Guess what, Charlie. The Democrats already have ...and do.
Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, first proposed that amendment on July 24, 2000 as H.J.Res. 88, CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO ALLOW FOREIGN-BORN CITIZENS TO BE PRESIDENT.
The house Judiciary Committee, subcommittee on the Constitution had met in February to hear a number of experts discuss the pros and cons of such an amendment. The discussion was lively and ranged from the reasons the founding fathers restricted nominees for the office to "native-born" Americans to a discussion of whether that same restriction promotes second-class citizenry.
The writers of the Constitution didn't discuss Article II, Section I very much but Alexander Hamilton wrote of the "desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?"
Charles Pinckney, a constitutional delegate from South Carolina, warned that what had happened in Poland fifteen years before -- Poland was carved up after Austria, Prussia, and Russia planted a puppet in its election -- might happen in America. Then John Jay said that it might be "wise and seasonable to provide a strong check to the admission of Foreigners into the administration of our national Government; and to declare expressly that the Commander in chief of the army shall not be given to, nor devolve on, any but a natural born citizen."
It's interesting to me that Frank's proposal came before Arnold Swartzenegger's California governorship candidacy, and yet one of the gentlemen who testified, Forrest McDonald, Historian and Professor of History at the University of Alabama, said he could "give what I consider the definitive argument against the proposed amendment in two words: Arnold Schwarzenegger." Frank's amendment didn't get up for a vote, but Schwartzenegger did.
Considering the closeness, politically and socially, of Barnie Franks to Ted Kennedy and the Kennedy family it looks to me like Prof. McDonald saw through this from the beginning.
Meanwhile, back in the Senate, S. J. Res. 15, A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to make eligible for the Office of President a person who has been a United States citizen for 20 years, was introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) on July 10, 2003.
So the next time the same amendment came before the House it was proposed by a Republican, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher(R-CA) an early supporter of Schwarzenegger's gubernatorial bid, introduced the same constitutional amendment before the House on September 15, 2004.
Okay, look who we have supporting this. Contrary to Charlie Gibson's first impression, we have the Kennedy machine initiating the idea. Their big argument turns out to be the second-class citizen one. Because they can't run for President of the United States, the citizenship of naturalized citizens feels, somehow, not as good as the natural-born citizen.
That argument might have some legitimacy if they couldn't buy a house or go to school unless they were native-born, but not two in a generation would run for President, anyway! The "second-class citizen" is a buzz phrase, appealing to emotionalism, like "racism" and "segregationism," all terms that have been used so far in the debate by the Democrats.
Perhaps Charlie Gibson was thinking of the left's argument "Let's not change the Constitution for light and transient reasons." That's the critics of the marriage amendment speaking. But the "Arnold amendment" satisfies their search for constitutional gravity.
Journalists who reject the marriage amendment as election-year hackery are listening respectfully to the creators of amendus.org, a website where you can learn about the need to amend the Constitution "for Arnold" as well as "join Arnold's team" and "get Arnold stuff."
The idea is showing up in more and more articles in print and on the internet. On December 14 the Tulsa World reported, "The Constitution bars foreign-born citizens from becoming president, which also rules out two governors of large states: Jennifer Granholm, a Michigan Democrat who was born in Canada, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, a California Republican born in Austria. Now, because of Schwarzenegger's political rock-star status, a campaign to amend the Constitution to make naturalized citizens eligible for the presidency is gaining attention, although not necessarily support."
A Gallup Poll released last week showed that only 31 percent favored the constitutional amendment. Support grew slightly when Schwarzenegger was mentioned.
We need to be aware of this and keep an eye on it. To some it may make sense to elect Arnold President because, they say, Reagan was a movie star and he did a good job of it. But Reagan wasn't an Austrian body builder turned movie actor turned politician. Reagan was American clean, clear through.
That's what we need in the office of President -- Americans, born and bred with the innate sense of independence and liberty that seems to be inbred in us.
In the testimony before the Congressional Committee of the Judiciary, subcommittee on the Constitution, immigrant Balint Vazsonyi, director of the Center for the American Founding, testified,
I am here to tell you, after 41 years of making the most strenuous efforts of becoming American, not just legally but in every sense of the word, and having spent 40 of those 41 years living with a native-born American, that I still have not been able to even approach the temperament, the natural tolerance, the unfailing good will toward the world that Americans are famous for.
Foreigners come here and have to learn it. It is a miracle that within one generation they can do so.
The constitutional provisions are not there to serve this week or next week. They have served this country for over 200 years, and I hope and we all hope that they will continue to do so.
Article II of the U.S. Constitution requires the President to ''take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.'' Mr. Chairman, it is an incontrovertible fact that the inhabitants of most countries are not only unfamiliar with what we call the Rule of Law, but find the concept virtually incomprehensible.
Mr. Vazsonyi's points are not likely to be considered by the native American voter but they are valid and worth serious pondering. We don't think of ourselves as special, but maybe we are. Certainly no other armies in the world conquered and then rebuilt the nations they defeated. No other nation has prided itself on welcoming the "tired ... poor ... huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
The nationality of birth restriction in Article II, Section I was placed only on the offices of President and Vice President because the President alone heads the Executive Branch and, of course, the Vice President is just a heartbeat away. The Judicial Branch has 9 judges at the head, the Legislative Branch has over 500 members leading it.
To pass a constitutional amendment takes 2/3 of both Houses to propose (or the application of 2/3 of the Legislatures of 2/3 of the States). Then, to ratify, it must be approved by Legislatures or Conventions of 3/4 of the States. That, obviously, is why this began in 2000.
But Charlie Gibson, there's no problem getting both Democrats and Republicans to get behind this one. They already have begun.