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Inexperienced Officeholders

by Jalexson  c. 2003

Originally published at Mediard

The local newspaper editor claims the fact that the Kansas Republican lieutenant governor candidate hasn’t held elective office before somehow disqualifies him from the job of being stand by equipment for the governor’s office. He seems to think we would be better off with experienced politicians. Examples from the 20th Century indicate he may have it backwards.

This college president never held political office until he was elected governor of his state. He subsequently was elected president and led the nation through World War I. Former college president Woodrow Wilson served two terms as President of the United States and established the League of Nations.

This college president was more known for his successful military career, but no one knew his political affiliation until he agreed to run for president. As president he ended the shooting in the Korean War and led the nation through the early years of the Cold War. General Dwight Eisenhower was one of the nation’s most popular presidents even though he never held any other elective office.

This actor’s first elective office was as governor of his populous state. He was subsequently elected president and led the country out of a dangerous economic situation with high inflation threatening the nation’s economic stability. Actor Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War.

On the other hand, this career politician served in his state’s legislature before being elected to Congress and later the presidency. His administration is remembered primarily for the corruption of many of the president’s friends. Politician Warren G. Harding died before much of this corruption was exposed.

This career politician served in Congress for many years before being chosen as his party’s vice presidential candidate. He succeeded to the presidency when the president was assassinated. He had some early success at getting important legislation through Congress, but his administration is most remembered for getting the nation deeply involved in a war it didn’t know how to win. Politician Lyndon Johnson decided not to run for reelection because people were so dissatisfied with the way he was running the Vietnam War.

This career politician began his political career in Congress after World War II. He impressed party leaders enough to be selected as its vice presidential candidate. After two terms as vice president he ran unsuccessfully for president. He later was elected to the office and had some success in foreign affairs – ending the Vietnam War and reopening relations with China. However, a major scandal eventually forced politician Richard Nixon to become the first president to resign the office.

This career politician held the offices of attorney general and governor in his home state before being elected president. His administration witnessed significant economic growth, but politician Bill Clinton may be more remembered for being only the second president to be impeached.

Not every successful president entered politics late in his career. Franklin Delano Roosevelt served in the state legislature early in his life and served as an assistant secretary of the navy during the Wilson administration. However, he had a law practice and a position with a surety bond firm prior to being elected governor of New York. Harry Truman was a haberdasher before getting involved in local politics and subsequently running for the U.S. Senate.

The problem with experienced politicians is that they often become more concerned with the process of politics and lose touch with the real world. They learn to make deals behind the scenes and manipulate public opinion to achieve the goal of obtaining and holding public office. The presidency requires individuals who can actually deal with national problems.

Lyndon Johnson was an effective legislator who was able to get his programs through Congress, but he lacked an understanding of how to seek advice and take the appropriate action in foreign policy.

Richard Nixon may have had greater expertise in foreign affairs than any other president, but he didn’t have executive experience. His service in Congress and as vice president didn’t provide him with the skills to run an organization. He chose political advisors who let him down. He chose a skilled foreign policy advisor, but for his domestic advisors he relied on people who were politically loyal to him instead of choosing those most qualified to provide useful advice.

Bill Clinton was skillful at manipulating Democrats and the media. He apparently didn’t think he needed to worry about telling the truth about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. All he felt he needed to do was tell them what to believe and not worry about dealing with the truth.

The first president of the 21st Century is a business executive whose first political office was governor of Texas. It’s too early to fully evaluate George W. Bush. However, thus far he has responded effectively to the first attack on the nation’s capital since the War of 1812. He faces a difficult situation with an economy that is attempting to come down from the boom period late in the last century. It will be a few years before we know whether he is another Ronald Reagan, another Jimmy Carter or someone in between.



I also write at Mediard

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