Is he a natural-born citizen or isn't he? The question has been a nagging part of Barack Obama's life ever since his first presidential campaign. No amount of birth certificates and sworn statements from state officials in Hawaii, his birthplace, seemed capable of putting the issue to rest. The "birther" movement continues pressing the question even today, five years after Obama's election to the presidency.

The question nags anew, but this time Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is the focus because he was born in Canada to an American mother and Cuban father. By law, his mother's U.S. citizenship automatically confers natural citizenship to Cruz, just as - for those who continue to doubt the location of Obama's birth - the citizenship of Obama's American mother conferred it to him.

When it became a hot-button issue in 2008, Democrats countered that Obama's GOP opponent, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, was born to American parents at a U.S. military installation in the Panama Canal Zone. The implication being that if Republicans wanted to play the birther game, Democrats could, too.

This is such a nonissue, regardless of whether the candidate is Republican or Democrat. Nevertheless, narrow-minded individuals, including some prominent personalities such as billionaire former presidential contender Donald Trump, are doggedly trying to concoct controversy and introduce doubt where there should be none.

These men have been natural U.S. citizens from birth and have every right to seek the nation's highest office. Article II of the Constitution sets out three eligibility requirements to be president: that the person be at least 35 years old, a resident within the United States for 14 years and a "natural-born citizen."

The exact meaning of natural-born is not defined in the Constitution, but legal scholars say it is meant only to distinguish between native-born U.S. citizens and those born abroad (of noncitizen parents) who subsequently become naturalized U.S. citizens. The Congressional Research Service published a 50-page study dissecting the issue in 2011.

As Dallas Morning News reporter Todd Gillman reported Monday, Cruz's birth certificate is unequivocal: He was born in Alberta, Canada. But his mother is a U.S. citizen born in Wilmington, Del. Because of his birthplace, Cruz is a Canadian citizen, but that has no effect on his status as a natural-born U.S. citizen - whether he renounces his Canadian citizenship or not.

No doubt, some Democrats are thinking it's payback time for all the headaches that conservatives created for Obama on this issue. A new movement of anti-Cruz birthers almost certainly will try to prod and nitpick in hopes of derailing what is shaping up to be a Cruz bid for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

This is exhausting and distracting. It's time to give it a rest and move on to leadership issues that really matter.

 

—The Dallas Morning News, Aug. 20