Is Herman Cain Prepared To Be President? Is Anyone?

Today’s blog post is at the Washington Post online site as part of their Leadership discussion roundtable. Today’s topic: Is Herman Cain qualified to be president? As you’ll see (click the Washington post link above), while I’m skeptical that Cain’s background as CEO prepares him to be President, I can’t think of any position that does. As I note in the post, history does not indicate that any particular profession best prepares one to be President. Some of our most experienced politicians – think Nixon or Lyndon Johnson in recent years – turned out to have flawed presidencies. Meanwhile, that noted political “amateur” Dwight David Eisenhower, did ok. (Of course, even though he wasn’t a politician, one could argue that Ike developed formidable political skills in his leadership positions.)   But experience alone isn’t a guarantee of success nor inexperience a sure road to failure.  Instead,  I think we need to look at a candidate’s values, core convictions and ideology and ask, do they fit with the times?  Sometimes inexperience may be desirable if we are looking for a new direction in policies and politics.   But we should pay more attention, I think, to what a president believes, and why, and less to the candidate’s resume.

Of course, even here we can be led astray. As I note in the post, one of the major ironies of the Obama presidency is that his major accomplishments have come in foreign affairs, an area in which he has hewed most closely to the precedents laid down by George W. Bush. Indeed, rather than the President of Change, he may go down as the President of Continuity, at least in foreign policy. I’ll have more to say on that in a subsequent post. In the meantime, take a look at the Post discussion.


  1. I think Herman Cain is prepared to be a presidential candidate but not a president. He’s most recently made his living as a motivational speaker and he’s charismatic and exudes confidence and leadership. His recent missteps on “apples and oranges” and abortion messages seem to show a lack of depth. His CEO-like “Let’s identify the problems and then fix ’em.” strategy is great for corporate America because you can fire people who don’t take the marching orders, but good luck getting major changes like a tax plan through congress. The Republicans need a candidate with Herman’s charisma and Newt’s wonkishness. That combination was a Bill Clinton’s greatest asset.

  2. A campaign where Newt can lay out a plan for effective governing and Cain can relentlessly attack Obama without fear of being called a racist would be effective and entertaining. Unfortunately, it seems to me that the recent Republicans tend to stick to a succession plan and Romney is the anointed one. He’s held up to front-runner scrutiny much better than the others have. I’m betting Romney’s VP candidate will be a rising star that most Americans are unfamiliar with. The press loves to investigate and inform us about new faces–almost as much as it would enjoy digging through Newt’s dirty laundry and writing salacious articles about his past.

  3. One has to recognize a number of things about the American Presidency. The assumption of people of political persuasion is that Massive of Qualified People desire to become President, have the opportunity and the Darwinian selection process will Choose the correct individual. I suspect strongly that many potentially qualified individuals simply are not interested in doing the job due to the many unpleasantness’s associated with the job. One of these is the relative weakness of the Presidency vis a vie other foreign leaders. Why take a job if it takes an experienced political genius with only with the most favorable circumstances might accomplish something. Given the rather poor ability to make meaningful change compared to say the British Prime Minister at least domestically these days the desire for talented and experienced people to take the job may very well be dropping. Hence the race for the U.S. Presidency has become a race to the bottom in terms of talent and experience.

    It is very apparent the anti–business, pro pseudo intellectual bias of the Media. Obama was good from this score Herbert Cain is very bad. Cain, like Obama and JFK had little relevant experience prior to assuming office. When the U.S. is in crisis one needs a accomplished politician like FDR with administrative experience so as to be able to make serious progress at the start of ones term of office when the President has the most power as opposition forces are maximally disorganized.

    The facts are that the aftermath of WWII with the U.S. producing 1/2 the worlds economic output gave the U.S. enormous opportunity. The Presidency at the time given rather wide margins did not matter. Since Roosevelt, excepting perhaps the Civil Rights act and Medicare one can argue that little has been accomplished by American Presidents. “Smart and less Smart” (Carter, Obama, Clinton — Bush Jr., Gerald Ford), accomplished Politician Novice (Obama, Nixon, Johnson in part), one can argue that we haven’t had a truly successful President since FDR. The reasons may be simply that the job is too difficult or more likely the political power and control necessary to do the job is not present in our system. If the problem is largely process, i.e. unfavorable institutions then no amount of focus on the merits or demerits of the leader will amount for anything more than marginal. Much more focus needs to be given to needed qualifications and powers necessary to do the job. The dysfunctionality of the U.S. political system is evident and before one has much progress it is in need of serious reform.

    Ending the Fillibuster in the Senate would be a good Start. Making manual adherence to a platform of the political party to one belongs with sanctions if one doesn’t is another. However, many reforms are possible and necessary. Our system is moribund and appears to be dying of old age. To see this look at the dysmal U.S. Socio-EconomicData, for example and ask yourself what the political system has done to rectify this.

  4. I’m a new reader, and read the Cain piece just after I read some discussion of the importance of experience in presidential success in your earlier post on Drew Westen. That leads me to offer a thought on one component of experience that might refine the analysis. That component is experience in negotiating–not negotiating with a car dealer but negotiating with people of real heft and toughness. It is that element of experience that President Obama totally lacks. As a lawyer, he was a a professor of constitutional law, not a litigator. He was never really a U.S. senator in the sense of pushing the string on serious legislation. Finally, the negotiating he may have done as a community organizer generally involved groups and individuals with an incentive to resolve conflict not generate it. It is Obama’s constant folding in the face of Republican demands that is at the heart of liberal disillusionment, and the lack of negotiation experience may explain the extent that he does fold short of what he could have gotten.

    The negotiating aspect may also explain Eisenhower’s success despite lack of experience in national politics. As Supreme Allied Commander, Eisenhower was constantly negotiating with people like Churchill, DeGaulle, and Montgomery. After that, members of Congress were easy to deal with!


  5. The only man running that’s fit to be president is Ron Paul. I could go on, but do your own research, and if you’re an American, I think you’ll agree.

  6. Are you suggesting that no real American could consider supporting any other candidate. Based on current polling, that suggests roughly 90% of survey respondents do not meet your definition of an American.

  7. Mark,

    Good analysis. I’m a firm believer that context trumps competence in explaining presidential “effectiveness”, but that doesn’t mean individual factors don’t matter at all. Among these is prior experience – you may be right that a certain type of negotiating background based on dealing with people of “heft and toughness” increases the likelihood that a person will be a more effective president. I wonder, however, whether what we see as a lack of negotiating “toughness” with Obama simply reflects a relative lack of core political ideals with which to guide negotiating choices. Just a thought…

  8. I agree with Mike, I also think Herman Cain is prepared to be a presidential candidate but not a president.

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