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.

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

[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 …

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.

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

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?

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.

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.

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.

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

Moderator Note

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.

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.