So Much for ‘Experience’ As the Most Important Attribute in Presidents

George Will: “The president who came to office with the most glittering array of experiences had served 10 years in the House of Representatives, then became minister to Russia, then served 10 years in the Senate, then four years as secretary of state (during a war that enlarged the nation by 33 percent), then was minister to Britain. Then, in 1856, James Buchanan was elected president and in just one term secured a strong claim to being ranked as America’s worst president. Abraham Lincoln, the inexperienced former one-term congressman, had an easy act to follow.”

I would add that in 1932, Americans elected as president a man who had served as governor of New York for less than four years. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, most historians agree, was one of the nation’s greatest presidents.

Frank Rich, New York Times: “Experience, like nastiness, may prove a dead end…In 1960, the experience card was played by all comers against the young upstart senator from Massachusetts. In Iowa, LBJ went so far as to tell voters that they should vote for “a man with a little gray in his hair.” But experience, Kennedy would memorably counter, “is like taillights on a boat which illuminate where we have been when we should be focusing on where we should be going.”

Patrick Healy, New York Times: Obama “only needs to pass a gut check with enough voters on the experience issue, as Kennedy did. Or so he hopes.”


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