Monday, September 01, 2008

On Candidates' Experience

From Jim Manzi at "The Corner" comes "Experience and Presidential Performance". In this article Manzi defines his own list of the best 5 Presidents and the worst 5 Presidents. Then he compares their pre-White House 'experience':
In order to characterize pre-presidential experience, I've defined "Executive" experience specifically as a government seniormost executive (basically, governor of a state or supreme military commander, but excluding positions like vice president, cabinet member or subordinate general). I've defined "Legislative" experience as the national legislature – a U.S. senator of Member of the U.S. House of Representatives – but excluding tings service on a town council or in a state legislature.

Here are the Executive and Legislative backgrounds of the top 5:

  • Washington: Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army

  • Lincoln: Member of Congress

  • FDR: Governor of New York

  • Jefferson: Governor of Virginia; Delegate to the Congress of the Confederation

  • TR: Governor of New York

Here are the backgrounds of the bottom 5:

  • Buchanan: U.S Senator

  • Harding: U.S. Senator

  • Pierce: U.S. Senator; Member of Congress

  • Andrew Johnson: Member of Congress; Governor of Tennessee; U.S. Senator

  • Fillmore: Member of Congress

It's kind of striking that 4 of the top 5 had Executive experience (with the obvious, and towering, exception of Abraham Lincoln), while 4 of the bottom 5 did not. In fact, the best presidents have tended to have predominantly Executive experience, and the worst presidents predominantly Legislative experience.

Manzi could have added Ronald Reagan to this top 5 list, too. Most Republicans would put him that high. His pre-Presidential experience would be two terms as Governor of California.

And Jimmy Carter could have been added to the bottom 5 list. Most Republicans, not to mention an awful lot of Democrats, would put him down there. Carter's pre-Presidential experience would be the anomaly. He served as Governor of Georgia before running for the White House.

Experience is useful, helpful. But it's a bit of a bug-a-boo, really. If I'm going to look at the candidates I'm going to compare what I consider their judgement, as well as their character. And in that I would place John McCain and Sarah Plain heads-and-shoulders above Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Just my opinion, but I'll go with it.

Manzi closes with:
Of course, what this simple analysis also calls to mind is the comparable experience base for the other three members of both major tickets:

  • McCain: U.S. Senator; Member of Congress; No Executive experience

  • Obama: U.S Senator; No Executive experience

  • Biden: U.S. Senator; No Executive experience

Sarah Palin seems to be in good company.

Note: From the President of Planned Parenthood comes this uplifting thought:
What might have been encouraging news for women was just the opposite — somehow McCain had managed to find a woman running mate even more conservative than he is on women's rights. (As in, that wacko didn't abort the Mongoloid!)


Brooke said...

Like you said, it's a bit of a crap shoot... But I'd put my money on someone who knows how to run things before a legislator.

benning said...

Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't. Add character and judgement ...


Anonymous said...

This seems to prove the Republican VP's town council experience counts for nothing, right? Now she only has 2 years of governership.

It kind of suggests that none of them would make good presidents.

Also how did U.S. Grant not make the worst list? He was a drunken military leader. Also "W" would make the worst list before Jimmy Carter and he was governer for years before driving Texas' economy into the ground.

This bit of gibberish proves nothing.

Stephen McMullin said...

That's fascinating… I'm not American, so I have an excuse for not having a clue who the bottom 5 were. Did a quick bit of research, and it's interesting to see that they all date back quite a bit, good and bad. Has every president since FDR been just… mediocre?

This is a great blog, though I disagree with almost everything you say! But hey, ain't that the wonder of the internet?


(PS — Sarah Palin is definitely growing your blog, that's how I found you! Following a lot of coverage, and I can't help feeling that her selection was cynically motivated, experience or no experience, which isn't good, since she has to stick around for more than just helping McCain get elected.)

benning said...

Steve: I think we do need more time before we can accurately assess how good or bad Presidents have been since FDR. Before that ... few Americans would even know who Millard Fillmore was. I think Harry Truman would be in the top 10, though he was loathed by the Republican Party. I would not put JFK in the top 10 though the Democrats have semi-deified him (which happens if you die in office). From Kennedy to Nixon we were in Vietnam. Johnson and Nixon get the hatred for that which complicates matters. Ford was mediocre - and exactly the breathing room the USA needed after Nixon - but led to Carter, who I assess as awful. My opinion, but again, it's probably too soon.

The point of that article, of course, wasn't to list the best and worst but to look at their executive experience before attaining the office of the Presidency and how they fared once in the office. Best/Worst lists are fun, but open to many opinions. "Who was better: King Alfred or King Canute?" May depend on your Dane or Saxon ancestors. ;)

Disagree with me all you wish. I appreciate your honest comments and questions.

Anonymous said...

George "W" Bush should top the worst list.

He failed as a business man.
He failed as a governer.
He failed for eight years as a president.

Mainly the presidency failed because he was lazy for the first bit, then took away our civil rights, mismanaged the war, gave government money to big oil, gave government contracts to his business buddies, gave tax breaks to the rich, sent a piddle rebate check to console the average citizen, failed to find Bin Ladin, allowed torchure (opposite of George Washington), and vetoed for the first time in his second term to put the US far behind the rest of the world in science.

If you have left the country in the past five years, people laugh at us for electing the "baboon".

McCain wants to keep things the same??? Scary!

Anonymous said...

That last part doesn't fit with the rest of the blog.

It is not that she didn't abort her own child, but "Just like McCain, Palin opposes a woman’s right to choose. Palin has also stated her opposition to abortion even in cases of rape or incest."

Not sure if you have managed to catch the real reasons.

Anonymous said...

Palin's 17 year old daughter is knocked up. Looks like family values are out the window with both Republican choices.

shoprat said...

No it's not throwing values out the window. It's giving true character a trial by fire.

Don't expect a leftist to understand that as it is beyond them.

Anonymous said...

All politicians are scum and use the same tactics. Personal views on policy have no affect that understanding.

Personally both R and D are corupt.

Shahid72 said...

I don't understand what there is to consider about Palin. She is a woman and women shouldn't be in office, period! Perhaps this is just a cultural difference.

WomanHonorThyself said...

wow Benning..the nefarious tactics of the media wont even let us get to know their accomplishments..Go Sarah!!:)