Saturday, July 4, 2009

Presidential Experience

Mark Steyn gives a great summary of the rise and fall of Gov. Palin's White House aspirations.

But at the end of his post, he notes...
National office will dwindle down to the unhealthily singleminded (Clinton, Obama), the timeserving emirs of Incumbistan (Biden, McCain) and dynastic heirs (Bush). Our loss.
(On a side note, I'd point out that those categories are not mutually exclusive. Bush, though an heir, was also pretty singleminded. Sec. of State Clinton, though very singleminded, wouldn't have a breath of a chance at the Presidency if she hadn't inherited it from her husband.)

So where do we find qualified men and women to fill the office of President?

I just finished re-reading the second volume of William Manchester's The Last Lion, a three-part biography of Winston Churchill. An absolutely fabulous book, with many general insights into government and politics.

One fact jumped out at me this morning, before I'd read Steyn's post: Churchill filled virtually every possible ministerial position before 1932. When he became Prime Minister in 1940, he had served as Chancellor of the Exchequer (twice), Home Secretary, First Lord of the Admiralty (twice), Secretary of State for War, and Secretary of State for Air. The only major office he hadn't held was Foreign Secretary.

What an amazing record of experience! Exceptional even by British standards. Where do American politicians gain this sort of experience? I can't think of the last U.S. President who had previously served in a cabinet position. I thought it might be FDR, but I looked it up, and he was only Assistant Secretary of the Navy. (I'm discounting the office of Vice President, since it rarely yields real power.) Besides Roosevelt, the only President I know that held high-ranking Federal office would be the senior Pres. Bush, who briefly served as Director of the CIA in 1976-77.

Imagine if Pres. Obama, or Pres. Bush had had some experience in a cabinet-level position. I wonder if either of them would have survived it to become President.

I further wonder if Sec. Clinton's White House ambitions will survive her tenure at State.

(h/t Instapundit)