November 21, 2004


The 28th Amendment (WILLIAM SAFIRE, 11/22/04, NY Times)

Like a cloud no bigger than a man's hand, the 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution is gathering on the political horizon.

No, it's not the anti-same-sex amendment that President Bush supports. Only if the Supreme Court strikes down the federal Defense of Marriage Act - or if it overturns the changes in state constitutions adopted to block recognition of same-sex marriages legal elsewhere - will that proposed amendment have a remote chance of gaining support of two-thirds of the Congress and 38 states.

The founders made it hard to amend the Constitution, but since the Bill of Rights, it's been done on the average of once every 12 years. It's time to end discrimination based on place of birth that denies the equal right of every citizen to run for president.

Article II of the Constitution directed that in the future only "natural born" citizens would be eligible for the nation's highest office. There may have been reason for suspicion of the foreign-born as the nation was in formation, but that nativist bias has no place in a nation proud of its "golden door."

When an immigrant is naturalized, his or her citizenship becomes as natural as "natural born." The oath taken and the pledge of allegiance given make the immigrant 100 percent American, with all the rights, privileges and obligations appertaining thereto. All except one - the right to the greatest political success.

That makes all naturalized citizens - including taxpayers, voters, servicemembers - slightly less than all-American. Even children born abroad of U.S. citizens have fallen under the shadow of Article II; this has caused pregnant women to race back to our shores to make certain their children's political potential is not somehow beclouded.

The unequalizer in our Constitution cries out for fixing.

"Cries out" is a bit melodramatic, but it's good politics for the GOP to do it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 21, 2004 11:11 PM

"Even children born abroad of U.S. citizens have fallen under the shadow of Article II; this has caused pregnant women to race back to our shores to make certain their children's political potential is not somehow beclouded."

Um, isn't this a complete misreading of the Constitution? It says you must be a natural born citizen (i.e., born a citizen), NOT that you must be native born (i.e., born in the US).

Besides, if you must be born in the US, John McCain can't be President. He was born in the Canal Zone in Panama.

Posted by: brian at November 22, 2004 1:50 AM

The country will never accept this kind of change to the Constitution. It's the type of issue which galvanizes even people who aren't interested in politics.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at November 22, 2004 2:56 AM

Safire is wrong. George Romney, Mitt's father and former Michigan governor, was the son of polygamist Mormons who moved to Mexico so they could 'live in the doctrine.' He was an American citizen at birth, and was legally eligible to run for President, and did.

Posted by: Bart at November 22, 2004 7:22 AM

Better wait until Granholm gets older.

Posted by: ratbert at November 22, 2004 9:46 AM

Bart is correct about Geo. Romney. Though no one, to my knowledge, challenged the issue in court. I imagine that the DNC of today would challenge his elegibility for the office if it looked like he was about to become the Republican standard bearer.

Also, weren't questions raised about Barry Goldwater's eligibility in '64 since he was born in a US terratory (Arizona) not a state? Has the issue of whether or not an American citizen from one of our terratories (Guam, Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands) is elegible to be Pres. or VP ever been tested in the courts? Again, I can imagine the DNC doing it.

Posted by: Dave W. at November 22, 2004 10:58 AM

This amendment would be another 26th— passed for short term gain with no consideration for long term effects.

The only way it should gain consideration would be as part of a whole immigration and citizenship reform package. For example, a person who claims "dual citizenship", should not be eligible for any elective Federal office because they are demonstrating less than full allegiance to their oath to Constitution. An amendment that doesn't take that into account should be rejected.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at November 22, 2004 12:57 PM