Man Without Qualities

Monday, November 15, 2004

Death From Bifurcation

A new ad campaign urges amendment of the U.S. Constitution to remove limits on the presidency to natural U.S. citizens.

This particular effort is tied to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was born in Austria but became a U.S. citizen in 1983. And that's why this effort will almost certainly fail. Amending the Constitution based on considerations peculiar to a particular person - any particular person - is a nearly certain dead loser.

On the other hand, it is equally true that if there is no immediate and clear-cut need for an amendment to the Constitution, then that document shouldn't be amended. Of course, in the case of amendments to the "natural U.S. citizens" clause, the existence of an immediate and clear-cut need requires that there be a particular person who would be a likely candidate but is barred from the presidency because of the clause, which, of course, would cause the amendment to fail on the grounds that no amendment should be made to the Constitution based on considerations peculiar to a particular person.

That bifurcation may explain why the "natural U.S. citizens" clause remains in the Constitution even though it probably always has been a bad idea.

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