Sunday, October 08, 2006

Should the US Pass a Constitutional Amendment Permitting Foreigners to Become President?

John, at EclectEcon, asks Should the US Pass a Constitutional Amendment Permitting Foreigners to Become President? He cites Melanie Phillips' appeal to put Australia's John Howard in office, as a starting point for the discussion.

This is not a new question. Even before Arnold was running for Governator, we can go back to the scary old days when Henry Kissinger was high in line of succession. What do we do when somebody competent, yet foreign born, comes along and wants to participate?

I think most people will be unsurprised when I come out against the proposition that we change the Constitution on this (and not just because I still have the picture of "President Kissinger" in my head).

I'm a second-gen'er, on Mom's side. Mom's dad was born in Germany. He was as loyal and patriotic as a guy can get, served in the US Army in Germany in WWII, captured prisoners, came home still a proud American. But he'd have been right alongside me on allowing an immigrant -- even the best of the best immigrants -- to hold the highest office in the land. That right belongs to the sons and daughters of immigrants, the children born of this land, for the future of the nation must lie beyond the immediate.

There are a couple of very good reasons (loyalty concerns and sleeper agents/cells notwithstanding). The biggest one is investment in the long term.

I realize that we have become accustomed to instant gratification. I think that's precisely the trouble, here. Like so many things, we want what we want and we want it now. But deferment is what forces us to think seriously about long-term goals. If we are handed things the moment we want them, why should we even think about, say, retirement, or about our grandchildren's needs? Sure, we can do spiffy things the moment we set soil on some new land. Sure, we can be loyal, faithful, and true from the moment we gain citizenship -- or, even, years before. But if we raise the kids to understand that this was something earned over time, it's more likely to remain precious, instead of one more thing taken for granted the minute you arrive on these shores.

No country should deny a citizen the right to have his say (although plenty still do deny their natural-born citizens such rights). That is why all lawful, law-abiding citizens in the free world have the right to vote, have the right to free speech, and so on. But any and every country, especially our own, should have the right to decide whether or not a new citizen can hold its highest office. And our Founding Fathers saw the wisdom of putting the future into the hands of future generations, instead of offering it to immigrant firebrands with immediate appeal.

As we move forward, we must look, always, to the horizon, rather than to the earth beneath our feet.

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