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Tags: Barack Obama

Do Governors Make Better Presidents?

Jack Godwin By Wednesday, 12 November 2014 08:58 AM EST Current | Bio | Archive

Two Republican governors spoke out recently about the kind of experience that best prepares you for the presidency. On "Meet the Press," Scott Walker of Wisconsin said, “Governors make much better presidents than members of Congress.” Why? Governors have executive experience and a better perspective than “the old, tired, top-down approach you see out of Washington.”

At a recent Chamber of Commerce event, Chris Christie of New Jersey went a little further and made a bold prediction: “The next president of the United States is going to be a governor. And it needs to be. We have had the experiment of a legislator who has never run anything getting on-the-job training in the White House. It has not been pretty.”

The list of potential contenders who have not met this experiential prerequisite includes Sens. Rand Paul (Kentucky) and Ted Cruz (Texas), as well as retired brain surgeon Ben Carson. The list of those who have served as governor includes both Walker and Christie (how convenient) as well as JohnKasich of Ohio, former Govs. Jeb Bush (Florida), Mike Huckabee (Arkansas), and soon-to-be former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. Am I forgetting anyone?

I agree with Walker and Christie, in spirit at least, that presidents need executive experience; that is, the kind you get sitting in the big chair. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were governors and successful presidents. But there are exceptions to the rule. Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush were governors, too. The verdict is in on Carter, whose presidency was unsuccessful even though his post-presidential career has been exemplary.

Perhaps it is too soon to assess Bush’s presidency and we should let history judge. I say this as someone who supported Bush in 2000 precisely because he had more executive experience than Al Gore. In the weeks and months following the 9/11 attacks, I supported Bush’s decisions to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. But he lost my support — and lost it forever — when news broke about the criminal abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad.

This brings us to foreign policy, that part of the president’s job which demands on-the-job training. The power to conduct foreign policy belongs to the president, the commander in chief, according to Article II, Section 2.The Constitution places a few specific limitations on political appointments and treaties, appropriation of funds and the declaration of war. But that is theextent of the Constitution’s guidance regarding the conduct of foreign policy.

Where do you go for advice? To those who hope to succeed the current incumbent, I’d start by re-reading George Washington’s 1796 farewell address in which he recommends avoiding foreign entanglements. I think Washington would also recommend avoiding Jersey-style bravado.

Why? Because a few years from now, if you win, it will be easier to face the cameras while you’re standing next to Barack Obama at the grand opening of his presidential library.

Jack Godwin is an award-winning political scientist whose appeal spans the political spectrum. He is the author of three books on politics, most recently "The Office Politics Handbook," and is now writing his first novel, a political thriller set at the end of the Cold War, the golden age of spy fiction. To view more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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Two Republican governors spoke out recently about the kind of experience which best prepares you for the presidency.
Barack Obama
Wednesday, 12 November 2014 08:58 AM
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