Rant #3: A Constitutional Amendment for SchwarzeneggerAs I ambled through the local convenience store on Friday the USA today headline caught my eye. Do we need a constitutional amendment for Arnold Schwarzenegger?
For the unaware, the constitution makes pretty explicit requirements on who can hold what positions in the federal government. Chief among these are the requirements for President of the United States. There are two main requirements. First, an individual must have attained the minimum age of 35. Second, the individual must be an American born citizen. Naturalized citizens are not eligible for the highest office in the land under the Constitution at the current time.
So, there are some who are clamoring for a constitutional amendment so that Arnold can run for Prez in 2008. I feel the urgent need to comment.
Before I do, however, I feel that I should make something clear. I have absolutely nothing against Governor Schwarzenegger. Actually, I admire him for wanting a really tough job and in particular, for coming "out" as a Republican in Hollywood. I use this analogy because being a Republican in Hollywood is the equivalent of being a cross-dressing homosexual priest in Oklahoma. Simply put, lot of people hate you because of who you are. It is bigotry, pure and simple. So, going out on the ledge is something of an heroic act. It takes guts. You make yourself a very easy target.
Despite this, I feel that a Constitutional Amendment on the requirements of POTUS would be a tremendous mistake. Why? Because we can't seem to keep the borders secure. We find al Qaeda cells in places like Washington state and New Jersey. We find Americans fighting alongside the enemy against our troops. Our prisons are serving as ripe conversion ground for Islamic militantism. I don't think now is a good time to open up the requirements to anybody. I realize that it is highly unlikely that a bad guy/enemy could become President given the way our electoral system works. But I also fully realize that anything is possible and the simple fact that they can't beat us on the battlefield requires alternate forms of attack. Like one from the inside. Democracy, being an open form of government, is vulnerable to manipulation from our enemies if we let them.
Our founding fathers wrote these very specific requirements into the Constitution for a reason. They were not arbitrary. Our founding fathers knew about espionage. They knew war. They were very concerned with limiting the power of the federal government and also with making certain that no foreign powers could interfere with domestic matters. They even warned against entangling alliances (Thomas Jefferson's first Inaugaral Address). The risks were just as real then as they are now. Our founding fathers put tremendous thought and careful deliberation into the Constitution long before they put ink to parchment. The fact that we are still working under the same document is a testament to the government they built.
It is rarely a good idea, however, to make the government accomodate a single person. If the requirement was important in a time when almost everybody was an immigrant, it can not be less important now. Changing the Constitution for one man's political goals is like changing the law to make one woman's abortion illegal. It is a very bad idea. And it sets a terrible precedent.
For example, Prohibition was begun as a Noble Experiment. It began as an emotional movement and led to a Constitutional Amendment (#18). This, as you all are aware, led to a black market in liquor and organized crime. Later, Prohibition was repealed with the 21st Amendment.
So, you see, it is not always a good idea to make sweeping changes to governement on emotional grounds. For certain, great deliberation, at least equal to that put in by the founding fathers, should be undertaken before we whimsically go changing the noble document just so one man can be President. There are other positions in government with less stringent requirements if Arnold is interested in serving on a national level. But, I think it more important that he finish sorting out California's problems. They need him to get the job done.