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Amending The Constitution For Ar-Nold

So Schwarzenegger has made it abundantly clear that he wants to run for President in ‘08. There are even ads urging the Constitution to be changed to allow him to run. The debate is rampant, both for and against. There have been proposals in Congress. I'm against it, for the record.

First, let’s recall his politics.

Here’s the thing. I don't think that Schwarzenegger is qualified (or even competent) to be president simply because he can quote movie lines and people in California decided that makes one qualified to be governor. B
ut let’s take his quest seriously and assume that he somehow is qualified.

Remember his speech at the RNC where he talked about “if you support X, Y, and Z, then you are a Republican?” Let’s look at those X, Y, and Zs in detail: Schwarzenegger is pro-choice ("I'm for choice. The women should have the choice. The women should decide what they want to do with their bodies. I'm all for that.” The O'Reilly Factor, May 2001), pro-gun control, supports the Brady Bill and wants to close loopholes in the law (“I don't run around every day with a gun in my hand. So I want kids to understand the difference; one is make believe, like we do in the movies. But in reality, I'm for gun control. I'm a peace-loving guy.”), pro-gay rights and civil unions or other domestic partnership (“I have no sexual standards in my head that say 'this is good' or 'this is bad.' Homosexual -- that only means to me that he enjoys sex with a man and I enjoy sex with a woman. It's all legitimate to me.”), pro-stem cell research. In my world, that’s called a Democrat.

Not to say that he doesn’t have a few conservative tendencies: he doesn’t generally support the legalization of drugs (except the medicinal use of marijuana) favors school vouchers, and supports prayer in school. Blah, double blah, and triple blah. But that's about it. Even looking at his (alleged) fiscal conservativism (which doesn't represent the Republican Party any longer, with it's big government intrusions and high deficit, but I digress), California’s budget isn’t under control and he hasn’t reduced the deficit. He has more liberal tendencies than conservative ones. I bring this up only b/c I don't want to be accused of being against him running b/c he is of the other party. Wake up. He isn't. He is Republican in name only.

In fact, if the Christian Right truly can’t vote for a candidate, then not a single one of them could vote for Schwarzenegger (and that’s when I suspect that you’d find out just how hypocritical the Church actually has become - and how it has nothing to do with abortion but everything to do with money. I would expect them to trip over themselves supporting the pro-choice Schwarzenegger as President.) Just my two cents on his "electibility" from the perspective of the right -- and whether they actually want him to hold such a position, if they wanted to stay consistent.

So here’s my real concern. First, if they manage to amend the Constitution to allow foreign born citizens to run for President BUT THEY CAN'T GET AN AMENDMENT PASSED FOR EQUAL RIGHTS FOR WOMEN, I'll have issues. Major ones. Second, would any other country allow an American who is a citizen of their country (even for X amount of years) to run for President (or other highest office in the country)? Absolutely not. (And I understand that just because you were born here doesn’t make you worthwhile. Look at Timothy McVeigh. Total scum. I have no question that Madeline Albright, Jennifer Granholm, and Arnold Schwarzenegger are much more deserving than he is.) Third, doesn't that open a dangerous slippery slope? He may not be influenced, but who is to say that a candidate in the future wouldn't be? Not that our own home grown candidates aren't influenced in various ways, but it's not quite the same. Americans know better than most what patriotism they have merely for being born on US soil. It permeates everything, including sporting events. It may be somewhat naive to think that there isn't some attachment to the country of one's birth, no matter how long removed. And we might as well let the rest of the world vote for our president. And why allow foreign born citizens? Why not abolish the 2 term limit? The framers probably didn't *really* intend that foreign born citizens barred from being president.

Do I have problems with his politics? For the most part, no. Do I have a problem with this proposed Constitutional Amendment? Absolutely, yes.


  • At 1:48 PM, Blogger p.p. said…

    Ok, for the record, I am wholeheartedly in support of amending the constitution to allow US citizens born in another country to become President. I am not going to talk about Arnold here b/c he is not the point.

    1st, many countries do allow non-born citizens to hold top posts. Pakistan is one. As long as you are currently a citizen of country B and renounce the citizenship of country A, you are fine. The same could apply in the US. What difference does it make if you can serve as a Senator, Representative, Governor, or Supreme Court Justice. Why is the Presidency different?

    The issue of influence is irrelevant. The same issue arose when JFK, a Catholic, was running. I didn't see him running to the Vatican. Should we have brought treason charges against Clinton b/c he spent a lot of time in Ireland and now owns a home there, simply because he is predominately Irish? Maybe we should set up a rule stating that your family had to be living in the US since 1920 for you to be a citizen, as the law in Kuwait holds. What about those countless individuals born in the US who retain their cultural roots like language, customs, and foods? Should we question their influences? Half of the Hispanic, Italian, and yes, even the Greek populations would then be disqualified.

    There is a reason why people leave their "homelands." Mainly, because they see America as a hope for a better life. They sacrificed so much to come to this country. So, why punish those who have the capability and love for this country?

    How truly different is someone who is born in another country and immigrates to the US at age 5 from someone who is born in the US, but spends their entire lives living in another country? Would we question their allegiances?

  • At 2:59 PM, Blogger Matthew said…

    Wow. I think the term is 'struck a nerve.'

    Anyway... once again the (most probably) conservative/Republicans who are pushing this amendment have broken it down to an almost childlike, simplistic level, when in fact I think it should be slightly more nuanced (there's that damned liberal millstone word again).

    At any rate, most of what Peter says makes sense, and I think that a good compromise would be to allow non-US born citizens to run for president, but only if they've been US citizens for a particular period of time. My personal number? No less than 15 years. Or maybe even 20. I think that would work.

    Flexing nationalism has always been a curious thing to me, much like when people root for their hometown sports teams, or what not. Both are rooted in an area of life where we had absolutely no choice. So, someone from another country who's become a US citizen wanting to run for president is actually one of the most flattering compliments which can be paid to a nation.

    Conversely, we are seeing an ever so slight bristle between some on the left, between those who are so depressed with the state of the nation that they're contemplating a move to Canada or Europe (or wherever), and those who are saying that, 'America's our country, damn it, and we should stay here and make it work!' If we're to so fiercely believe in immigrants' rights to become citizens and hold the highest elected office in the land, because that should be a choice they're able to make, then I don't see why those who wish to move elsewhere should be made to feel like quitters.

    I know this wasn't really what you were addressing, Stephanie, but I just got carried away. Sorry. :-/

    Take care.

  • At 3:47 PM, Blogger Me said…

    I'd venture that the reason that you feel that US citizens born in another country should be permitted to become President is the same reason that I think there should be an Equal Rights Amendment. And you'd probably say (and probably are right) that it comes down to the same thing -- discrimination against citizens.

    But I think that Arnold *is* a consideration in this debate, b/c the reasons that this amendment is proposed is solely because of him. Not because politicians suddenly think, "this serves no purpose." But because they have a famous candidate they want to promote. And I think that it is incredibly...tacky... to push a Constitutional Amendment solely for Arnold. And it bothers me when politicians through around "amending the Constitution" as if it's like getting an oil change. It's supposed to be taken seriously, not for political, partisan gain. And that may color my beliefs; the reasoning behind pushing this change is disgusting partisian political bullshit. That's all this is. Not a sudden enlightenment.

    But to a few of your points. While SOME countries allow non-born citizens to hold top posts, it's certainly not the majority. And very few of the first world countries. (As for Pakistan, isn't there a Prime Minister too? Is the President or the PM the actual "head." I thought the PM appointed all government positions?? I could be confused through.)

    I think there is a definite difference between the President and other elected or appointed positions. The President serves as the figure head to the country. He is the most identifiable. The President has power and authority that other officials do not. In fact, the President appoints some of those people you mentioned. The President essentially controls the others. The President *is* a separate consideration. He has authority and power that makes him different. And makes the analysis different.

    And JFK did lose votes b/c he was Catholic and people feared that influence. But for the record, I don't worry about that with Arnold, it's more that I worry about the potential abuse down the road. How can the law be exploited? And I recognize that abuse is possible even if an individual is born in the US, but despite the fact that the country was all foreigners, the framers were particular about this. They feared the same slippery slope that I see possible. (20 years is only about twice what the planning for the WTC was. Can that hatred be hidden that long? Probably not, but possibly. People vote based on charisma. And harisma can hide just about anything.) Again, that danger applies anyway, but it make it easier.

    And you are right that a great many people, including my entire family, retain cultural roots. Strongly. Nor do I apologize for that. However, that is an attachment to the culture, not the country. A slight distinction, perhaps, but a distinction nonetheless. I am not sure that any president was "heavily ethnic" anyway. Can you think of one? Not that one has to do with the other, but subconscious comes into play at times.

    And I'm not doubting the reasons that people leave their country of birth. Especially to come to America, which was a pretty damn good democracy pre-Bush. But I don't see waiting one generation as a "punishment." I don't doubt in the slightest that someone born outside the US can love the country. My grandfather was born in Greece, and fought in WW2. He is still active in the American Legion. His brother was killed and is buried in France. Do I think that it is possible that anyone else loves this country more than my grandfather? Absolutely not. But I also don't think that it was horribly unfair that he had no chance to become president. And I wasn't meaning to suggest that The Manchurian Candidate would occur, or even be more likely to occur with someone who wasn't born in the US. Timothy McVeigh was my attempt to acknowledge to that.

    Finally, that point (similar to a US born citizen who spends their entire life living in another country) is actually really good. And I don't have a good answer for that. But someone who chooses to live outside the US (i.e. Johnny Depp) is looked down upon. That would lead to questions, and he probably couldn't win b/c of that, no matter how famous. However, they are *allowed* to run, whereas Arnold isn't.

    And as Matt pointed out, how does this affect the liberals who are so disillusioned right now that they want to go to another country where their ideals that they thought America shared are better represented in Canada right now? They are threatening to leave BECAUSE they are patriotic.

  • At 4:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I completely agree with you that this is *amending the constitution* thing is a total ploy for Arnold and nothing more. He's popular and they think they can win with him so they're going for it.

    Honestly, this is still up in the air for me, but I'm leaning toward against it. (Seriously, can we work on legal gay marriage FIRST??!!) If I were for it though, 15 or 20 years is not enough for me... The minimum age of a President is 35 so let's just use 40 as an example. Are you telling me that at 20 or 25 you don't have ingrained feelings/beliefs/cultrual differences in you?

    I'm 26 and have lived in Spain. Very different culture and I loved it but at the end of the day, I was happy to come HOME. Home is comforting. Home is what we all know best. And clearly there are differences between raised in Europe or South America or England or Canada, etc... to being raised in the US. (In Spain, no one had ever heard of peanut butter and thought the idea of a mixture of butter and peanuts was disgusting. That jar I opened was empty in about 30 seconds though - they loved it so much.)

    If I were to approve this, I would say that the foreign-born citizen must have come here BEFORE any formal schooling. There's this Russian documentary (I think it's called Ana) where the father (during Communist Russia in the 80's) videotapes his daughter. When she's young, she has her own ideas and is creative and imaginative. Once she starts school, her answers to his questions become what the teacher would have answered. It's unnerving. I wouldn't want this as my President.


  • At 5:29 PM, Blogger p.p. said…


    The reason I said Arnold is not the point is b/c I long thought that US citizens born in other countries should be able to be President. I’ve thought this since the 4th grade when I was told I couldn’t become President. I was pissed then, and it still irritates me today. But anyway, I understand that the reason that we are even talking about this today is b/c of Arnold, and as you say b/c of all this political bullshit. That is why I preferred to leave Arnold out of it, and write about the issue itself.

    Yes, I understand there is a difference between the head of the Executive branch, the two other branches of government, and the offices of the President’s appointees. The point I was trying to make was that why not let the other citizens of this country decide for themselves who is the most qualified, regardless of where he or she was born. And, the fears you mention are a bit extreme, no? Let’s look at the country as whole. I believe we have enough checks on this system to prevent a crazy, America-hater, even with all the charisma in the world, to be elected to the highest office in the land. Hell, look at 2004 election, the South can already bring itself to vote for a Northerner.

    No, I cannot right now name a President who was overly ethic. I suppose you can chalk that up as another check – the people of the US will not tolerate pro-foreign leaders. I also think you underestimate the power of culture. Culture is attached to the home country. As a Hungarian born in Slovakia, I can definitely attest to that. If you ask my father or your grandfather where their allegiances lie, they will without doubt say the US. But what about the second country? I’m sure my father will say Hungary, while your grandfather will say Greece. Does that make them bad Americans? Absolutely not.

    You say that YOU think it wasn’t “horribly unfair” for your grandfather to become President. But why not let HIM have that basic opportunity? Have you ever asked him? Have you asked the countless millions of others? I never liked people assuming what I thought was right for me. On a larger scale, that’s why I voted for Kerry, and remain a liberal to this day. Actually, why not let the electorate make the decision to see if he is qualified.

    In your Johnny Depp analysis (US born citizen living abroad), you bring up yet another check on the possibility of having a loon run and win.

    An additional two cents.

  • At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    There are so many more important things right now than changing the consitution so another actor/governor from Cali can be President. This is just right wing nostalgia for Ronnie.

    Of course, since the right wing now controls all three bracnhes of the federal government and they dominate/intimidate the media, they are likely to be able to do anything they want. Its sad that this is even under consideration...


  • At 6:04 PM, Blogger Me said…

    But THIS debate IS about Arnold. Your feelings aside, without Arnold, the majority wouldn’t have even given it thought. Was there noise about Michigan’s governor pre-Arnold? No. The South? Bush is a Texan; his “northern” roots were intentionally blurred ever since he lost his first election for being too smart, Northern, and elitist. He’s played down home Texas boy to a T since then.

    My examples were undoubtably extreme. And as I said, not even necessarily more or less likely no matter where the president was born. I just have problems with slippery slopes in general in politics. I don’t trust politics or politicians. We already don’t let citizens decide they want a president who has already been elected for two terms, despite if they think he is the most qualified. And the fact that someone gets elected b/c they quote movie lines disgusts me, which I admit might color me. But that’s why I specifically discussed Arnold’s politics. If the issue weren’t so politicized, maybe I’d feel differently; but this is a way to make ARNOLD president. NOT make things less discriminatory or address the alleged unfairness. That isn’t the concern. ARNOLD, a “Republican” successor, is. At all cost -- including ignoring the fact that he’s actually a Democrat. And they are pushing it to go through for that reason. When politicians push for their own goal, I am suspicious. I don’t trust it. And I am against it. Trying to change the law FOR HIM is another type of abuse.

    Oh, and it wasn’t a challenge (whether we had an ethnic president). It was a question - I was coming up blank. Obviously you are too. Hardly seems possible, but maybe it is. And if so, I guess that probably IS based on people’s prejudices. I am not sure it’s possible to underestimate the power of culture; I LIVE the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. My mom learned Greek before she learned English. But at the same time, that is continuing the culture, not an attachment to the country. My grandparents have been to Greece; none of their kids have. (Four of us grandkids have.) I don’t think that they associate the country with their culture that is part of their lives. I never meant that your dad or my grandfather was a bad American. I specifically said to the contrary. And I know he would say Greece as his second country. And actually, I DO know my grandfather’s answer. He didn't want anything here for himself. He wanted it for his kids and grandkids. He wanted THEM to have the American Dream. Not him. It was never about him. I never attempted to speak for you, or all, but I can speak for him.

    You want the electorate to make the decision to see if one is qualified? We elect based on thirty second soundbites. Not on qualifications. Why should we suddenly start caring about qualifications. We just elected a president b/c he seemed certain and we'd want to drink a beer with him at a picnic. The people voting for him weren't even sure of his politics, according to studies. It was based on how he presented himself. His charisma. His appeal. Not his politics or qualifications/

  • At 6:43 PM, Blogger p.p. said…

    I believe one of us has veered off onto a tangent.

    I fully understand THIS debate is about Arnold, BUT, and as I have already stated, I was merely speaking in general terms. Specifically, that I feel it would be a good thing to allow non US born US citizens to run for President. That’s it, simple as that. Once again, I am not debating the politics of Arnold.

    I’m sorry that you feel disgusted with politics and the game of politics, and at times so do I, but I am not “arguing” with you about that. My point was more fundamental.

    I understand that your grandfather may have not wanted “anything” for “HIM[self],” but everything for his family. The same can be said about my father and mother, as well as the countless other fathers and mothers who come to this country. HOWEVER, what about those fathers and mothers who do want a bit more for themselves? Why deny them that opportunity to become President?

    Concerning your pessimism concerning the electorate, I suppose I have a little more faith in our system of government – regardless of whether or not I voted for our current President, which I didn’t. What I was simply trying to say by having faith in the electorate, is that we have a system of checks to prevent a pro-birth-country candidate in becoming elected. But why deny them – the electorate – and the candidate the opportunity to elect the most qaulified? The issue of tactics of how we elect the President is not an issue here -- or at least not for me now.


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