You’ve heard it said that Mitt Romney has great business experience and that is just what we need in a president. Perhaps Obama’s zero business experience is the catalyst for that thinking. You may think it yourself, may have even said it yourself. So let’s look at the presidents with not just some or a little business experience, but at those with quite a lot of it.
Truman owned a haberdashery with a partner for a time, until they went broke. That bit of business experience was the sum of it and in itself didn’t make him a good or even better president, but how he handled the failure of that business did reveal the character of the man. Except for the mortgage held by the Continental Nation Bank, he personally repaid all of the creditors out of later earnings which had nothing to do with the business. He could have declared bankruptcy, but he didn’t consider it to be honorable. The creditors had loaned their money and sold him inventory on credit in reliance on his word that he would pay them back. He wasn’t going to let them down. Truman was a good president but that was due to his core principles as a man, not because of his business experience.
Abraham Lincoln clerked in a general store for a while. It was in that endeavor that he walked 10 miles in the snow to return ten cents to a woman he had mistakenly overcharged. He was also a good railsplitter. He won arm wrestling contests with bigger and seemingly stronger men in the railsplitting line of work. Lincoln’s business experience, such as it was, showed him to be a man of honor and principle. But again, it was his core principles and personal moral code that made him a great president.
In fact, while there may have been several presidents with some, usually very little, business experience, there have been only three presidents with extensive business experience and which they and their supporters hailed as their main qualification to be president. So we should look at those three and ask what sort of presidents they were.
The three were: Jimmie Carter, Herbert Hoover and Warren G. Harding. None of them were presidents of any acclaim, except Harding, and his main claim to greatness is that when the Panic of 1921 set in he was too drunk and too busy with his mistress to get involved in trying to end it. As a result of him staying the course (with his mistress and his bottle) the Panic of 1921 soon found its own cure, and the Roaring Twenties began. So while Harding did well on that score, that was about the only good thing he did and that was by default. As for Jimmie Carter and Herbert Hoover, both were unmitigated disasters.
Obama, with no business experience whatsoever, is also a disaster. The lesson seems to be that unlike knowledge, a little business experience is good but a lot doesn’t correlate much at all with competence in the White House. Those who tout Romney’s business experience to mean he’ll be a great president need to think that through a little.