There is no training for the job, you know. Oh, sure, running for office takes the same set of skills from dogcatcher to Congressthing to the Oval Office, but doing the job? There's really nothing.
Being a governor helps and so does being a military officer, or at least some Service experience -- nine Generals have held the job and 26 U. S. Presidents have served in uniform. 17 Governors and like numbers of U.S. Senators and Representatives have moved into the house at 1600 Penna. It helps, at least a little, if you're a real wheeler-dealer in Congress, like LBJ and Ford. 14 Presidents had been Vice-President, but over half of them became President due to a sudden vacancy, and only five of them went on to win re-election.
--But not a one of them worked his way up from, say, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, with stops along the way running Cuba and Australia; it's not that kind of a job.
The men* who wrote the Constitution knew that; in their day, the kind of Chief Executive they were dreaming up didn't even exist. The other two branches of government, those roles were a different matter; legislative bodies were well-established in the young nation, judges even more so; therefore a number of the most worrisome powers were reserved to Congress where they could be dragged out and argued over in detail, and they gave Congress the power and a process to remove a President. When it comes to the Federal judiciary, matters are a bit more subtle, but what it boils down to is, the President is not above the law. And with just that, we get a kind of ongoing review of any sufficiently-questionable Presidential actions.† Or sufficiently headline-grabbing, and you have to wonder how Buchanan or Harding might've fared in modern times.
This constitutes the harshest sort of on-the-job training and as you might expect, most Presidents -- no, Mr. Nixon, you are not excused, not until Mr. Ford says so -- most Presidents catch on fairly rapidly. A few have not. Things generally do not go well for them and their Administrations.
So, ask me, am I cheering for Mr. Trump? Am I scared by him? No and no. I'm watching. All Presidents bear watching. There's an entire system set up to keep them roughly on track and while the last several decades show a wildly veering course, there hasn't been a coup, the country is still here, we haven't been shelling our own cities, and we're not eating fried rat. If your party is on the outs, that probably won't last for long, and likewise if they're on top. Try to bear that in mind, even if the politicians cannot. Go to the supermarket and look around in wonder at a civilization stable enough to provide such wonders, much of it out-of-season and preposterously fresh. Parlous times? We don't even begin to know from "parlous."
* They were also white, largely elderly, and well-to-do. Some of them owned slaves. I wouldn't be surprised if one or two were kind of evil. But they weren't stupid, they weren't in favor of chaos, and by a huge majority, they were not in favor of an oppressive Federal government with king-like powers vested in the Executive for reasons varying from noble to venial. Oh, I see Mr. Hamilton has a comment? Sorry, out of time. You'll get your chance in the papers, sir.
† This notion has been questioned by various Presidents from time to time, most infamously Andrew Jackson; but the years have served to strengthen it.
3 months ago