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.
First, a bit of political trivia. Political junkies like me know this stuff. Where does the word “normalcy” come from? Is it even a word? Answer at the bottom of this post. Don’t scroll down, that’s cheating.
OK, I admit that I didn’t post anything about Obama’s approval index when it recently took a jump upward, from a −15 to a respectable [for him] −4. There were several reasons that I more or less ignored it. First, I thought it was probably a mistake, an outlier that would be temporary. Second, even if it were genuine I could not come up with anything to explain it. And probably I was also a bit disappointed and bewildered. It seemed that the only explanation might have been the State of the Union speech but that was such an atrocious performance I couldn’t bring myself to admit that in the eyes of some people it might have given him a boost in his approval rating. Finally, I don’t want him to succeed. I believe if he succeeds in his policies the rest of us will fail and suffer horribly. So I don’t want his approval ratings to go up and I celebrate when they go down. I want as many Democrats as possible to lose their election in November. I want that because I want my country to continue to be a great country and not become a sick socialist state like Europe.
Egads, I have become Obama with all the “I’s” in that paragraph. No more “I” or “me” for a while.
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday “shows that 26% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove which [gives] Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -15. That matches the President’s ratings just before the State-of-the-Union Address. While Obama received a modest bounce in his ratings following the speech, today’s results suggest that the bounce is over.”
You can see the upward jump in the green line in the graph below and the return to “normalcy” that has just happened. Obama’s overall approval rating is 44%.
“Normalcy” became part of the American lexicon in 1920 when Warren G. Harding and his running mate Calvin Coolidge adopted “Return to Normalcy” as their campaign slogan. It was wildly successful. Harding and Coolidge won one of the the biggest presidential landslides ever with over 60% of the vote. ACORN didn’t exist then so the numbers are probably reliable. Nobody knows whether the Harding campaign consciously chose a slogan that contained a word that was not a word or whether they just didn’t know any better. The Democrats attacked them as illiterate but that flopped. They could have said they represented a “Return to Normal” or a “Return to Normality,” but neither of those has the ring to it that “Return to Normalcy” has. This is a lesson that in politics one’s choice of words can be a most critical part of one’s public image.
The reason for the success of that slogan is the Ohio Gang, as Harding’s campaign came to be known, correctly sensed that the mood of the country was fed up with the chaos in the waning days of Woodrow Wilson’s presidency. Wilson had miscalculated the desire of the American people to become part of the newly created League of Nations, and had thoroughly botched the attempt to force the U.S. into it. Much like Democrats’ failed attempts to force Obamacare on the country, Wilson excluded Republicans from the process and tried to force the country into the league of Nations without their consent. Americans still saw Europe as a wicked place from which many of them had escaped. Many also believed Europe had tricked America into a devastating war. They were not eager for any alliance. Republicans made strong gains in the election of 1918 and Wilson’s arrogance elevated Henry Cabot Lodge to high status. This was all in addition to other events that irked the people: Palmer Raids during the red scare of 1919, violent riots in Chicago and Omaha, labor unrest, falling farm prices, etc., etc. Wilson became very ill in the last days of his administration and his wife was essentially running the White House. That didn’t sit well. Uppity first ladies have never been popular outside of select circles.
So Warren G. Harding gave America a new word that was not found prior to that time but is now in every dictionary. Harding also gave us something else that was truly great. He gave us Calvin Coolidge, who after Harding’s death became one of our greatest presidents. That may sound nuts to you, so I’ll explain it some day. 792 words is enough for this post.