In his March 14 commentary, Kevin Carley suggests that anyone running for president should be required to obtain a top-level security clearance. My immediate reaction: What a sensible idea! It is obvious that anyone seeking the top White House job should meet the same standard that is applied to others who work there. National security is at stake.

However, Thimi R. Mina, in an opposing commentary (March 17), raises a sobering objection: The Constitution does not specify such a requirement, and only the voters have the power to vet a presidential candidate. The only way to impose an additional qualification for the job would be through a constitutional amendment.

I am not qualified to debate the constitutional question, but I can offer a layman’s suggestion: Require an FBI background check, but let the voters, in the primary process, judge whether a candidate passes. A public report from the FBI (containing no opinions or recommendations, only the facts) would enable voters to perform better-informed vetting, and voters would be reminded that they are making the serious decision whether, in essence, to grant a candidate a top-security clearance. It is true that the news media do perform a similar investigative function and do turn up important information, but they lack the resources that the FBI has.

Mr. Carley’s idea and whether it should be applied to others seeking high office merit further discussion, and I believe my suggestion would overcome Mr. Mina’s main objection. Among other benefits, a thorough background check might have spared us the unceasing, wearying scandals that we have witnessed since the last election, though, in this particular case, they were predictable from what we already knew.

Michael P. Bacon


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