
On the other hand, Canada is a valued ally whose troops have fought and died beside Americans in Afghanistan.
And Canadians are so polite. I once saw a group of Canadian bikers in Montana, and they obeyed the speed limit.
Cruz told CNN this brouhaha shows the "silly season of politics." No lie. Think "Canadian Bacon," the 1995 comedy in which the U.S. president, played by Alan Alda, saber rattled against kindly Canada in a bid to boost his flagging poll ratings.
Cruz argues that he didn't think he was Canadian, because his mom was born in Delaware, his family left Calgary when he was 4 and he has lived the rest of his life in America. Seeing as he never took affirmative steps to claim Canadian citizenship, he explained, he assumed "that was the end of the matter."
That's very close to the argument made by "dreamers" -- illegal immigrants whose parents brought them to America when they were minors. Cruz strongly opposes DREAM Act legislation that would allow those kids, who grew up seeing themselves as Americans, to become citizens.
"Through no fault of his own, Canada imposed citizenship on him," quipped Democratic communications consultant Roger Salazar. He's a reverse dreamer.
This was going to be a column about the circus-ification of politics and how the "birther" movement has made solid Americans suspect. Born in Hawaii to an American mother and an African father, Obama represents this country's constant reinvention. Born on a U.S. military base in the Panama Canal Zone, Sen. John McCain rightly is proud of his family's military history. The son of a Cuban immigrant, who came to America with nothing, and an American mother, Cruz should be proud of his family's attainment of the American dream.
But the insanity runs deeper than I first thought, because when I think about it, there is no way Cruz didn't know he is a dual citizen.
My guess is he never looked into it," said Sal Russo, co-founder of Tea Party Express. Russo's group supported Cruz in his Senate bid. At the time, Russo told me, Cruz gave "the lawyer answer" about his natural U.S. citizenship.
Sorry, but I don't buy it. Don't tell me Cruz didn't know about his dual citizenship.
Cruz says his mother told him that when he was in high school, he could claim Canadian citizenship.
He was a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist. He's an expert on the Constitution. He understands the intricacies of Article 2's requirement that the president be a "natural born Citizen." He is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School who, in that heady environment, seemed to believe he was the smartest guy in the room.
If Cruz didn't know, he didn't do his homework. And Ted Cruz always does his homework.
Email Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@sfchronicle.com.

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Herald Editorial Board

Jon Bauer, Opinion Editor: jbauer@heraldnet.com

Carol MacPherson, Editorial Writer: cmacpherson@heraldnet.com

Neal Pattison, Executive Editor: npattison@heraldnet.com

Josh O'Connor, Publisher: joconnor@heraldnet.com

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