Sunday, January 20, 2008

Experience wanted? Maybe not so much...

With all due respect to the "35 years/Ready on Day One" partisans, I offer these reflections by Nic Kristof in Sunday's NY Times:

"It might seem obvious that long service in Washington is the best preparation for the White House, but on the contrary, one lesson of American history is that length of experience in national politics is an extremely poor predictor of presidential success.

Looking at the 19 presidents since 1900, three of the greatest were among those with the fewest years in electoral politics. Teddy Roosevelt had been a governor for two years and vice president for six months; Woodrow Wilson, a governor for just two years; and Franklin Roosevelt, a governor for four years. None ever served in Congress.

They all did have executive experience (as did Mr. Clinton), actually running something larger than a Senate office. Maybe that’s something voters should think about more: governors have often made better presidents than senators. But that’s not a good Democratic talking point, because the candidates with the greatest administrative experience by far are Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee.

Alternatively, look at the five presidents since 1900 with perhaps the most political experience when taking office: William McKinley, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush. They had great technical skills — but not one was among our very greatest presidents."

Kristof adds that the man whom many consider the greatest of all Presidents--Abraham Lincoln--had a paltry, and not terribly successful, one term in the House before seeking the highest office. And, he concluded, the man with the greatest current claim to the Presidency on the basis of experience is...none other than Richard Cheney(!).

So experience is important...except when it's not so much.


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