Tuesday, December 26, 2006


I wanted to bring this up earlier as I know Diane has touched on it. The simple fact is, since 1960 the two most "experienced" presidents by any objective measure (i.e. former vice presidents) were Nixon, Johnson, Ford** and Bush 41. Now none of them ran the country as badly as Junior Bush, but neither are heralded as being great presidents - Nixon for obvious reasons, Johnson because of Vietnam and Ford and Bush 41 mostly because they sucked at politics. In that same time, by far the most inexperienced were Kennedy and Carter. Kennedy deftly handled the Cuban Missile Crisis (with a big assist from Bobby), but also botched the Bay of Pigs and continued our increasing involved in Vietnam. Carter did mostly good things, but again, sucked at politics and well, there was that sandstorm in Iran to boot.

Point is, experience or inexperience, it's a wash. There are just too many things that complicate a President's term. It can be all about a decision a President makes or it can be all about some disaster that befalls the country or somewhere in between and their decisions, once they're filtered through advisors, opinion pollster and supported or condemned by Congress only has an indirect effect.

Mostly though, if you think of the stand out Presidents in that time, by standout I mean Presidents who were popular during their term and remain popular to this day (Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton) the thing that is common among them is that they were skilled politicians. They knew how to appeal to the public in a unique way which meant that even when they made mistakes or when events didn't go their way, their Presidencies remained relevant and years later a majority of Americans look back on their terms favorably. Good or bad, at the end of the day political skill and a good bit of luck are the only things that matter in presidential politics.

**Not to be crass the day after Ford's death, but it occured to me that his presidency was such an anomaly that it doesn't really fit into this discussion.

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