It's bad enough that an American president claims the right to unilaterally override a constitutional amendment, as Donald Trump did this week in pledging to abolish birthright citizenship.
It will be worse if Trump's intent, voiced in an interview by Axios, is seriously attempted — and worse yet if his partisan colleagues in Congress meekly acquiesce in such an unconstitutional maneuver.
The 14th Amendment — one of the Reconstruction Amendments ratified in the wake of the Civil War — opens with an unambiguous sentence: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. (The exception clause refers to the children of foreign diplomats, who have legal immunity from U.S. laws.)
This sentence overrode the Dred Scott decision, that blot on American history and jurisprudence in which the Supreme Court declared that blacks have "no rights that the white man was obliged to respect."
Trump, as is his wont, lies about the subject, claiming that the United States is unique in granting citizenship to all born in its territory. The truth is that 33 nations, mostly in the western hemisphere, follow the practice.
The president is far from the only Republican who dislikes birthright citizenship, but the likes of Sens. Lindsay Graham and Mitch McConnell have always recognized that changing it requires a constitutional amendment. Trump now claims that not only is an amendment unnecessary, he doesn't need Congress to act either.
This is several bridges too far.
Republican tolerance of this dangerous nonsense undermines their oft-stated claim of insisting on strict judicial interpretation of the Constitution. To redefine the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment by executive fiat would be precisely the opposite. It should not be attempted, and if attempted should not be tolerated.
The Free Press of Mankato (Minn.), Nov. 1.