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“The Sunday Political Brunch”—August 28, 2016

Sunday, August 28, 2016


We’ve heard a lot of debate this year about whether certain candidates are “qualified” to be President of the United State, or not. It’s become comical: Trump and Sanders saying Clinton was not qualified; Clinton and Sanders saying Trump was not qualified; and Clinton and Trump suggesting Sanders was not qualified! Is anyone deserving of this office? Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Are They Qualified?” – Well, according to the Constitution, there are only three qualifications for the job: You must be a natural born citizen of the United States; you must be at least 35 years of age; and you must have resided in the United States for the past 14 years. Based on those criteria, Clinton, Trump and Sanders are all qualified to be President. Methinks the real question should then be whether they are competent, not whether they are qualified.

“Mirror, Mirror on the Wall? Who’s the Most Qualified of All?” -- I have to poke fun, because at this year’s Democratic National Convention, I interviewed many delegates who said, “Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate for President in American history!” I heard it all the time, leading me to believe the party put that out there as a talking point for delegates in case they were interviewed by the press. It was amusing, but was it true? I went to investigate.

“The Hillary Resume” – It is impressive, no doubt. She was 12 years First Lady of Arkansas and then eight years First Lady of the United States. If you don’t think being First Lady qualifies as political experience, then Google "Edith Wilson," "Eleanor Roosevelt," "Betty Ford," and "Nancy Reagan," among others. The job is very political; and many First Ladies were, in fact, senior policy advisors, just as Mrs. Clinton certainly was. She then served eight years in the U.S. Senate and four years as Secretary of State. Her resume is long and impressive, but is she really the most qualified in history? I don’t believe so.

“Jack-of-All-Trades” – It's clear that one of the most experienced people we’ve ever sent to the White House was George Herbert Walker Bush in 1988. He had been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives; the Ambassador to China; the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; the Chairman of the Republican National Committee; and, then Vice President for eight years. The old joke was that he had the longest resume in Washington, D.C., which was probably true. He was also the son of a U.S. Senator, so his knowledge and contacts ran deep.

“Most Qualified?” – And, yes, I mean the most competent, experienced, and equipped here. My unscientific review of all Presidential resumes leads me to pick one person as the “most qualified in American history.” The title goes to James Monroe, who was one of the country’s Founding Fathers. He served as President for eight years and certainly came well prepared for office. From 1783 to 1817 he served in a variety of roles before moving into the White House. He was a member of the Continental Congress; a U.S. Senator; Governor of Virginia; Ambassador to France; Ambassador to Great Britain; Secretary of War (now Defense); and, Secretary of State. He helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase and authored the fabled Monroe Doctrine. My choice for most the qualified Presidential candidate in history is James Monroe.

“World War II Generation” – At one time, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford all served in the House of Representatives together. I don’t believe we had ever had four sitting House members all become President. They led this nation for a combined 16 years in succession. All had military service, too. Three served in the U.S. Senate; tree served as Vice President; and one led his party in the House. All four were part of what Tom Brokaw dubbed “The Greatest Generation!” Now that’s an impressive collective resume!

“Do Resumes Matter?” – It’s a fascinating question. Some Presidents show so much promise, then disappoint. Others look like underachievers, yet have great success. I mentioned George H.W. Bush above. Yes, he had a gold-plated resume, but he struggled to gain his footing in the Oval Office, and was voted out after one term. Harry Truman was a haberdasher (a men’s clothing salesman) of all things, and was our last President with no college degree. Yes, he had served ten years in the U.S. Senate, but Roosevelt picked him because he was a non-threatening "back-bencher." Today he remains one of our most revered Presidents. Abraham Lincoln had served one measly two-year term in Congress and eight years in the Illinois Legislature. Yet he is considered among our best Presidents.

“No Elective Office” – The candidacy of Donald Trump raises an interesting question? Have we ever elected a President who had never before been elected to any political office? The answer is "Yes, and - in fact - five times." They are: Zachary Taylor, Ulysses Grant and Dwight Eisenhower (all top Generals); William Howard Taft (who served as Secretary of War); and Herbert Hoover (who was Secretary of Commerce.). While it is rare, one can become President without ever having been elected to any other office. Trump and these five men all distinguished themselves in other careers before the White House ambitions arrived.

“Why All of This Matters” – Regardless of how we vote or our party affiliation, I believe most Americans want their President to succeed – not necessarily from a policy standpoint, but from the standpoint of leadership and respect on the world stage. We want our leaders to do the right things in the best interests of the country as a whole. We’ve had a year in which 17 Republicans, five Democrats, and a handful of third-party candidates have put their names on the ballot. Now we are down to two major party nominees and two third-party choices who may get significant votes. Let the debate begin!

Who do you think is the most qualified President or candidate we’ve ever had? Just click the comment button at http://www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.


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