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-   -   GQ: Who was the second least qualified U.S. President? (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=810211)

buddha_david 11-09-2016 10:21 PM

GQ: Who was the second least qualified U.S. President?
 
Trump is clearly #1, as he has never held a political office in his life. Even fellow TV icon Ronald Reagan was governor of California.

Who was #2, in terms of the least years of elected public service in any fashion, including small town mayorships and military leadership? (As General of the Armies, George Washington was certainly qualified -- PoTUS is also Commander-in-Chief, after all -- even though I don't think he ever held any other political office.)

Please try and keep this G.Q., I'm genuinely curiious.

Jas09 11-09-2016 10:26 PM

Hoover and Taft are the two names that come up, both having never been elected to national office, governorships, or been a general officer.

Little Nemo 11-09-2016 11:10 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jas09 (Post 19768480)
Hoover and Taft are the two names that come up, both having never been elected to national office, governorships, or been a general officer.

Hoover had been a cabinet official and Taft had been a cabinet official and territorial governor.

If you count serving as a wartime general as experience, then we're probably going to go with Chester Arthur. His only political experience had been holding various patronage jobs in the NYC political machine. He was chosen to be Vice President to win the support of that machine and then became President six months later after Garfield was assassinated.

If we're talking about people elected to the Presidency, it's probably Lincoln. His only political experience had been four terms in the Illinois House of Representatives and one term in the United States House of Representatives.

Nars Glinley 11-09-2016 11:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Little Nemo (Post 19768569)
If we're talking about people elected to the Presidency, it's probably Lincoln. His only political experience had been four terms in the Illinois House of Representatives and one term in the United States House of Representatives.

Lincoln's experience is eerily similar to our current president's.

watchwolf49 11-10-2016 01:29 AM

Not only had Washington never held political office in a Republic ... no one had held office in a Republic ... no blueprint, no history, no one knew what the President was supposed to do.

Loach 11-10-2016 02:05 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by watchwolf49 (Post 19768852)
Not only had Washington never held political office in a Republic ... no one had held office in a Republic ... no blueprint, no history, no one knew what the President was supposed to do.

Technically true but the colonies did have political offices. Washington spent 15 years in Virginia's House of Burgesses. He then spent time in congress before becoming president. There were various colonial governors and colonial legislatures before the revolution and similar offices after.

Little Nemo 11-10-2016 02:26 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Nars Glinley (Post 19768642)
Lincoln's experience is eerily similar to our current president's.

Obama served in the Senate rather than the House but other that that, similar political resumes.

Jim's Son 11-10-2016 07:15 AM

Eisenhower was in the Army most of his adult life and later President of Columbia university.

Jim's Son 11-10-2016 07:26 AM

Grant did not have any elected offices before coming President...just the army and some failed business ventures.

watchwolf49 11-10-2016 09:27 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Loach (Post 19768900)
Technically true but the colonies did have political offices. Washington spent 15 years in Virginia's House of Burgesses. He then spent time in congress before becoming president. There were various colonial governors and colonial legislatures before the revolution and similar offices after.

[smile] ... yeah, I noticed that so I threw in the technicality of "a Republic" ... but Washington was a General in the Army and in many ways this is public office ...

Really Not All That Bright 11-10-2016 09:43 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jas09 (Post 19768480)
Hoover and Taft are the two names that come up, both having never been elected to national office, governorships, or been a general officer.

On the contrary - Hoover probably had more foreign policy experience than any candidate in history, having spent all of WWI directing US famine relief efforts in Europe (and sat on the Supreme Economic Council in the aftermath) and thereby having negotiated with the governments of every major power. He was also probably the most successful Secretary of Commerce in US history after that (in purely economic terms) and not incidentally was the most powerful figure in the Harding and Coolidge governments.

He was also a tireless self-promoter, so make of those claims what you will.

Jim's Son 11-10-2016 10:47 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright (Post 19769519)
On the contrary - Hoover probably had more foreign policy experience than any candidate in history, having spent all of WWI directing US famine relief efforts in Europe (and sat on the Supreme Economic Council in the aftermath) and thereby having negotiated with the governments of every major power. He was also probably the most successful Secretary of Commerce in US history after that (in purely economic terms) and not incidentally was the most powerful figure in the Harding and Coolidge governments.

He was also a tireless self-promoter, so make of those claims what you will.

Hoover was approached by the British government during World War I with the idea that if he became a British citizen he would get an important post and quite possibly a title if he succeeded. He replied he would do what he could for them with pleasure but he was not going to give up his American citizenship.

jtur88 11-10-2016 11:02 AM

Grant, who was a drunk, aside from having absolutely no non-military administrative experience or background in elected office.

Me_Billy 11-10-2016 11:16 AM

The problem is... These other "non-qualified" presidents allowed someone else to give them advice and/or run the country.

Seems to me Trump does not play well with the other kids on the block, so everyone else in an advisory capacity, might just be shut off?

Exapno Mapcase 11-10-2016 11:22 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jtur88 (Post 19769739)
Grant, who was a drunk, aside from having absolutely no non-military administrative experience or background in elected office.

I agree that the numerous generals who were elected in the 19th century because they were generals had no good background for the Presidency. Being a general is a kind of executive experience, required to amass and move men and materiel, but being able to order people is not politics. Eisenhower, who was more of a staff and logistics general than a field commander and spent most of his war in Washington, probably qualifies more than Grant.

But while Grant drank heavily in times of stress and depression, he was more of a binge drinker than a continuing alcoholic. And what's interesting is that most of the accounts of his being a drunk end when he cut his drinking down during the war. There's not much of his being a drunk as President. Both periods coincided with his being a winner and seemed to have reduced his need for alcohol forgetfulness.

I'd say Eisenhower had the least experience in politics of modern presidents. Second is George W. Bush, who political career consisted of six years as governor of Texas, which is a highly visible position but Texas has a weak governor system.

Omar Little 11-10-2016 01:40 PM

This is a highly subjective question. Qualifications beyond what is required by the US constitution are widely subject to opinion.

I don't understand this notion that career politician is the strongest qualification for POTUS. Clearly a large chunk of voters disagrees with that sentiment.

Jas09 11-10-2016 01:55 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Omar Little (Post 19770269)
This is a highly subjective question. Qualifications beyond what is required by the US constitution are widely subject to opinion.

Indeed. Which is why I still think my answer is correct under the limitations in the OP - least amount of "elected public service and military leadership". Neither of them had any.

Si Amigo 11-10-2016 01:58 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Omar Little (Post 19770269)
I don't understand this notion that career politician is the strongest qualification for POTUS. Clearly a large chunk of voters disagrees with that sentiment.

Clearly a larger percentage of the people think experience is important.

engineer_comp_geek 11-10-2016 02:12 PM

Moderator Note

Quote:

Originally Posted by Me_Billy (Post 19769774)
The problem is... These other "non-qualified" presidents allowed someone else to give them advice and/or run the country.

Seems to me Trump does not play well with the other kids on the block, so everyone else in an advisory capacity, might just be shut off?

Quote:

Originally Posted by Si Amigo (Post 19770328)
Clearly a larger percentage of the people think experience is important.

I didn't quote every post that this applies to, but let's keep the current election out of this. Try the Elections forum or the Pit if you want to talk about Trump and/or Clinton.

The OP asked about presidents with little to no proven political experience, which is a perfectly factual question. Whether or not proven political experience is necessary for a successful presidency is probably a question best left to IMHO or Great Debates.

Let's all work to keep this thread GQ appropriate, please.

ETA: I'll let all of you work out what constitutes proven political experience in this thread, though again, as much as possible, let's try to stick to facts.

Si Amigo 11-10-2016 02:46 PM

Well clearly the two generals Grant and Eisenhower have the least political experience. Executive experience yes, but not the type that we associate with political experience. At least not any more than any executive position requires internal company political skills. It's pretty much a meme that career generals do not consider themselves politicians, they answer to politicians and are not always happy to do so. They are simply soldiers who follow orders.

As for my comment, I apologize but I was only attempting to show that even the public is split on whether previous experience matters or not. Constitutionally there is no requirement for previous political experience.

watchwolf49 11-10-2016 02:50 PM

I'm not sure how much different military experience is from executive branch experience. The President is at the top of the military chain-of-command ... President --> Sec. of Defense --> Sec. of the Army --> General of the Army ... similarly ... President --> Sec. of State --> Undersec. of State for Asia --> Lacky in the Povertonia Embassy ...

If the Undersec. of State for Asia defies the President, there will be consequences ... kinda like if a Captain defies a Major ...

I would say that military experience is more closely aligned with executive experience than legislative experience ... Obama was the first President from the Congress since JFK/LBJ ... them's a ton of years for sure for sure ...

Unless there's any other President with strictly business experience ... then the second least qualified President would have to be George Washington, since at that time no one had ever held such a position ... no one had any experience for the job.

Si Amigo 11-10-2016 02:53 PM

nm

Exapno Mapcase 11-10-2016 04:21 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Si Amigo (Post 19770510)
Well clearly the two generals Grant and Eisenhower have the least political experience.

Zachary Taylor is right up there with them. He held no office and had never even voted before becoming President.

Several other 19th century generals had minimal political experience.

Andrew Jackson had a total of about three years in the House and Senate.

William Henry Harrison had about two years in Congress. He was governor of the Indiana Territory for a decade, an appointed, not elected, position.

Benjamin Harrison had one term in the Senate, although he ran for and lost many previous elections.

In addition, as noted above, neither Taft nor Hoover ever had a previous elected position.

Exapno Mapcase 11-10-2016 04:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by watchwolf49 (Post 19770528)
I would say that military experience is more closely aligned with executive experience than legislative experience ... Obama was the first President from the Congress since JFK/LBJ ... them's a ton of years for sure for sure ...

Both Nixon and George H. W. Bush's were Senators before becoming vice president, and in those days it was hard to say how much of an office that was. Ford was in the House for decades before becoming President.

Quote:

Unless there's any other President with strictly business experience ...
Hoover was a millionaire businessman who could afford to retire early and turn his attention to do-gooding. Carter was famously vilified as a "peanut farmer."

Quote:

then the second least qualified President would have to be George Washington, since at that time no one had ever held such a position ... no one had any experience for the job.
You said this earlier, Loach demolished it earlier, and you acknowledged his demolishing it. Time for a hefty dose of ginkgo biloba.

Besides, by this standard the only non-President qualified to be President was Benjamin Harrison in his second, non-continuous term.

Really Not All That Bright 11-10-2016 05:23 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase (Post 19770944)
Carter was famously vilified as a "peanut farmer."

Carter was also a Navy nuclear engineer.

Chefguy 11-10-2016 06:31 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Omar Little (Post 19770269)
This is a highly subjective question. Qualifications beyond what is required by the US constitution are widely subject to opinion.

I don't understand this notion that career politician is the strongest qualification for POTUS. Clearly a large chunk of voters disagrees with that sentiment.

A large chunk of voters are idiots.

RealityChuck 11-10-2016 06:51 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase (Post 19770944)
Besides, by this standard the only non-President qualified to be President was Benjamin Harrison in his second, non-continuous term.

I think you mean Grover Cleveland.

Exapno Mapcase 11-10-2016 08:37 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RealityChuck (Post 19771313)
I think you mean Grover Cleveland.

Good grief. My brain is mush. Thanks for the correction.

RivkahChaya 11-10-2016 09:31 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jim's Son (Post 19769222)
Grant did not have any elected offices before coming President...just the army and some failed business ventures.

I think historians generally regard him as a terrible president. He was elected in a fervor of excitement over winning the war, without people thinking about whether he was really qualified to be president.

ETA: Of course, he also presided over a very difficult period in history.

P-man 11-10-2016 09:39 PM

Didn't Harding admit he wasn't qualified? Harding and Grant were the first 2 that came to mind for me.

puddleglum 11-11-2016 11:25 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by P-man (Post 19771753)
Didn't Harding admit he wasn't qualified? Harding and Grant were the first 2 that came to mind for me.

Harding had served in the Ohio State Legislature, as Lt Governor and as Senator for 6 years.

Steken 11-11-2016 11:47 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Nars Glinley (Post 19768642)
Lincoln's experience is eerily similar to our current president's.

Well there's the wrestling, for one thing...

;)

Find Friends 11-11-2016 04:52 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by watchwolf49 (Post 19768852)
Not only had Washington never held political office in a Republic ... no one had held office in a Republic ... no blueprint, no history, no one knew what the President was supposed to do.

This!

Washington was revered as the leader of the Revolution, and for good reason. It has been said there would not have been a success without him.

In any event his years of leadership prepared him as much for these uncharted waters up ahead as anyone else.

Falchion 11-11-2016 06:01 PM

I would think Woodrow Wilson should get a mention. 2 years as governor of a small state. No military or other political experience.

Loopus 11-11-2016 06:08 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase (Post 19770944)
Both Nixon and George H. W. Bush's were Senators before becoming vice president

Bush ran for the Senate in 1970, but lost. He served two terms in the House starting in 1967.

Exapno Mapcase 11-11-2016 06:30 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Loopus (Post 19774570)
Bush ran for the Senate in 1970, but lost. He served two terms in the House starting in 1967.

Right. His father, Prescott, was the Senator.

Jonathan Chance 11-11-2016 09:07 PM

Dang, ninjad in my shot at Xap.

What a world, what a world.


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