Friday, February 29, 2008

Born to be Exiled

The latest news on Senator John McCain is that his eligibility for the presidential election may be in jeopardy due to his birth in the Panama Canal Zone. Now, by no means do I want McCain to be our next president, but I've got to say that the qualification that a presidential candidate must be born in the United States seems out-dated and stupid.

In this, the land of freedom and opportunity, isn't it a bit counterintuitive that we restrict anyone born anywhere else from having an opportunity to run for our nation's most prestigious office? Does the fact that McCain was born south of our borders really make him any less qualified to run the country? If Barack Obama were born in Indonesia (where he lived for several years early in his life), would it intrinsically cause him to be a less patriotic or trustworthy person?

I'm always surprised by how well some of this country's archaic rules have held up over time. The Constitution, for instance, still guides are laws with relative fairness. But this is an out-dated rule that needs to be done away with. I strongly doubt that McCain will lose his eligibility over this ordeal, but the fact it's even in question seems silly to me.

1 comment:

Nick M. said...

Well, my first response is to suggest that there is no way McCain doesn't meet the requirement because he was born on a military base and if McCain isn't a U.S. citizen, then neither is Bruce Willis. (West German airbase) But it is interesting that you are willing to adopt the conservative argument for doing away with this. (Partially a joke, but you of course realize that this is the argument moderate Republicans make for Arnold)

I would ask, to begin, if you really want a Constitutional amendment to change this requirement? And if you do, do you expect that enough people would support it that it would pass? I am a little suspect right now, if only because Americans as a lot are terribly xenophobic and I can easily see a campaign against such an amendment that would utilize people's general fear of immigrants to gain opposition to such a change.

I believe you can see this part of Constitution as archaic if you approach it from a historical standpoint. That is, why would the framers want such a provision in the Constitution? It is pretty obvious. There were still plenty of loyalists and even loyalist British colonies bordering American territory. Americans at the time had reason to be suspect of anyone not born in the States (as they were delineated at the time). I suppose the question now is whether that has really changed? I think, on a personal level, I am probably fine with such a change, but I ask these questions to spark a debate about the realism of such a proposed amendment.