Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution currently stipulates that, "No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President..."
A "natural born Citizen" is one who is born in this country or who is born of at least one American parent.
There have been occasional moves to amend this requirement in the past. I recall that at the zenith of his pop star celebrity, Nixon national security adviser and later, secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, a similar constitutional amendment was floated. (Kissinger, of course, is originally from Germany.)
Frankly, this effort frightens me a bit. While there may or may not be merit to altering the Constitution in this way, it strikes me that doing so simply because of the popularity or charisma of one prominent figure is reckless. trivializing the Constitution.
This is especially the case when one considers that Schwarzenegger's extremely short tenure as governor has, in part because of its duration, been a mixed bag of success and failure. He is an untested figure. The White House isn't a place for people who have not spent a long time at least thinking deeply about the vital issues of our day or engaging in the art and science of leadership.
Schwarzenegger's life story is a compelling one. His charisma is undeniable. He may even be qualified to be President. But to amend the Constitution in a spasm of adulation over his celebrity is a really bad idea.
I would say this. If the proponents of this amendment genuinely want to fight for the principle of allowing naturalized citizens to become President, they ought to make their case without reference to any individual. To do so, they ought to include a simple stipulation in the amendment. It would read something like this:
No naturalized citizen living on the date of this article's adoption shall be eligible for the Office of President.Only with the addition of such a provision can we have a clear-headed debate on the merits of allowing naturalized citizens to serve in our nation's highest office, a debate absent the hysteria of celebrity.
The Constitution isn't something to be messed with lightly. (A reason that even many conservatives oppose amendments that would define marriage.) It isn't there to indulge the Horatio Alger-fantasies of one attractive public figure or our vicarious desires to participate in them.
There may be merit to allowing naturalized citizens to become President. But before we do so, let's de-Arnold the debate.