Schwarzenegger Backs Amendment to Allow Immigrant Presidents |
By JOHN M. BRODER
Published: February 23, 2004
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 22 ? Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been governor of California for just 98 days, may already be eyeing a bigger stage than Sacramento.
Mr. Schwarzenegger, who immigrated to the United States from Austria 35 years ago, on Sunday endorsed an amendment to the Constitution to allow immigrants who have been citizens for at least 20 years to run for president. Mr. Schwarzenegger became a citizen in 1983.
Making his Sunday morning talk show debut on the NBC program "Meet the Press," Mr. Schwarzenegger was asked whether he would support changing the Constitution to allow naturalized citizens to serve as president. Senator Orrin G. Hatch, the Utah Republican, has proposed such an amendment.
"Yeah, I should look at that," Mr. Schwarzenegger said with his polished performer's smile. "It sounds really good."
He asked the program's host, Tim Russert, "Are you going to help me?"
Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican who won the governorship in a recall election last fall, quickly dismissed any interest in higher office, saying he did not have time to think about his next political move.
"I haven't thought about that at all," the governor said. "I tell you, I'm so busy with our state. You know California is a big state, a very complicated state. Right now I concentrate just on that."
Nevertheless, he said that Mr. Hatch's proposed amendment was "absolutely" a good idea, because it recognizes the contributions that immigrants make to the nation's political and commercial life.
"There are so many people in this country that are now from overseas, that are immigrants, that are doing such a terrific job with their work, bringing businesses here, that there's no reason why not. The key thing is you understand the political system and how it works," he said.
"Look at the kind of contribution that people like Henry Kissinger have made, Madeleine Albright," he said, referring to two former secretaries of state who immigrated from Europe.
Mr. Schwarzenegger was in Washington on Sunday for a meeting of the National Governors Association and to attend a White House dinner. On Tuesday, he will be in New York to raise money for the state Republican Party and to pick up checks for his campaign to pass a $15 billion bond measure that he says will help ease California's budget crisis.
He said that even though California received only about 75 cents for every dollar it sent to Washington in taxes he remained a big fan of President Bush. He said the president could carry California in November if he coughed up more federal largess. Mr. Bush lost the state to Al Gore in 2000 by more than a million votes.
"This is an election year," Mr. Schwarzenegger said. "The people of California expect certain things."
He added: "This is a very important year, and I'm absolutely convinced that we can deliver the state for George Bush. I think it is totally directly related to how much he will do for this state, there's no two ways about it."