Could Arnold Schwarzenegger become president of the United States? Politically, it seems possible. Although we still have to see how he does in the rest of his time as California’s governor, so far he has shown an ability to learn the job and lead.
But legally, for him to run for president, the U.S. Constitution would have to be amended. It currently stipulates, “No person except a natural-born citizen … shall be eligible to the office of president.” The founders put that in the Constitution to make sure foreign potentates didn’t take over the small, new country of the United States. California’s governor was born, of course, in Austria.
But even before he was elected last October, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, proposed a constitutional amendment to allow foreign-born presidents who have been U.S. citizens for 20 years.
The hurdles to passing such an amendment are high: approval by votes of two-thirds of both houses of Congress and then by three-fourths of the state legislatures. With most senators, many House members and even some state legislators themselves dreaming of life in the Oval Office, competition from a charismatic Austrian might not be welcomed.
But who knows? Arnold Schwarzenegger has given us many surprises in his weightlifting, movie, business and political careers and could come up with some more. He backed the Hatch amendment during his appearance Feb. 25 on “Meet the Press,” but of his own potential candidacy adroitly said, “I have no idea. I haven’t thought about that all. I’m so busy with our state.”
But he added, “I think that there’s so many people here in this country that are … immigrants, that are doing such a terrific job with the work, bringing businesses here and all this, that there’s no reason why not … Look at the kind of contribution people like Henry Kissinger have made, Madeleine Albright” — two foreign-born former secretaries of state.
Actually, besides Gov. Schwarzenegger, the name most often mentioned as someone who might be unleashed by the Hatch amendment is Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Canadian-born Democrat. She moved to California at 4 with her family, was raised in the San Francisco Bay area and attended UC Berkeley.
Her office said that most interest in this issue seems to come from outside Michigan. But, yes, she favors allowing foreign-born citizens to run for president.
In a nation of immigrants, it seems only right that they might aspire to the highest office. On the other hand, is this really one of those rare instances that changing the Constitution is called for? It’s an issue worth public discourse and we’ll return to it, as an actual amendment makes its way through Congress.
But who knows? The 2008 presidential race could be Schwarzenegger vs. Granholm. Only in America.