Legislature Has Too Much Time on its hands!

John blueoval at 1SMARTISP.NET
Tue Feb 8 16:49:11 MST 2005

Free Congress Foundation's

Notable News Now

February 9, 2005

The Free Congress Commentary

Hatch’s “Foreign-Born President” Amendment

By Paul M. Weyrich

Our Constitution has stood the test of time.  It has served our
country well, guiding it through times of war, peace, prosperity
and depression.  As a conservative I do not want it changed
without good reason.  One worthy reason is protecting marriage as
a covenant between a man and a woman, a definition in consonance
with Christian tradition that has proven itself sufficient for

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has proposed to amend the Constitution
to allow naturalized Americans to become President.  If his
amendment were adopted any person who had been a United States
citizen for at least twenty years would be eligible to hold the
Presidency.  This is not a new idea.  However, Senator Hatch’s
proposed amendment places emphasis on contemporary political
leaders who otherwise never would be eligible to become

Perhaps no better person could refute the proposed Hatch Amendment
than the late Balint Vazsyoni, Director of the Center for the
American Founding.  I had the honor of knowing this gentleman, a
concert pianist who came to our country from his native Hungary
while it was under Communist rule.  More than most, Vazsyoni
appreciated the wisdom that was displayed by the Founding Fathers
in framing the Constitution and our country’s unique heritage of
offering freedom and liberty to all people.  Vazsyoni witnessed
for himself and knew of the damage done to countries whose guiding
principles were set – often arbitrarily – by despotism and the
ideologies of fascism and Communism.

A hearing by the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the
Constitution was held on July 24, 2000 to review amending the
Constitution to allow foreign-born citizens to become President.
Vazsyoni both testified in person before the Subcommittee and
submitted prepared remarks.

Vasyoni noted that the Founding Fathers created three branches of
government and placed no stricture requiring citizenship to become
a member of the Legislative or Judicial Branch.  However, power is
centralized in one person in the Executive Branch.  Vazsyoni
insisted that he did not view it to be an “excessive requirement”
to have a native-born American to hold that one office.  America
presents immigrants with a great deal of leadership

In his prepared remarks, Vazsyoni stated:  “It is well known that
the Founding Fathers were mindful in the extreme of foreign
influences, and the dangers therein to the Republic.  While
experience has shown that a native-born Chief Executive is not
necessarily immune to foreign influence, the odds are certainly
more favorable if the president [sic] is an American plain and
simple, who has never been, and is not at the time of taking
office, anything else.”

The proposed Hatch Amendment comes at a time when there is a great
deal of speculation about the political future of Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger.  No doubt some Americans consider him to be an
“exceptional” leader given his dramatic rise in politics.  He
would not be permitted to hold the Presidency – assuming the Hatch
Amendment were not ratified – but certainly would be eligible to
be a United States Senator.  However, many people would cite him
as a case that demonstrates the unfairness of the Constitutional

In his prepared remarks Vaszyoni made very clear that “the laws of
this country never have been written with the exceptions in mind.
Among other things, the Framers of the Constitution distinguished
themselves by writing few laws, and employing language at one
broad and concise, so as to be applicable to all circumstances at
all times.”

Many would be right to harbor suspicion that a foreign-born
President would tilt U.S. foreign policy one way or another toward
his native country.  For instance, if a native-born Cuban, now a
naturalized U.S. citizen, became President and we invaded Cuba to
topple Castro, that act alone would most likely be a very divisive
political issue.  The intensity of the debate is certain to become
magnified when the President’s loyalty is questioned.  Was he
acting to settle old scores?  Or was he acting in the true
interest of our country?  The Founding Fathers in writing the
Constitution made sure that question need never be asked.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), a proponent of amending the Constitution
along the lines recommended by Senator Hatch, commented in a
December 12, 2004 Miami Herald story that the Constitution “tells
immigrants that they are somehow flawed.”

>From a world view America has been uncharacteristically generous
in offering immigrants opportunities and freedom.  Certainly my
own father knew this, having left Germany in the 1920s when it was
experiencing economic turmoil in the wake of World War I.
Undoubtedly Governor Schwarzenegger knows the generosity of this
country.  Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), who is Constitutionally
prohibited from ever holding the Presidency, has stated:  “I don’t
know of any other country where the electoral process is so open
to foreign-born citizens.”  Our country still offers freedom and
opportunity to legal immigrants and it should remain that way.

Senator Hatch is quite serious about his proposal and in fact one
Democrat staff member of the Senate Judiciary Committee told me
that the Senator met with his Democratic Judiciary Committee on
that committee to discuss combining his amendment with a removal
of the two-term limit on the Presidency.  The thinking is that the
addition of removing the two-term bar on the Presidency would be a
sweetener to Democrats who would see it as a way to put Bill
Clinton -- an electable Democrat with proven national popularity
-- back in the White House.

The Senator’s press spokesperson denied that the Senator has given
serious thought or even entertained combining the two measures.
He could not say with complete certainty that Senator Hatch has
not been in a meeting in which the subject was broached by Senate
Democrats, inasmuch as meetings between members of opposite
parties occur all the time in the Senate.

Ratifying a Constitutional Amendment is a lengthy procedure.  My
colleague, Marion Edwyn Harrison, Esq., President of the Free
Congress Foundation, summarized it succinctly last year when he
wrote “the House and Senate must each pass a proposed amendment by
a two-thirds vote and then 38 of the 50 States must ratify it --
and all within whatever time frame, if any, is legislated as part
of the package.”  Our Founding Fathers intended it that way.
Changes to the principles upon which our nation is governed are
not to be made in haste or with great frequency.

There are some changes that were important to the Constitution.
Constitutional Amendments deserve serious review on a case-by-case
basis.  In this case, however, there is no need to amend the

Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress

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