Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Foreign-born and the President

No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

There's a minority (but growing movement to amend the above portion of the U.S. Constitution; see, for example, with its slogan of 'Amend for Arnold and Jen' (Arnold you know; 'Jen' is Jennifer Granholm, the Canadian-born Democratic Governor of Michigan). Congress is considering several possible amendments.

Since I'm fairly conservative about Constitutional matters, I oppose any such amendment. What strikes me, though, is that supporters of such amendments often treat the matter as if the Constitution were specifically singling out foreign-born citizens; but, of course, as you can see, natural-born citizens who have not been U.S. residents for fourteen years are also prohibited from running for the Office of the President. This is entirely reasonable; the conditions for the Office of the President must be determined entirely by the peculiarities of the Office itself. Part of the reason for the above clause (it is also a reason for the Electoral College) is to weaken the chances of putting the power of the most powerful magistracy in the United States under foreign influence, and to reduce the chances that the interests of the President will become too identified with the interests of those who are not American citizens. This the clause does reasonably well. No, nor are any rights violated by this clause, nor is it, in Orrin Hatch's absurd phrase, 'un-American' (I've never understood how people can call something in the Constitution, which has been the American norm for more than two centuries, 'un-American). My own stance on these matters is that the Constitution is best left well alone until and unless it can be shown that a provision is leading to clear abuse.

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