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Foreign-Born Presidents a Bad Idea


By Doug Patton

December 22, 2003

Doug Patton“Arnold may boost move for amendment,” stated the headline of a Los Angeles Times story. It was followed by a sub-text that read, “Proposals call for an end to the ban on a foreign-born president.”

The subject of amending the Constitution to allow naturalized citizens to serve as president had been languishing in Congress for several years when Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, publicly floated it as a trial balloon last fall during Schwarzenegger’s gubernatorial campaign.

Hatch’s proposal contains a requirement that any immigrant would have to be a naturalized citizen for a period of 20 years before becoming president. It is probably safe to say at this point that Orrin Hatch has been in the United States Senate too long with his “good friend, Ted Kennedy” (Hatch’s words, not mine). Coincidentally, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who came to the United States in 1968, has only officially been a U.S. citizen a little more than 20 years.

Before Arnold was even a candidate, a similar amendment with a 35-year requirement was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by a bipartisan group of congressmen. This group included Darrell Issa, the wealthy California Republican who almost single-handedly bankrolled the recall election in the hopes of becoming the next governor himself.

Issa has said that his support for the amendment should not be interpreted as an endorsement of a “Schwarzenegger for President” candidacy, but that he does believe Arnold would be a great “poster child” for its passage.

Issa also said that California would not have been well served this year if the California Constitution had barred foreign-born governors. Oh really? Tell that to State Sen. Tom McClintock, the principled conservative who probably would be governor right now had such a prohibition existed.

This is a very bad idea whose time should never come. It is simply more pandering to the nation’s influx of immigrants and therefore a classic case of the tail wagging the dog, and it is being pushed to the forefront strictly because of the power of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s celebrity. After witnessing his meteoric rise in the nation’s largest state, the GOP establishment is salivating at the possibility of such a candidate on the ticket in 2008. Never mind that he supports very little of the party platform. He can win! That’s what counts!

Naturalized citizens can and do serve at the federal, state and local levels, in offices as important as the U.S. House of Representatives (Tom Lantos, D-Calif.), Secretary of State (Henry Kissinger, Madelyn Albright) and National Security Advisor (Zbignew Brezinsky). But the presidency should always be held by a man or woman born in the United States of America.

The wisdom exhibited by the Founders more than two centuries ago prohibits Arnold – and all others not born here – from serving in the two highest offices in the land.

The Founders also were wise to place the bar so high for amending the Constitution. Implementation of an amendment to allow foreign-born Americans to serve as president would require the approval of two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of the fifty state legislatures. This requirement has kept each generation of American activists from cluttering the Constitution with alterations and additions, with only 17 amendments passing muster since passage of the Bill of Rights.

There are those who question the wisdom of allowing immigrants to serve in any elective office during our current war on terrorism. Whether one agrees with that view or not, it should be self-evident that as the United States spins headlong into the uncertainty of a post-9/11 century fraught with security concerns and continued calls to limit American sovereignty in favor of increased globalism, there are some very sound reasons for limiting the presidency to “native born” Americans only.

Doug Patton is a freelance columnist who has served as a speechwriter and policy advisor for federal, state and local candidates, elected officials and public policy organizations. His weekly columns can be read in newspapers across the country, on www.MensNewsDaily.com, and on www.GOPUSA.com, where he serves as the Nebraska Editor. He also writes for Talon News Service (www.TalonNews.com). Readers can e-mail him at dpatton@neonamp.com.

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