It is totally absurd that we require minimum standards for government jobs, such as education, clean criminal records,entrance testing, and in the most sensitive of positions such as law enforcement, polygraph tests. But we have nearly no standards for congress, senate or even the presidency other than a minium age and a stipulation that a president must be a “natural born citizen.”
This Op-Ed article was published today in TC Palm news papers, which covers four communiites from Vero Beach to Stuart , Florida.
Most folks don’t realize that anyone is eligible to run for president of the United States, so long as they are at least 35 years old and a “natural born citizen,” whatever that means. Nothing in the U.S. Constitution prohibits a high-school dropout, hobo or gangster from occupying the highest office in the land.
We have had senators and congressmen who were under indictment for crimes, yet still held office. The late Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska was convicted of corruption in 2008 then ran for re-election anyway. We have one congressman who, as a former federal judge, was impeached and convicted of perjury and thrown off the bench. Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida was subsequently elected to the very institution that impeached him.
After 224 years, it’s time to upgrade minimum standards.
The Constitution was ratified in 1791 when most elected members of Congress, and the president, were farmers, shopkeepers, printers and a few lawyers scattered within. The Jeffersons and Franklins were certainly far-sighted, but they never imagined the complex America of 2015 — with a population of more than 320 million — comprised of a multitude of cultures, races, genders and people from foreign nations within the landscape, not to mention the explosion of technology.
In 1790, life expectancy for men was slightly under the age of 40. Today, it’s nearly 80. When age requirements were installed into the constitution for congress and senate, youngsters age 25 and 30, respectively, could be elected as our representatives in all foreign and domestic issues. In today’s world, they would barely be out of college, minus a track record to gauge a candidate’s abilities.
Most government jobs delineate specific requirements to qualify for the position. Law enforcement officers in major agencies must have a bachelor’s degree or higher, no prior history of arrests/convictions and a clean slate in general. Interviews, and even polygraphs, are common for many positions. College records are examined for each applicant. None of these apply to an aspiring senator or president, as they should.
The recent announcement from Sen. Ted Cruz that he was running for president reignited the question of eligibility. Cruz is a devoted American, but born in another country, the son of one American and one Cuban. Some say he is not eligible. Debaters argue over language of the constitution, but in truth, the issue has not been resolved. How can someone be a “natural born citizen” if they are not born in this country?
In the interest of instilling integrity, assuring competency and preserving national security, the U.S. Constitution must be modernized as it pertains to qualifying our national representatives. If government subordinates must adhere to specific job requirements, so should our elected officials.
1. Elevate the age requirement for the U.S. House, Senate and president by at least five years each, or more.
2. Establish minimum requirements and job specs for federal officeholders much the same as other sensitive/critical federal employees. Applicants should have no history of felonious behavior and should adhere to educational, past-employment and taxpaying standards which are open to scrutiny for all candidates.
3. Requirements should include caveats that prohibit discrimination based on race, creed, religion and gender.
4. Design and ratify a constitutional amendment to upgrade the aforementioned, and to specifically define “natural born citizen” as it applies to the presidency.
The language of such laws must be unambiguous. We should remember our founding fathers’ original intent for inserting “natural born citizen” as a requirement to be a president: to prevent anyone from holding that immense power who could possibly have divided loyalties.
An American president must be American, through and through.