Friday, January 10, 2014

Kennedy & Nixon 5

For my blog post today about Chris Matthews’ Kennedy & Nixon, I will highlight two quotes about experience: How much experience should a candidate have to be an effective President of the United States?

On page 154, Matthews quotes something that John F. Kennedy said in a 1960 Presidential debate:

“Abraham Lincoln came to the presidency in 1860 after a rather little known session in the House of Representatives and after being defeated for the Senate in 1858 and was a distinguished president.  There is no certain road to the presidency.  There are no guarantees that if you take one road or another that you will be a successful president.”

On page 176, Matthews quotes from one of Dwight Eisenhower’s speeches during the 1960 Presidential election:

“A nation needs leaders who have been immersed in the hard facts of public affairs in a great variety of situations, men of character who are able to take the long-range view and hold long-range goals, leaders who do not mistake minor setbacks for major disasters, and we need leaders who by their own records have demonstrated a capacity to get on with the job.”

Who is right here?  It makes sense to me that an effective leader would be one who has previous experience: who knows his or her way around the block because he and she has been in similar situations in the past.  But can there be people with the qualities that Dwight Eisenhower lists—-having long-range vision and goals, and being resilient in the face of minor setbacks—-who have not had a whole lot of experience?  Sure.  But I don’t know enough about Lincoln to say what gave him the savvy to be an effective leader, even though he did not have much experience when he became President.

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