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Hart's Campaign--Round 2

December 26, 1987

The pundits are having a field day with the re-entry of Gary Hart into the presidential race. Some are trying to analyze the reasons for his actions (Jack Beatty, "Round 2-Hart Plays Out Another Weakness: Vanity," Op-Ed, Dec. 16). Some are assessing the political damage to the Democratic Party (David Broder, "Wanted: A Democrat to Take Risk," Op-Ed, Dec. 18; Robert G. Beckel, "Hart's Return Hurts All Other Democrats in Race," Opinion, Dec. 20). What has been missing, is a thoughtful piece on the flaw in our system of candidate selection.

According to the Constitution, the requirements for aspiring to the office of President are minimal: A candidate must be at least 35 years of age, a citizen and resident of the United States. Samuel Adams, one of the signers of the Constitution, had his concerns when he wrote to a friend on January 15, 1781: ". . . get the Public Departments especially the most important of them, filled with men of understanding and inflexible virtue." Then with regard to the presidency he went on to caution: "It would be indeed alarming, if the United States should ever entrust the Ship in which our all is at stake with inexperienced or unprincipled pilots. Our cause is surely too interesting to mankind, to be put under the direction of men, vain, avaricious or concealed under the hypocritical guise of patriotism, without a spark of public or private virtue."

It is something to consider, that for all professions involved with the public welfare--doctors, lawyers, teachers, beauty operators, etc.--individuals must prove competency. But those who aspire to the highest office in the land, who hold our very lives and way of life in their hands, need only conform to the requirements of the Constitution.

Is it time to more clearly define the qualifications for the office of the president? Is it time for an amendment to the Constitution to save America from those who aspire to the office for reasons other than a true concern for the commonweal; to protect us from those who are "vain, avaricious" and self-seeking?

GERTRUDE KERN

Los Angeles

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