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foreign-born presidents
October 6, 2004 2:02 PM   Subscribe

Foreign-born presidents reviewed again. NYT link. Some previous discussion here.
posted by yoga (21 comments total)

 
Hmm. I wonder why the GOP-controlled Congress is revisting this issue now ...
posted by moonbiter at 2:22 PM on October 6, 2004


Because it's the right thing to do.
posted by gyc at 2:24 PM on October 6, 2004


Foreign-born presidents reviewed again.

Talk about a half baked step. How about plain foreigners being
president of the US? Screw that citizenship thing.
posted by NewBornHippy at 2:37 PM on October 6, 2004


Is this so the governator can run for President? My one consoling belief was that he couldn't be president because of the constitution. Oh well.
posted by trbrts at 3:08 PM on October 6, 2004


I'd be happy to vote against Arnold, but gyc is right: it's the right thing to do.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 3:39 PM on October 6, 2004


presnident plo chop.
posted by quonsar at 3:45 PM on October 6, 2004


So, if it is the right thing to do then why was it specifically excluded in the original document? Not simply left out (as with so many other things addressed by Amendments), but identified as a possibility and discarded?

Call me a crank, but I am leery of those public servants that seek to change the written law whenever it happens to suit their immediate purposes. Especially when it clearly goes against the original intent of the founders.
posted by moonbiter at 4:07 PM on October 6, 2004


Because it's the right thing to do.

No, it isn't.
posted by rushmc at 4:29 PM on October 6, 2004


The Alex Hamilton reference is a straw man:

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

Because the natural-born citizen requirement applied only to people born after 1787, Alexander Hamilton was always eligible.

Arnold is a joke. I would however vote for Madeline Albright in an instant.
posted by PrinceValium at 4:29 PM on October 6, 2004


The Alex Hamilton reference is a straw man...

Which is too bad. I always thought it was a charming little piece of historical myth that the natural-born citizen requirement was introduced as part of a compromise to keep Hamilton from ever becoming President.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:01 PM on October 6, 2004


if it is the right thing to do then why was it specifically excluded in the original document?

Because the framers had various unpleasant attitudes that were typical of their times, including a deep suspicion of immigrants and foreigners. Likewise, a substantial fraction of the people writing the constitution thought black people should be property.

Allowing immigrant citizens to be President fits our current, better understanding of equality before the law, where one adult citizen is as good as another.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:20 PM on October 6, 2004


Do Republicans have any respect for the Constitution any more?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:52 PM on October 6, 2004


Allowing immigrant citizens to be President fits our current, better understanding of equality before the law, where one adult citizen is as good as another.

That is a valid point.

However, I'm still left with the sense that this is a case where certain individuals want to do away with a Constitutional restriction because they find it inconvienient to their friends, rather than due to some enlightened understanding of equity.
posted by moonbiter at 7:43 PM on October 6, 2004


Sure.

But that doesn't mean that it doesn't also lead to more equity, which is the important thing.

So what if they're pushing for a good thing because they think they'll also benefit from it selfishly? It's still a good thing.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:15 PM on October 6, 2004


Because the framers had various unpleasant attitudes that were typical of their times, including a deep suspicion of immigrants and foreigners. Likewise, a substantial fraction of the people writing the constitution thought black people should be property.

I dunno, I don't think you can really pin it on ethnocentrism, given that the culture of the framers was hardly much different from the english, and many of them spent time in europe, which was basically expected of cultured people. I think it had a lot more to do with concerns that europe would manage to somehow "take america back" by getting into office and then changing things to fit the old country's desires. When america was first founded, it was much more precarious than it is now.
posted by mdn at 8:26 PM on October 6, 2004


When america was first founded, it was much more precarious than it is now.

Are you sure?
posted by rushmc at 11:17 PM on October 6, 2004


I dunno, I don't think you can really pin it on ethnocentrism ...

I agree with that ... something tells me that this wasn't really a "no Darkies can be prez" provision, but more of what you describe.

However, ROU's basic equality argument is a solid one. I was thinking that perhaps it might be better to redefine "natural-born" in Title 18, Section 1401 of the US Code (i.e., through legislation) rather than changing the Constitution, but on further thought it strikes me that this would be open to even more abuse since such laws are easier to change or revoke than a Constitutional amendment.

My biggest problem with this whole matter is the thought of changing the Constitution for reasons that might not be well thought-out in the largest sense. Still, I can't think of a really good counter-argument against the equity one and I was looking to see if someone else smarter than me could.
posted by moonbiter at 4:02 AM on October 7, 2004


Does anyone remember how in movie "Demolition Man" they referred to President Schwarzenegger, any went on to say that in the early two thousands he became governor of California where he fought to have the Constitution changed so he could become president. Weird stuff. Who knew Sly Stone movies were so prophetic.
posted by Dr_Octavius at 6:56 AM on October 7, 2004


Are you sure?

well... suffice to say I was a lot more sure 5 years ago. But still, having history behind you does help. When the country was first formed, no one knew if it would last 10 years. Remember oliver cromwell? or the weimar republic?

I think having survived more than 200 years gives us enough stability not to be afraid that a naturalized citizen would try to, say, merge america with his (<-- probably) country of origin... we're more like the roman empire, I think - we could easily crumble, but not because we're taken over by another country.

on the other hand, re: immigrant presidents, perhaps it's not to much to ask that a president was born and nurtured in this country, that he (<-- probably :) ) knows america from the inside out, so to speak. 2nd generation immigrants have always been allowed to run - ahnold's kids could do it...

I'm not sure, I'm sort of on the fence about this. I wonder if nation-states and national citizenship are sort of on the way out anyway, though. A lot of people have dual citizenship these days and no one really cares anymore. The british gov't specifically chose my half-brother to fill a certain position because they knew he had both an american and a british passport. The EU is sort of dissolving the boundaries in europe, and stuff like NAFTA, and the world bank, make the boundaries less meaningful. It'll be interesting to see where this goes.
posted by mdn at 7:54 AM on October 7, 2004


I am reminded of Republican efforts to overturn the two-term limit on the presidency at the end of the second Reagan administration.

I can only imagine the hue and cry from the "Defenders of Freedom" if the Democrats were trying to foist this same thing on us to promote their own candidate. After all, we're talking about the people who accuse John Kerry of "looking French".
posted by briank at 8:01 AM on October 7, 2004


I was thinking that perhaps it might be better to redefine "natural-born" in Title 18, Section 1401 of the US Code rather than changing the Constitution,

I've read that proposed too in some article (can't find it though), I think that's how the exception for people born outside the U.S. but to American parents (John McCain) was added. Hypothetically, one could redefine "natural born citizen" to mean anything, like anyone born in China, and not need a constitutional amendment. And I know McCain may have been born in the U.S., it's a matter of some debate, but people born in Mexico have run for president before.
posted by bobo123 at 9:40 AM on October 7, 2004


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