I have to take issue with my buddy Chuck Norris. In Wednesday’s editorial, Chuck wrote a glowing endorsement of Mitt Romney based on his, Romney’s, business acumen. He said business acumen is critical for the president and only someone with extensive, successful business experience would have it. By contrast, he lambasted President Obama for having spent his adult life in the public sector, and ergo, he couldn’t possibly be qualified to oversee the nation’s business — for another four years.
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The current economic crisis arguably began during George W. Bush’s tenure. George W. Bush had an MBA from Harvard, and he was in the oil business for awhile and co-owned a pro sports franchise. He had a lot of business experience, way more than any president in modern history that I can remember.
John McCain, by contrast, candidate for president in 2008, back when the current economic crisis was unfolding, spent his entire adult life in the public sector. Chuck Norris failed to mention that back when he endorsed Sen. McCain after endorsing Mike Huckabee (a successful minister and governor if not a successful businessman or entrepreneur). Mr. McCain, as I recall might have spent a year working in his wife’s family’s beer empire somewhere along the way, but 99 percent of his professional experience was funded by the American taxpayer.
Bill Clinton had no business experience that anyone has ever mentioned. The economy was pretty stable and thriving for much of his time in office. George H.W. Bush was director of the CIA, a fighter pilot in WWII and did a lot of other government work before becoming vice president and then president. I’m pretty sure he was not elected on the basis of his business acumen. After all, he’d been out of normal life for so long that he didn’t even know what a grocery store scanner was. And Bill Clinton (with none or unknown business acumen) beat him in 1992 when it was “the economy stupid.”
Ronald Reagan, of course, was in the movie business and marketing as an actor, not as a business man per se. He had no particular experience in the private sector a la Romney and Bush the younger. There were some really tough economic times during the 1980s. I remember being unemployed for about a year and a half during some of that time. No one ever praised President Reagan for his outstanding success in a long career in business.
Jimmy Carter had considerable experience in the peanut growing business. Things weren’t all that great economically speaking while he was president. Gerald Ford. I don’t remember, but I think he was mainly a politician, maybe a lawyer in private practice for a few years.
Richard Nixon. Now there was a non-business sort. Congressman, vice president. Like Ford, he probably had a law practice for a while, but business acumen was not what got him elected and re-elected. There was war going on throughout Nixon’s presidency. Defense spending is good for business, they say. But for some reason, having business experience didn’t factor in to the requirements for president.
Lyndon Johnson had a big ranch and ran some radio stations through his wife, but he was a creature of Washington like few others before or since. Nobody voted for LBJ because he knew the price of beef on the hoof. John F. Kennedy didn’t ever run a business as far as I know. Navy guy, congressman, senator, president. His father was a big business man, but JFK didn’t follow in his footsteps. Ike went to West Point and then into the Army at a young age. He never worked in the private sector unless it was during summers when he was a kid. Indeed he warned us to be wary of the “military-industrial complex.”
Unlike Eisenhower, Mitt Romney never warns us about the threat big business (when intertwined with the military) could pose to Americans, and he was in it (big business) up to his eyeballs, as we know.
Harry Truman was in business, ran a haberdashery for a period of time. Business was pretty good in the late ’40s and early ’50s. Maybe it was because of Truman’s business acumen, but maybe not.
A President Romney would have to “order” or “direct” his subordinates to contact corporations and businesses, large and small and tell them they must create jobs — or else — by a date certain — or else. The “or else” is a real problem for an American president. And anything short of that would not guarantee that jobs would get created.
Chris Daley is a staff writer and columnist for the Mountain Democrat. His column appears each Friday.