An archaic presidential qualification

I rarely agree with liberal Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, but she’s recently penned two pieces that actually make sense.  Though Marcus is a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton, she acknowledged a couple weeks ago that Donald Trump’s threat to go after the Democrat frontrunner for enabling her sexually predatory husband was perfectly legitimate.  Now, as Ted Cruz is under attack from Trump (and some on the left) for being born in Canada, she’s sensibly calling for the end of the presidential natural-born citizen test.

I heard a lot about this test from a young age.  My father was born in Czechoslovakia and grew up in Germany, moving to the U.S. when he was ten.  He arrived in the magical “linguistic window” so that he spoke American English like a native and still retained his native fluency in German.  He served honorably as an American naval officer in World War II and after that held several federal government jobs that required a high security clearance.  Yet, as he rarely tired of telling me, he could never become president. 

Marcus gives a brief historical rundown of the particulars of how this rule came to be, focusing on fears in the early republic that unscrupulous foreigners would run for office and try to undo the radical American experiment in freedom and democracy.  That, she claims, as have many others, is no longer really relevant in a strong and stable nation of immigrants.  It leads to odd anomalies as to who can or can’t become president, based on nothing but the accident of birth.

It is also worth noting, if for no other reason than historical interest, that this rule might be dubbed the creole addition to the Constitution.  By that I don’t mean andouille sausage and cayenne pepper, but rather a rule that embodied some of the resentments that the founding fathers had for their former colonial masters.  The founding fathers were, almost to a man, creole, meaning that they were British citizens born in the American colonies.  All the European colonial powers distinguished between native-born citizens and those born in the colonies, even when the colonials came from good, established aristocratic families, making these colonials second-class citizens.  The term creole was used by the Spanish and French to make this distinction, and adopted by historians to also describe British colonists.  Under this classification, a son born in the Americas was not the equal of his father born in Europe.

Our presidency rule is thus almost the exact inversion of this system.  As a native-born American, I could be president, but my father, though every bit as qualified as me, never could.  In reality, my dad, a quiet and private man, never had an interest in running for any political office, but the fact that in principle he could not rankled him.  It should not rankle qualified Americans anymore.  

I rarely agree with liberal Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, but she’s recently penned two pieces that actually make sense.  Though Marcus is a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton, she acknowledged a couple weeks ago that Donald Trump’s threat to go after the Democrat frontrunner for enabling her sexually predatory husband was perfectly legitimate.  Now, as Ted Cruz is under attack from Trump (and some on the left) for being born in Canada, she’s sensibly calling for the end of the presidential natural-born citizen test.

I heard a lot about this test from a young age.  My father was born in Czechoslovakia and grew up in Germany, moving to the U.S. when he was ten.  He arrived in the magical “linguistic window” so that he spoke American English like a native and still retained his native fluency in German.  He served honorably as an American naval officer in World War II and after that held several federal government jobs that required a high security clearance.  Yet, as he rarely tired of telling me, he could never become president. 

Marcus gives a brief historical rundown of the particulars of how this rule came to be, focusing on fears in the early republic that unscrupulous foreigners would run for office and try to undo the radical American experiment in freedom and democracy.  That, she claims, as have many others, is no longer really relevant in a strong and stable nation of immigrants.  It leads to odd anomalies as to who can or can’t become president, based on nothing but the accident of birth.

It is also worth noting, if for no other reason than historical interest, that this rule might be dubbed the creole addition to the Constitution.  By that I don’t mean andouille sausage and cayenne pepper, but rather a rule that embodied some of the resentments that the founding fathers had for their former colonial masters.  The founding fathers were, almost to a man, creole, meaning that they were British citizens born in the American colonies.  All the European colonial powers distinguished between native-born citizens and those born in the colonies, even when the colonials came from good, established aristocratic families, making these colonials second-class citizens.  The term creole was used by the Spanish and French to make this distinction, and adopted by historians to also describe British colonists.  Under this classification, a son born in the Americas was not the equal of his father born in Europe.

Our presidency rule is thus almost the exact inversion of this system.  As a native-born American, I could be president, but my father, though every bit as qualified as me, never could.  In reality, my dad, a quiet and private man, never had an interest in running for any political office, but the fact that in principle he could not rankled him.  It should not rankle qualified Americans anymore.