Der Österreicher Kommt

The dark cloud on America’s political horizon is growing a little more ominous. No, not the ultrafundamentalist, ultraright, the-Bible-is-law crowd (they’re not on the horizon; they’re directly overhead, raining all manner of hail and hell on the heads of the unbelievers). No, I’m talking about California’s favorite Austrian, Arnold Schwarzenegger. As noted previously, there’s a fairly serious though so far fairly quiet move afoot to amend the U.S. Constitution to remove the requirement that the president must be born a U.S. citizen; that way, Arnold could run and bring his brand of bombastic, hit-and-run populism to all the people of America.

Now the campaign is getting aggressive. A new organization somewhat disingenuously called “Amend for Arnold and Jen” — at amendforarnold.org — is launching a series of TV ads promoting a change in the Constitution. I say disingenuous because the site name attempts to make the effort look as if, gee, it benefits all qualifying immigrants, even Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, who hails from British Columbia. But it’s clear looking at the site that this is purely an effort to try to get The Austrian into das Weißhaus.

Some of Arnold’s rich Silicon Valley friends are behind the drive, The main mover appears to be Lissa Gaye Morgenthaler-Jones (she’s also known by various permutations of that collection of names). A Google search shows:

–She’s been a heavy contributor to and participant in Schwarzenegger’s various California campaigns.

–She’s an investment banker and analyst and daughter of David Morgenthaler, an early Silicon Valley venture capitalist; in campaign finance statements, she’s said to be head of something called Laeta Capital, though I haven’t found anything on the firm tonight.

–She’s a moderate, pro-choice Republican who’s contributed to the WISH List — a Republican knockoff of the Democratically-focused Emily’s List; the WISH List steers money to pro-choice Republican women candidates on the local, state, and federal level.

It’s really hard for me to look at this calmly, never mind objectively. It’s clear that the principal reasons that foreign-born Americans were barred from the presidency are no longer relevant and that’s it’s reasonable for long-ago naturalized citizens to stand for president. When it comes to talent and ability, there’s nothing magic about being born in the United States. Just look at the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. On the other hand, amending the Constitution to benefit one man just stinks of opportunism. Of course, that fits the Arnold mold perfectly: He’s the opportunist’s opportunist. He proposed a measure to create a rich statewide after-school program for all de children of Colly-fornia; but he forgot to include any way to pay for it. He’s governing a state in the midst of a profound fiscal crisis, and his solution is to foist the bill off on the next generation. Meantime, he proposes balancing the budget by slashing education spending. And to get his way, he blusters up and down the state and bullies anyone who tries to stand up to him (his current civics project involves getting rid of the Democratic majorities in the state Legislature and its congressional delegation by putting an amendment on the ballot that would create a new reapportionment commission). And as far as his moderation goes: The guy stood by Bush, a conservative radical, and helped him get re-elected. I think the Austrian would be a friggin’ menace in the White House.

So, my ambivalence aside, I’ll be counting on the narrow-minded knee-jerk xenophobia of my fellow Americans to win out over their slack-jawed drooling love of celebrities in general and The Terminator in particular to keep foreigners out of the White House. For a little while, anyway.

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