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Old 11-09-2016, 09:21 PM
buddha_david buddha_david is offline
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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.
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Old 11-09-2016, 09:26 PM
Jas09 Jas09 is offline
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Hoover and Taft are the two names that come up, both having never been elected to national office, governorships, or been a general officer.
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Old 11-09-2016, 10:10 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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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.

Last edited by Little Nemo; 11-09-2016 at 10:12 PM.
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Old 11-09-2016, 10:41 PM
Nars Glinley Nars Glinley is online now
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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.
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Old 11-10-2016, 12:29 AM
watchwolf49 watchwolf49 is offline
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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.
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Old 11-10-2016, 01:05 AM
Loach Loach is offline
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Originally Posted by watchwolf49 View Post
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.
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Old 11-10-2016, 01:26 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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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.
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Old 11-10-2016, 06:15 AM
Jim's Son Jim's Son is offline
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Eisenhower was in the Army most of his adult life and later President of Columbia university.
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Old 11-10-2016, 06:26 AM
Jim's Son Jim's Son is offline
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Grant did not have any elected offices before coming President...just the army and some failed business ventures.
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Old 11-10-2016, 08:27 AM
watchwolf49 watchwolf49 is offline
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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 ...
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Old 11-10-2016, 08:43 AM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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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.
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Old 11-10-2016, 09:47 AM
Jim's Son Jim's Son is offline
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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.
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Old 11-10-2016, 10:02 AM
jtur88 jtur88 is offline
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Grant, who was a drunk, aside from having absolutely no non-military administrative experience or background in elected office.
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Old 11-10-2016, 10:16 AM
Me_Billy Me_Billy is offline
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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?
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Old 11-10-2016, 10:22 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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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.
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Old 11-10-2016, 12:40 PM
Omar Little Omar Little is offline
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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.
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Old 11-10-2016, 12:55 PM
Jas09 Jas09 is offline
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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.
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Old 11-10-2016, 12:58 PM
Si Amigo Si Amigo is offline
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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.
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Old 11-10-2016, 01:12 PM
engineer_comp_geek engineer_comp_geek is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Me_Billy View Post
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 View Post
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.

Last edited by engineer_comp_geek; 11-10-2016 at 01:16 PM.
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Old 11-10-2016, 01:46 PM
Si Amigo Si Amigo is offline
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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.
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Old 11-10-2016, 01:50 PM
watchwolf49 watchwolf49 is offline
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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.
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Old 11-10-2016, 01:53 PM
Si Amigo Si Amigo is offline
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nm

Last edited by Si Amigo; 11-10-2016 at 01:54 PM.
  #23  
Old 11-10-2016, 03:21 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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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.
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Old 11-10-2016, 03:33 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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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.
  #25  
Old 11-10-2016, 04:23 PM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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Carter was famously vilified as a "peanut farmer."
Carter was also a Navy nuclear engineer.
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Old 11-10-2016, 05:31 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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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.
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Old 11-10-2016, 05:51 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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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.
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Old 11-10-2016, 07:37 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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I think you mean Grover Cleveland.
Good grief. My brain is mush. Thanks for the correction.
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Old 11-10-2016, 08:31 PM
RivkahChaya RivkahChaya is offline
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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.

Last edited by RivkahChaya; 11-10-2016 at 08:32 PM.
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Old 11-10-2016, 08:39 PM
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Didn't Harding admit he wasn't qualified? Harding and Grant were the first 2 that came to mind for me.

Last edited by P-man; 11-10-2016 at 08:39 PM.
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Old 11-11-2016, 10:25 AM
puddleglum puddleglum is offline
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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.
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Old 11-11-2016, 10:47 AM
Steken Steken is offline
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Lincoln's experience is eerily similar to our current president's.
Well there's the wrestling, for one thing...


Last edited by Steken; 11-11-2016 at 10:47 AM.
  #33  
Old 11-11-2016, 03:52 PM
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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.
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Old 11-11-2016, 05:01 PM
Falchion Falchion is offline
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I would think Woodrow Wilson should get a mention. 2 years as governor of a small state. No military or other political experience.
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Old 11-11-2016, 05:08 PM
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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.
  #36  
Old 11-11-2016, 05:30 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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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.
  #37  
Old 11-11-2016, 08:07 PM
Jonathan Chance Jonathan Chance is online now
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What a world, what a world.

Last edited by Jonathan Chance; 11-11-2016 at 08:07 PM.
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