A nice line in the lede of San Francisco Chronicle’s story on our Austrian governor and his speech to the Republicans last night:
“New York — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, completing his transformation from muscular curiosity to political powerhouse, told a national television audience Tuesday that ‘America is back’ …”
I can’t wait for the coming campaign to amend the Constitution so that the Austrian can run for president. And of course, that’s no joke: Two such proposed amendments have been introduced during this session of Congress: One that would allow those of foreign birth to be president after they’ve been citizens for 20 years, another with a 35-year citizenship and 14-year continuous residence requirement. The interesting thing, on first glance, anyway, is that the sponsors of the amendment resolutions include the very liberal (Democratic Reps. John Conyers of Michigan and Barney Frank of Massachusetts, for example) and the very conservative (Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Darrell Issa of California; Issa is the guy who made Schwarzenegger’s governorship possible by bankrolling the campaign to recall Gray Davis last year when it looked like it had stalled).
Now, the bipartisan lefty-righty support for the amendment doesn’t mean it’s going anywhere. Haven’t looked to see whether anyone has done any polling on the proposal, but the Associated Press did an informal survey of GOP delegates from Michigan earlier this week and found the idea got a cold reception.
My own feelings: I really loathe the notion of Schwarzenegger taking his bluster and borrowed “Saturday Night Live” and “Terminator” one-liners to national office. But I also believe that this country has been made great by immigrants; and that the original reasoning for excluding the foreign-born from the presidency — discussed in brief on Slate — is no longer valid. And of course, there’s the obvious point that we’ve gotten so far into the shallow end of our political talent pool — take a look at the Son of Texas ensconced at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue now — that maybe it’s time to think about opening up the process a little.
Historical ‘President Schwarzenegger?’ footnote: Shock site rotten.com notes in its long profile of the Austrian that during a House committee hearing several years ago, he was cited as the nightmare example of why foreigners should be barred from holding the highest office in the land:
Mr. MCDONALD: All right. I could give what I consider the definitive argument against the proposed amendment in two words: Arnold Schwarzenegger, but I have been allotted 5 minutes, so I will take the 5. I will explain the reference, if it does not follow.
[Later in the testimony…]
Mr. FRANK: Thank you. First, I would ask, Professor McDonald, I assume the reference to Arnold Schwarzenegger was to hold out the terrible prospect that he might get elected President.
Mr. MCDONALD: Yes.
Mr. FRANK: I think what I find is that that shows — the assumption is that there is no great discretion on the part of the public.
Mr. MCDONALD: They have elected a number of actors before to high office.
Mr. FRANK: Yes, they have, and I think they did a reasonable job, given their values. And I think that I am glad you brought it up, because it seems to me what we have here is, in the guise of a defense of the American citizens, a denigration of them; the notion that they somehow cannot be trusted to make these decisions.