FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, October 11, 2004

The Ahh-nold Amendment

Nearly lost in the onslaught of other political news is the introduction by U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) in September of a constitutional amendment that would allow a foreign-born American who has been a citizen for 20 years or longer to run for President. This would effectively repeal Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, which states, "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." The proposed amendment has some high-powered support in Washington, most notably from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

Now, who do you suppose would benefit from such an amendment? Hmmm...

Both Democrats and Republicans have proposed such an amendment in recent years, claiming that Article II, Section 1 is unfair to the growing immigrant population in the U.S. But now, Republicans have taken renewed interest in the amendment -- especially Rep. Rohrabacher, who has a friend in California with political ambitions, and who just happens to be Austrian-born...

You get the idea. Regardless of whether George W. Bush wins or loses in November, the GOP is going to have to field a new presidential candidate in 2008. And the most well-known, most popular, most telegenic and most (so far) politically successful figure in their camp is California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Democrats don't have anybody comparable.

Schwarzenegger has obvious appeal within the GOP because he's a bona fide moderate who can reach out to those traditionally alienated by the party's right wing. However, he's not without problems. The very qualities that make him attractive to moderates and even liberals make conservatives uncomfortable; among other things, he's pro-choice. He has no foreign policy experience (though that didn't stop four of our last five presidents). Plus, he has a sexual history that makes Bill Clinton look like a eunuch. Nominating Schwarzenegger in 2008 could cause a fatal schism in the GOP.

But beyond that, there's the entire question of whether it is wise to amend the Constutition for the benefit of one person (short answer: no). Amendments in general are not to be trifled with, and one such as this has particular risks in this age of international instability. Cal Thomas -- not somebody I typically agree with -- has an insightful article on Crosswalk.com on why an "Arnold Amendment" is an especially bad idea.