Thursday, September 29, 2011

Is being a businessman enough experience for being president?

Daniel Henninger has a column wondering why having only a business background should be a disqualifier for Herman Cain. Should four years as governor of Massachusetts make Romney much more qualified than Cain? Certainly Republicans aren't all that impressed with what Romney did as governor. And they weren't thrilled with John McCain's long experience in the Senate. And a few years in the Senate obviously didn't make Barack Obama qualified in Republican eyes for the presidency. Conservatives are tripping over themselves to urge Chris Christie to get into the race. Well, he has less than two years experience in elected office. Some Republicans were supporting Sarah Palin and she only had a short time of experience as governor.

It's an interesting question. What are the qualifications for the presidency, a job for which there really isn't any comparable experience? Running business enterprises successfully is certainly one of the most relevant experiences at this point in our nation's history. Mitt Romney touts his private enterprise experience as his main qualifier for the presidency. Well, Cain has somewhat comparable business experiences and a remarkable personal story. Maybe people are ready for someone who hasn't been a lifelong politician.

I remember when Ross Perot was running in 1992 and people questioned him about his lack of public experience and he gave this standard reply during the debates.
MR. ROSS PEROT: I don't have any experience in running up a $4 trillion debt. (Laughter.) I don't have any experience in gridlocked government, where nobody takes responsibility for anything and everybody blames everybody else. I don't have any experience in creating the worst public school system in the industrialized world; the most violent, crime-ridden society in the industrialized world. But I do have a lot of experience in getting things done.
Gosh, it's about 20 years later and that all could be apropos today. Except instead of a $4 trillion debt, now it's $14 trillion.

Suddenly, having held political office doesn't seem as important as it used to. Executive experience clearly seems to matter more than congressional experience. We've had generals who were successful and unsuccessful presidents. What mattered was their character and abilities. Couldn't business experience figure today in a comparable way to military experience?

My concern is foreign policy. Earlier this year, he was clearly unaware of what the Palestinian right of return referred to. That bothered me, but he has to demonstrate that he can learn and has the right instincts on foreign policy. I'd certainly be open to hear his positions on the Middle East

We have enough time to find out more about Herman Cain and whether he'd make a better president than Mitt Romney. His remarks about not wanting a Muslim in his administration were cringe-making. Disqualifying? Who knows? We do have a constitutional ban against religious tests for public office. I can imagine how the media would love to have a campaign centered around Cain's statements about Sharia law than the miserable economy.

I have no doubt that he'd be better than the guy with no executive experience, except for running a political campaign, who is now inhabiting the White House.