NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 9, 2004

The constitutional provision which limits the presidency to only those born in the United States is outdated and illogical, according to Jonathan Turley of George Washington University.

Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution limits the presidency to natural born citizens of the United States, but Turley and others argue that the rule dates back to a time when the United States was prone to real and imagined foreign conspiracies; furthermore, historians also suspect the rule was designed to keep West Indies-born Alexander Hamilton from becoming president.

Unfortunately, the requirement eliminates many candidates, both past and present, with respectable credentials from the oval office:

  • Over 700 immigrants who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery in war are disqualified.
  • Several previous Cabinet members, including three secretaries of State (Christian Herter, Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright) are disqualified.
  • Industrialist Andrew Carnegie would not have qualified and economist John Kenneth Galbraith is disqualified.
  • Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and Rep. Tom Lantos of California are barred from running for office.

Considering the "dismal crop of homegrown candidates" available, it may be wise to expand the pool, says Turley.

Proposals to amend Article II, Section I include simply requiring a citizen to live in the United States for a number of years -- 20 or 35 years under two current proposals.

Source: Jonathan Turley, "Amend it, but Not Just for Arnold," USA Today, November 23, 2004.

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