Thursday, October 28, 2004

Who's not looking out for himself?

Well, the recent scandal/charges/counter-charges between Bill O'Reilly and his former producer Andrea Mackris has been settled.

While I really wanted to hold off posting on this topic until all the dust had settled and all facts were out, but given relatively "quiet settlement negotiations" we may have all the facts that we are ever going to get concerning this matter.

I like Bill O'Reilly. I enjoy reading his books and I genuinely believe that he believes he has everyone's best interest in mind. He wrote an excellent book called "Who's Looking Out For You", I found the premise of the book very nice, and much of the content, life experiences and advice were helpful. Unfortunately I think Bill forgot to look out for himself and take some of his own advice.

The facts of this case are very strange. Andrea Mackris worked for Bill O'Reilly, then resigned to work for the competition, CNN, and then resigned from CNN. Upon resigning from CNN she returned to Fox News to work for Bill O'Reilly (again).

During her tenure at Fox News, it appears that Andrea Mackris never made anybody aware, either professionally or personally, that she was working in a hostile work environment. In fact with what little evidence that was released it appeared that Andrea Mackris was doing well at Fox News. Just a few months ago she responded y email to a friend who had asked how she was doing, having returned to work with O'Reilly. Her response was that "I'm having a wonderful time here. I love the people. I'm home and I will never leave again" Is this something that someone would say that was working in a hostile work environment?

Now it definitely appears that some very lewd topics had been discussed between Bill O'Reilly, filled with very crude, as well as sometimes comical, language. It is all rather embarrassing to a public figure who recounts in his own book, 'Who's Looking Out for You?' hat his success as built on three foundations "personal discipline, education, and persistence" In fact Bill claims to have mastered the art of "Self-Protection". Upon recent events and critical view, one would have to argue otherwise.

Given what we know it is somewhat easy to put some assemblance of order as to how and why the lawsuits were settled. What many believe is that when Bill O'Reilly pressed on with this lawsuit and his lawyers demanded whatever evidence Andrea Mackris was holding, which many believe are detailed tapes and/or transcripts of phone conversations, Andrea's willing participation in these discussions and the true 'context' of these conversations would be exposed, thus weakening her case or harassment and working in a hostile environment. Andrea gets to walk away with and easy $2 million (less her lawyer fees) and has all the benefits

Bill is a smart man in my opinion, well at least most of the time. Despite costing him a couple of million bucks (which he should easily make back given his recent ratings boost) settling on this issue, rather than fighting it is a whole lot easier. Even if one were to assume that this entire episode was a frame job by Ms. Mackris, surely the lewd details that probably do exist would be far too much of an embarrassment for Mr. O'Reilly and his accuser.

We live in a world in which the themes of "sex, drugs, rock & roll, and may I include lawsuits, dominate our lives. I make no attempt to rationalize the silly episode involving Bill O'Reilly and Andre Mackris. Both appear to be willing accomplices to each other’s ulterior motives. It appears that Bill O'Reilly caved into sexual addiction (see this post for a related topic) and Ms. Mackris may have cried wolf...to the tune of $2 million.

This episode is truly disappointing. For one, Ms. Mackris's disingenuous claim may further complicate and raise doubt for future cases men or women may have against sexual harassment and hostile work environments. The very real circumstances that take place may have a further cloud of doubt because of extremely selfish acts as this.

With regards to Bill O'Reilly, I really feel he let himself down and only served as an EXAMPLE of what a total lack of discipline and regard to others can produce. While I do not feel Bill's actions were overly deviant, he clearly put himself in a compromising position when he inappropriately discussed topics that are usually only shared by intimate partners and certainly are not by coworkers, especially when they are not on equal footing.

Bill, I really do feel you have people's best intentions in mind when you write your books and do your show. Unfortunately, as readily apparent as you made it that nobody was "looking out for you" during your rise to fame, it is clear to me in this case you were not looking out for yourself and if you are not more careful it could lead to your fall.

Posted by mightymerk, 6:24 PM | link | (3) comments |

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

How American should you be to become President? - Part III

This is part three of a three-part blog concerning the proposed constitutional amendment to allow foreign-born citizens the right to become President of the United States and my feelings about the proposal and topic.

Part III:

In Part II several established and widely held arguments against foreign-born citizens becoming President were presented. Mostly centered on the fear of foreign subversion in the American political system.

So how do these arguments and fears hold up to scrutiny? Do they apply in modern America today?


The first step would be reviewing the fundamental arguments in favor of allowing foreign-born citizens the right to run for President. Essentially they are founded under the principals that there should be no 2nd-class type citizen and that the best person, or more specifically the best citizen should be allowed the opportunity to run for President, regardless of national origin. Many naturalized citizens have demonstrated an understanding of our government through their service in the government or in the military. Foreign-born citizens have served in many different Presidential cabinets, including the current one. In these capacities they have been seen to be no less capable of faithfully executing the law of the land and adhering to their responsibilities.

Now to address the arguments against foreign-born Presidents:

The framers were genuinely afraid of foreign subversion. The prospect of a European noble, and now in present example a famous European bodybuilder/actor (Arnold Scwarzeneggger), using their money and influence to sway the American people. The greatest fear being that someone would be elected who was neither qualified and/or capable of understanding American Democracy and or law.

As demonstrated in the preceding paragraph, a great many naturalized citizens have demonstrated exemplary understanding of both American Democracy and the law of the land. Even if we took the argument at face value, it would neither be practical or all encompassing. Voters already face the challenge of determining whether a famous natural born citizen who runs for President is qualified. Thanks to the work of current media outlets there is an enormous amount of information to help everyone make an informed decision. A presidential candidate does not have to be naturalized to be unqualified, and candidates who are naturalized would face an extra burden of proof with voters (with additional background checks and questions of loyalty). It might be argued that a foreign power wishing to disguise its actions would have a better chance of success if it used a natural born American. This person would attract far less suspicion. The very fact that suspicions already exist about native born American Presidents being far too heavily infuenced by foreign powers only further supports that this idea of a foreign-born citizen being used as an agent from a foriegn country as impractical and highly selective.

With regards to the wording of the consitution and the mindset of the original framers there is more 'give' then most acknowledge.

First, the presidential eligibility clause itself admits that allowing naturalized citizens to be President is not such a bad things. The clause grants presidential eligiblity to any "Citizen of the United States at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution." This clause gave presidential eligibility to tens of thousands of naturalized citizens, including seven of the original framers who signed the Constituion. If the Founders thought that naturalized citizens were inherently more likely to be subject to foreign influence, they most assuredly would not have included this clause.

To further support the apparent ambivalence the Founders had toward the natural born citizen requirement once can look at the U.S. Senate's action in 1798, in which it elected a naturalized citizen, John Laurance (born in England) as President Pro Tempore. The President Pro Tempore was second in line of succession to the presidency. Therefore, John Laurance was only two heartbeats away from the Presidency.

It is important to note that in the records of the Constitutional Convention, several founders warned against the eligibility rules that would in effect create second-class citizens.

Alexander Hamilton viewed that the problem of foreign influence was solved through the process of the Electoral College (which is now also being looked at as outdated).

The Founders made many arguments against limiting presidential eligibility to natural born citizens. Though this limitation was ultimately accepted the arguments simply do not go away.

Last but not least I want to introduce a somewhat new aspect that must be considered. Although the perception of a "foreign influence" threat has been the most widely held argument against allowing a foreign-born President, I believe that a new nuance, that of the Foreign Reaction, towards such a President must be part of the debate.

How would the world react to an Israeli-born President? How would the present day Middle East react? We only have to look at the fresh batch of anti-semitic conspiracy theories hatched when Joe Lieberman decided to run for Vice President. The recent discovery of John Kerry's jewish ancestry also provided fodder. Even the beloved Arnold Schwarzenegger could not duck questions about fathers nazi ties, and of his own view. Arnie was all but accused of being a Nazi himself (in addition to a sexist and racist). Would foreign reaction be any more forgiving?

How would Pakistan react to and Indian-born President? Would a Russian President enjoy open diplomacy with a Chechnyan-born President? Would North Korea listen to a President native born to South Korea or Japan?

While I make no assertion that the loyalty or capabilities of such individuals should be any more in question that that of a native born candidate, would the nations of the world be as equally rational?

Conclusion:

The consitutional ban against the right for foreign-born citizens to run for President of the United States was put in place (as I have briefly demonstrated somewhat reluctanly)out of genuine fear of foreign subversion. These fears were certainly understandable at the time, but the lack of rational behind such a ban has repeatedly been in question.

This longstanding ban has been debated numerous times, the most contemporary debates leading to Resolution H.J. Res. 88.
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It is clear that the major arguments against lifting such a band lack sufficient support. Much of what is presented is based on irrational fears and anti-foreigner sentiment. Of course most naturalized citizens are not qualified to be President, but neither are most natural born citizens. The proposed amendment of does not offer naturalized citizens the right to become President, no citizen has the right. It only provides them to right to run for President.

The thousands (if not millions) of foreign-born to serve our nation faithfully as responsible citizens, military personell, as well as government officials in just about every capacity other than President/Vice President further supports that there are no additional inherent risks that any other citizen would not posses.

Furthermore the role media and the electoral college, which already provide as "check-points" for native born candidate, could serve in equal capacity with regards to naturalized citizens.

While the aspect of Foreign Influence is often considered and debased, that of Foreigh Reaction has not. While it is never healthy for any person let alone a nation to run completely dependent on "outside opinion" is it something that should be so easily dismissed?

It is my opinion is that no rational argument exists to prohibit a foreign-born citizen from becoming President. While such a ban only creates a 2nd-class type citizen in the most extreme scenario (that of the right to become President), this very Un-American environment would continue to exist. I do believe in the wisdom and prudence of the Founding Fathers. I understand the basic fears that the framers had, and I believe that at the time (the infancy of our nation) they made a rational compromise, but alas, such a law, may need to be changed.
Posted by mightymerk, 4:27 AM | link | (7) comments |