Is Cruz qualified to run for POTUS?

National political media are starting to probe the issue of a possible presidential candidate’s constitutional qualifications.

The target this time is junior U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas.

Let’s flash back to 2008 when another candidate came under amazing scrutiny. He was then-junior U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois. Some folks on the right said he couldn’t run for president because, they alleged, he was born in Kenya, homeland of his late father. Obama’s late mother, however, was an American citizen. Sen. Obama had said all along he was born in Hawaii, the 50th state of the U.S., in August 1961. That wasn’t good enough for the critics, who kept harping on his birth.

Eventually, Obama settled it by producing his birth certificate. He was re-elected in November 2012 and the yammering — save for a few crackpots on the far right — has stopped.

Now we have Cruz. The senator indeed was born in Canada. His father is Cuban. His mother is American. Cruz acknowledges he was born north of our border. And that has some folks questioning whether Cruz — who might run for president in 2016 — is qualified under the Constitution.

Article II stipulates that only a “natural born citizen or a “citizen of the United States … shall be eligible for the office of president.” Scholars have interpreted that to mean that Cruz could serve as president, given that his constitutional qualifications were earned at birth by virtue of his mother’s citizenship.

I tend to believe Cruz is qualified under the Constitution to serve as president, which means Obama would have been qualified to serve as well — had he been born in a foreign country, which he wasn’t.

Let’s wait to see how this Cruz story plays out. My bet, as I’ve noted already, is that the left won’t make Cruz’s birthplace nearly the issue that those on the right sought to do with Barack Obama.

Hey y’all, the deficit is shrinking

I consider myself a deficit hawk. I dislike as much as anyone the idea that the government spends more money than it receives.

It is with that stipulation that I hail news that the federal budget deficit is shrinking. Dramatically, I should add.

The Congressional Budget Office — which is about as nonpartisan and unbiased as it gets — pegs the 2013 federal deficit to be at $670 billion. That’s still a lot of money to be in the hole. It’s also about half of what the annual deficit totaled when President Obama took office in January 2009.

The cause for the shrinkage? More revenue created by more taxes being paid by more Americans getting back to work.

Interesting, don’t you think?

Yet the critics keeping yammering about the president’s “failed economic policies.”

Another report out this week shows that immigration reform would help grow the economy significantly over the next two decades, thus putting downward pressure on the deficit. How does that happen? By allowing undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows and work in the open while they set out on that vaunted “path to citizenship.”

Another “failure”? I think not.

‘The show must go on’

You’ve heard the cliché, I’m sure, that “The show must go on.”

I’m not an entertainer. I don’t understand fully the entertainer’s mindset about whether to go on with the show in the wake of tragedy. The cast of the acclaimed outdoor musical “Texas” is wrestling with whether to go on with their own show at the Pioneer Amphitheater in Palo Duro Canyon in the wake of a horrific tragedy that befell it early today.

Five cast members were killed in a car crash north of Amarillo.

My friend Jon Mark Beilue wrote eloquently about his own son’s friendship with one of those who perished. It’s worth a look here.

I do not know as of this moment what the cast will decide. They’ll need to get over their shock. The grief will linger.

I’d be inclined to counsel them to go on with the show, as their friends would want them to be true to the creed of their craft.

If they decide they can’t, well, I understand that, too.

My prayers are with you all.

S.C. senator faces rightie challenge

I don’t know why I should give a damn about what happens in South Carolina.

But I do.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican, is facing a 2014 GOP primary challenge from South Carolina state Sen. Lee Bright who thinks Graham is too supportive of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees, among other issues.

Bright is looking like a dim bulb here.

Graham isn’t exactly a flaming lefty. Far from it. He’s as conservative as most Republicans in the Senate. He votes the party line more than 90 percent of the time. He’s also a talented military lawyer who understands a thing or two about presidential prerogative, which means that presidents — by virtue of their election — have the right to pick qualified judicial candidates. Yes, the Senate has the right under the Constitution to confirm those appointments. It’s rare that senators do not go along with presidential picks.

President Obama has selected qualified judges throughout his time in the White House. The problem with many of them, according to those on the right, is that they share Obama’s more liberal view of jurisprudence. That’s no reason by itself to oppose someone.

And no, this is not a partisan concern with me. I’ve argued the same thing on behalf of Republican presidents as well. President George W. Bush’s selections for the high court weren’t exactly my favorites, but he had the right to pick qualified individuals to serve — and he did.

I’m a big believer in presidential prerogative. Lee Bright apparently doesn’t share that belief, especially when the president belongs to the other party.

Lindsey Graham, to his credit, gets it.

Dewhurst puts on brass knuckles

Texas’s most interesting political contest in 2014 is going to be for lieutenant governor.

Bet on it.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has announced his plans to seek re-election for a fourth term to what used to be considered the state’s most powerful office. Rick Perry’s forever-long tenure as governor took care of that, as the Pride of Paint Creek redefined the governor’s office and made it No. 1 on the state’s political pecking order.

Dewhurst, though, wants to take back that role … or so it seems. He’ll have a crowded field of Republican primary challengers to fend off. Land Commissioner Jerry “The Gun Guy” Patterson is in the field; so is Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples; and the most recent participant is state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston.

It occurs to me that three of them — Dewhurst, Patterson and Patrick — all hail from the greater Houston area. Just sayin’.

In Dewhurst’s vision of a perfect world, he wouldn’t be there. He’d be in the U.S. Senate. He ran into a right-wing attack dog in Ted Cruz in the 2012 GOP primary, who then beat Dewhurst in the runoff, spoiling the odds-on favorite’s chances to join to the Senate “club.”

Dewhurst became the victim of what’s become a newly coined verb. He was “Cruzed” in the primary. I’m betting he won’t let that happen again as he runs for re-election.

The lieutenant governor’s contest race is going to be fun to watch.

Presidents never take ‘vacation’

Presidents of the United States of America do not take vacations the way you and I take them.

Got that?

Thus, it was with some dismay that I heard Michael Smerconish — sitting in for Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s Hardball show this afternoon — chronicle he number of days recent presidents have taken time away from the Oval Office.

President Obama is spending a few days in Massachusetts with his wife and daughters. He’s playing a little golf, showing his girls a little attention and in general acting like a husband and father. He’s also receiving national security briefings and is being told constantly about developments around the world and in the huge country he governs.

Smerconish ticked off the number of so-called vacation days Obama has taken this far in his presidency. He noted that President Clinton took fewer days at a similar stage in his presidency and also noted that Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush took far more days away during their time in the White House.

Big bleeping deal!

Smerconish did say that he, too, never has begrudged presidents for taking time away. Good for him.

None of this matters not one bit as far as I can tell. Oh sure, some of Obama’s critics have needled him for taking time away to play golf. I believe they need something — anything — with which to gripe about him.

And remember how White House reporters complained about George W. Bush’s vacations at his ranch in Crawford, Texas — in the middle of the summer when the heat was unbearable? I reckon they aren’t complaining now about covering Obama’s vacation in posh Martha’s Vineyard.

Whatever. As Smerconish noted, presidents deserve some time away from the grind to stay sharp and remain grounded in things that really matter — such as their families.

Even when they’re “vacationing,” presidents are on the clock. Always.

Enjoy yourself, if you can, Mr. President.

Fox News might have to clam up about HRC film

The Fox News Channel has been all over the tumult involving CNN and NBC’s involvement in projects involving former Secretary of State (and possible 2016 presidential candidate) Hillary Rodham Clinton.

CNN is planning to air a film about Clinton; NBC is hoping to air a four-part miniseries. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is threatening to shut the two networks out of GOP presidential debates when the 2016 campaign kicks into gear.

But wait. The New York Times reports that Fox Television Stations is involved in the production and distribution of the CNN project.

What say you now, Fox News Channel talking heads?

Priebus clammed up about the NY Times report, preferring to focus instead on the creative minds behind the works. Priebus, of course, loves FNC — as do political conservatives all over the country, given the network’s right-leaning slant.

Oh, I forgot, Fox is “fair and balanced.”

Whatever. I’m going to lay down a bet that Fox commentators might have to tone down their outrage.

Rose shows off his ignorance

Pete Rose once was a heck of a baseball player — who then got caught violating one of the cardinal rules of the game. He placed bets on games involving his own team.

Then-Major League Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti made it clear to Rose: You’re out. You’re banned for life.

Now the all-time hit king has decided he chose the wrong vice. He should have used illegal drugs, or beat up on his wife/girlfriend, he said. That way he’d get a second — maybe a third — chance at getting back into baseball’s good graces.

Rose shows why he’s such a slug.

He probably hasn’t been paying attention to the piles of invective that have been heaped on those who’ve been caught using performance-enhancing drugs. Narcissist that he is, Rose cares only about what’s been said about him since his lifetime ban went into effect in 1989.

I’ve seen the clause in the baseball handbook that deals with gambling. It says anyone caught gambling is banned from the game for the rest of his life. Rose knew that, yes? But he did it anyway.

As for the PED scandal that’s erupted once again with the pending suspension of super-duperstar Alex Rodriguez and a dozen other players, baseball only recently enacted a ban on the drugs’ use. And that was after other big-time players — Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens to name just four — either were suspected of using them or actually admitted to it.

Rose doesn’t deserve to be reinstated. He remains what I’ve thought him to be, a top-notch athlete with gutter-level morals.

College athletes already are ‘paid’

Today’s question: Should the NCAA allow college athletes to get paid while they are in school?

Not even close. No … as in “hell no!”

The Beaumont Enterprise, where I used to work as editorial page editor, has this interesting feature in which it poses a question and then offers competing points of view. This week, the paper addressed the issue of paying college athletes.

I’m an old-fashioned guy when it comes to sports. Heck, I don’t even like the designated hitter rule, artificial turf, domed stadiums, or all the commercial signage pro golfers and race car drivers have to wear.

Thus, I believe college athletes have no compelling need to actually get paid for playing football and basketball, the two money-making sports for virtually all colleges and universities in America.

The question comes up in the wake of the Johnny “Football” Manziel matter involving whether he got paid for signing autographs while playing Heisman Trophy-winning football for Texas A&M University.

My take on it is this: Manziel already is getting paid by virtue of his receiving a fully funded college education. He, along with all blue-chip athletes, go to college with all their schoolwork paid for by scholarships, funded usually by huge endowments paid by big-time contributors. Texas A&M is among the richest universities on the planet, endowment-wise.

I prefer to see these young athletes also perform as students in the classroom, without the perk of capitalizing on their athletic skills through payoffs handed to them under the table.

I cannot predict what the NCAA will rule in the Manziel case. From my perch, it doesn’t look good for Johnny Football.

As for paying college athletes? A free college education is payment enough.

Tiger will be just fine, thank you very much

Tiger Woods didn’t win the PGA this past weekend. He’s still looking to win his 15th major golf tournament.

And strange as it seems, golf’s pundit class is giving him a bad time because he hasn’t won a major since 2008.

Get off it, already.

Even if Tiger Woods never wins another major championship, he’ll be able to look back on what has been an extraordinary golf career. He’s won 79 PGA events overall, second to Sam Snead’s 82 wins. He is stuck on 14 major wins, with Jack Nicklaus ahead of him with 18. The way I see it, being mentioned in the same sentence with Slammin’ Sammy and the Golden Bear puts Tiger in the middle of some pretty tall cotton.

I think he’ll win more majors. Whether he catches Jack is another matter. Still, it shouldn’t really matter when measuring the impact Tiger Woods has had on the game of golf.

All of this armchair handwringing reminds of what sports talkers used to say about auto racing legend Mario Andretti, who’s generally recognized as one of the greatest drivers in the history of his sport. But he won only a single Indianapolis 500 race, in 1969. He figured to win many Indy races when he arrived on the scene in 1965. He had bad luck at Indy.

Someone finally asked Mario to comment on one of his many failures to win a second Indy 500. His answer, which I only can paraphrase now, was classic. He said he doesn’t measure the success of his career by what he didn’t do at Indy. He prefers to look instead at the big picture: Daytona 500 victory in 1967, Formula One championship in 1978 … and a host of victories at tracks worldwide of all kinds and shapes racing open-wheeled cars, NASCAR stock cars, Formula One road course vehicles.

I believe the totality of Tiger Woods’s career, when it finally concludes, will measure up.

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