US Presidential Greatness as a Function of Experience
March 10, 2008 6:25 AM   Subscribe

Is an Experienced President a Good President?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 (92 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
George W. Bush has 7 years of experience being President.

Enough said.
posted by Poolio at 6:34 AM on March 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


Good find, thanks.
posted by nevercalm at 6:36 AM on March 10, 2008


Someone send this to the American people, please.
posted by WalterMitty at 6:38 AM on March 10, 2008


Much of this depends on how you measure "greatness" in a president. If it's just a matter of getting legislation passed, and having much of it stick around in actuality or long-term influence, then LBJ would absolutely not be on the "under-performing" side of the line. Why he's not remembered so well has mostly to do with Vietnam, conservative talk about the presumed total failure of the Great Society programs to the contrary notwithstanding (it's record is more mixed). Would Nixon be pushed even higher across the wrong line if the bombing of Cambodia was taken into account? On the other hand, is the re-establishment of relations with China taken into account? How do you quantify what a great president is? I don't think a survey of historians cuts it, especially not if you're going to be using scatterplots and whatnot, as if numbers--any numbers--are magic.
posted by raysmj at 6:40 AM on March 10, 2008


Someone send this to the American media, please.

And that's all well and good, raysmj, but if not a cross-section of historians, then what? Obviously, you can take issue with any given ranking, but the general lesson to be drawn from the link is that experience != goodness.
posted by ibmcginty at 6:42 AM on March 10, 2008


The rankings are basically a meta-analysis of the opinions of over a thousand historians over 57 years. The data isn't going to get any better than that.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:46 AM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well there's a difference between life experience and political experience. Only four presidents were under 50 years of age when they entered office for the first time: Garfield, Polk, Clinton, and Teddy Roosevelt.

Of those, at least Mr. Clinton would have been well-served by some more life experience before becoming president. That's one thing Mrs. Clinton can claim over Mr. Obama - the humiliating life experience of being married to the former President. He has nothing on that.
posted by three blind mice at 6:46 AM on March 10, 2008


George W is ranked higher then his father, and is ranked directly below Bill Clinton?

That's idiotic.
posted by delmoi at 6:47 AM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


(as seen in Time Magazine)
posted by shakespeherian at 6:47 AM on March 10, 2008


Only four presidents were under 50 years of age when they entered office for the first time: Garfield, Polk, Clinton, and Teddy Roosevelt.

Erm, also JFK.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:49 AM on March 10, 2008


delmoi: Indeed it is.

Recent Presidents have not been included in all the historical surveys, so their rankings should be taken with a grain (or better yet, a metric ton) of sodium chloride. Bush 43, for example, was rated only twice and one of the ratings was by the Wall St. Journal. Rankings of recent Presidents will no doubt change in future years when the wisdom of their decisions (or lack thereof) becomes more apparent.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:51 AM on March 10, 2008


Erm, also JFK.

Of course. And another case in point.
posted by three blind mice at 6:52 AM on March 10, 2008


"There does not appear to be any relation between experience and greatness."

This should read: "There does not appear to be any relation between an empirical variable and our random-ass subjective numbering."

Also, I don't see how they get their "theoretical curve." I get a positively sloped trendline for their data (obviously there's no correlation, but still they just seem to have drawn the line there for no good reason).

This is lazy.
posted by dsword at 6:58 AM on March 10, 2008


The whole claim to being "ready" to be President from Hillary is spurious bullshit. Although she had a great view from the peanut gallery during her husband's political career, she was never directly accountable for any of her advice and/or recommendations. She has no executive experience, and only first ran for office about 8 years ago. Obama, for all his youth, has worked at nearly every conceivable level of politics for almost all of his adult life.

Besides, worse than that, the whole "I'm ready" thing is a conceit. Doesn't matter if you were chairman of Exxon, NO ONE is "ready" to be President. It's a mammoth job, and even the most accomplished of pols have had difficulty finding their way in the Oval Office.

She should really be more humble.
posted by psmealey at 7:00 AM on March 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


Nevermind on the curve thing. I see what they were doing. I'm still not sure why they would pick that line in particular.
posted by dsword at 7:01 AM on March 10, 2008


What historians are being surveyed? What criteria did they use for ranking "greatness?" Was this the one done by Schlesinger? They weren't ranking performance, in any case, but some mixture of performance and charisma or meaning to the country. Otherwise, would JKF rank all that high? I've seen surveys of historians in which he was voted the most overrated president. Reagan has been voted one of the most overrated and underrated in separate surveys of historians, or so I remember reading.

Historians aren't the only scholars to study the president regardless. Why aren't public policy specialists, international relations profs and other PoliSci people, political sociologists and other surveyed?
posted by raysmj at 7:02 AM on March 10, 2008


dsword, it's not random-ass subjective ranking, it's a meta-analysis of historical surveys. The theoretical curve just indicates a curve you would expect if greater experience indicated greater awesomeness (it doesn't).
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:02 AM on March 10, 2008


I really found the part about owl farts more interesting..

it's gonna be a long haul until this election is over......

Could we just focus on the important stuff here, like owl farts? please?
posted by HuronBob at 7:03 AM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


raysmj, it's an aggregate of all these surveys (which also include political scientists).
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:04 AM on March 10, 2008


Quickly: Hillary Clinton does not have more experience than Barack Obama. Senator Clinton has never answered the question of what exactly she did as first lady (or senator for that matter) that constitutes her grand claims to weighty experience in matters of state and foreign policy.

And how exactly is Senator Clinton going to campaign on "experience" against a man like Senator McCain who' has spent nearly his entire life serving his county? Is experience, or the impression of experience, really that important in electing a president? Didn't Joe Biden have more experience than the rest of the Democratic lineup combined?

Ok, sorry. Had to get that out there.

Great post EastManitoba. Interesting to see how high a percentage of the young/inexperienced presidents wound up dead before serving out their time.
posted by willie11 at 7:05 AM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


That is crap, being humble and running for president. No one is going to vote for the "aw, shucks" candidate. Hilary can't please some people because she can be an abrasive female which is affront to weak masculinity. She is also attached to a very polarizing spouse. She is the bigger change to the political landscape than Obama with his little obedient wife who never says anything. John McCain's wife looks like a Stepford Wife. Strong women scare the piss out of men.
posted by 45moore45 at 7:06 AM on March 10, 2008


I really think it's interesting how the Republicans are using the comparison to JFK as a negative for Obama. They knew that if they kept quiet Obama would be swept into office on the sentiment that he would be the heir to Camelot. So what do they do? The turn the Cuban Missile Crisis into a mark of inexperience instead of a study in restraint and diplomatic mastery. Is there any doubt that if a sociopath like George Bush or John McCain were President during that crisis we'd all be dead right now? Amazing how light years ahead of the Democrats the Republican's slime machine is? Do the Democrats even have a slime machine? Obviously not since the most evil President of the last century - the man who wrote the playbook in every Bush admin's back pocket on how to circumvent the Constitution - Ronald Reagan is basically untarnished.
posted by any major dude at 7:08 AM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


45moore45, I think you see yourself as a feminist, but calling Michelle Obama a "little obedient wife who never says anything" is the most ludicrously sexist thing I'll read all day.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:12 AM on March 10, 2008 [14 favorites]


US Presidential Greatness as a Function of Experience
Yet another pro-Barack Obama/anti-Hillary Clinton post. Go crazy. There's a soft spot. Kick her!
posted by peacay at 7:12 AM on March 10, 2008


Hilary can't please some people because she can be an abrasive female which is affront to weak masculinity she says nothing on the stump that hasn't come straight from their polling data the night before. Do we really have eight years of mush-mouthed triangulation to look forward to if she wins? No thanks.

Give me a fucking break with the misogyny talk. That doesn't have anything to do with it, at least not for me. I'd vote for Barbara Boxer in a heartbeat. Hillary doesn't seem to stand for anything that hasn't been test-marketed to death.

And by humble, I don't mean "aw shucks". I mean having some respect for the awesome responsibility that comes with the office accords. No one is ready to lead from Day One. Nobody, you have to grow into (or shrink from) the office.
posted by psmealey at 7:16 AM on March 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


I don't call myself anything. I am sick of men with issues bashing Hilary on the "issues" when it is really the ovaries. Michelle doesn't say jack, holds his hand and follows along like every politician wifey throughout time.
posted by 45moore45 at 7:17 AM on March 10, 2008


Obama with his little obedient wife who never says anything

You mean the one who finished top of her class at Harvard Law, wrote her senior thesis on racial inequality at her Alma Mater and is only allowing her husband one chance at the presidency? Are we talking about the same woman?

on preview what EMRJKC said
posted by Rubbstone at 7:17 AM on March 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


I am sick of men with issues bashing Hilary on the "issues" when it is really the ovaries.

All hail the omniscient 45moore45.
posted by psmealey at 7:18 AM on March 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Come on, people, don't feed the troll.
posted by enn at 7:18 AM on March 10, 2008


Michelle doesn't say jack, holds his hand and follows along like every politician wifey throughout time.

I am not voting for Michelle Obama, dumbass. Get it?
posted by Mister_A at 7:22 AM on March 10, 2008


Oh, a troll now? Because I am not jumping on the Obama train to fit in here? I like Obama but I am not blindly following the hero worship I see going on and I don't like how negative people are about Hilary. Continuing to tear apart one democratic candidate and create the level of hostility I see happening is only giving the republicans more ammunition to use when it really matters. Would you rather have a democrat or a republican as your next president?

Also-- related to spouses-- Charlie Crist (Gov. of Florida) is unmarried. He is getting mentioned as a possibility for McCain's VP choice, however, the media in my state (Florida) is questioning whether or not an unmarried bachelor can get votes. That is how important having that wifey can be to a candidate. Is it fair to judge a politician on their spouse or lack of spouse? No one really focuses on the issues, it is the package and how the package appears and can be spun in the media.
posted by 45moore45 at 7:26 AM on March 10, 2008


45moore45, best to know of what you speak.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 7:29 AM on March 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


45moore45 writes "She is the bigger change to the political landscape than Obama with his little obedient wife who never says anything."

What? That's pretty offensive. I think it's stuff like this that turns people off the Clinton campaign.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:35 AM on March 10, 2008


45moore45 writes "Continuing to tear apart one democratic candidate and create the level of hostility I see happening is only giving the republicans more ammunition to use when it really matters."

What was that thing you said about Michelle Obama? What was the purpose of that, except as a personal attack?
posted by krinklyfig at 7:36 AM on March 10, 2008


45moore45 writes "Is it fair to judge a politician on their spouse or lack of spouse? No one really focuses on the issues, it is the package and how the package appears and can be spun in the media."

I think your characterization of Michelle Obama is not only inaccurate, it's blatantly sexist. I almost never use that term, because it's become so diluted in overuse, but in this case it applies.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:37 AM on March 10, 2008


You can respond to more than one comment at once.
posted by smackfu at 7:41 AM on March 10, 2008


I really think it's interesting how the Republicans are using the comparison to JFK as a negative for Obama.

Because it is. JFK's short term was characterized by the taking of high risks (Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, Troop commitments to the Republic of South Vietnam) which an older man might not have taken. Kennedy for all his PT-109 cred, was incapable of standing up to the military establishment. The punk.

I like Obama. Voted for him in the Washington State primaries. But I have no illusions about him. He is more likely to be reckless than Mrs. Clinton.

But I'd rather have the uncertainty and recklessness of an inexperienced and naïve Obama than the certainty of the cold, calculating, corrupt politics of Mrs. Clinton.
posted by three blind mice at 7:43 AM on March 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh, someone got their panties in a knot and has to multiple post. I'm not getting into this, you don't seem capable of rational thought, only whatever the media is spoonfeeding you and your own comfort level in terms of spouses. If McCain wins, you have only yourselves to blame for continuing short sited inaccurate self-righteous attacks like what is going on here. Continue to get misty eyed over Obama and watch him lose because his supporters tore the party apart.
posted by 45moore45 at 7:43 AM on March 10, 2008


Being in a tiger cage is the best experience next to staring in Bedtime for Bonzo. Other great presidential experience include horse whispering (talking quietly to a horse) and wearing a three corner cat (most modern hats have only the one corner). Matt Leblanc is a pretty handsome guy.
posted by I Foody at 7:45 AM on March 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Do anybody's campaign promises actually pan out once they get into office? It seems that, with that whole congress thing to wrangle with, the ideas that one person is spouting to get people to think that he or she is worth voting for are not actually things that are particularly easy to get done.

"Experience" and "Change" as platforms are both vague to the point of useless; empty rhetoric not worth listening to.
posted by that girl at 7:47 AM on March 10, 2008


George Washington should NOT be #3. And what the hell is Calvin Coolidge doing that far down?? That ranking is bullshit. BULLSHIT. I am SO OUTRAGED RIGHT NOW. THIS IS MUCH MORE OUTRAGEOUS THAN ANY PETTY CLINTON/OBAMA NONSENSE.

Other than that, interesting post!
posted by 1 at 7:50 AM on March 10, 2008


watch him lose because his supporters tore the party apart.

Are you fucking joking? Despite some very sharp elbows from the Clinton campaign (the leaked photo of Obama in African garb, Bill's insulting comments in South Carolina, Hillary's non-stop parroting of how inexperienced Obama is and that he offers nothing but lofty talk), Obama has not once gone negative against his opponent.

I'm really not certain what kaleidoscope you're looking through, but from where I sit, all of the negativity and divisive rhetoric in this race is coming from the Clinton camp.
posted by psmealey at 7:51 AM on March 10, 2008


start statgeekery

Statistically, shouldn't this be done as an ordinal regression?

I did run it as a standard regression, and the p-value is kosher, with an R-squared of .38, so there might be something to it, but I don't think you want to run a standard regression (that is, a simple line on a scatterplot) on a ranked list.

The link in the FPP provides the data in CSV and Excel, if anyone wants to run it properly.

end statgeekery
posted by blahblahblah at 7:54 AM on March 10, 2008


I have no experience, and am not american. Does that make me the perfect candidate for the American PresidencyTM?
posted by blue_beetle at 7:55 AM on March 10, 2008


"Experience" and "Change" as platforms are both vague to the point of useless; empty rhetoric not worth listening to.

A bit perhaps, but Mrs. Clinton's claim of "experience" seems somewhat legitimate to me.

Who wants to bet she already has her cabinet short-listed? Who wants to bet she already has a new Supreme Court justice short-listed? Same for Federal judges and every other political appointee? She's ready. Her first 100 days in office would be action, action, action.

Obama probably hasn't even begun to put these things togeher. His first 100 days (I hope) will be bumbling and lack of direction.

But that is the kind of change I will look forward to. Giving the lobbyists a less effective government is good for us all.
posted by three blind mice at 7:56 AM on March 10, 2008


Sigh. This, I thought, was just some frivolous space filler on the unfolding drama that is electoral-vote.com; I mean, there weren't even new polls today! The Votemaster just needed to fill some space. And now, look at the punditry you've started between 45moore45 and that other guy!

My vote is for no ovaries for Commander in Chief. Take that, ovaries!
posted by jstef at 7:56 AM on March 10, 2008


A forced ranking does not indicate good or bad. Arbitrarily deciding that the last 1/4 of the list are "bad", while the top ten are good is crazy; we need a standard deviation to separate the exceptional from the mediocre and the terrible. The survey of historians as a methodology is BS. I demand hard metrics divided into the following categories: military strength and effectiveness (defense budget, major conflicts won/lost), economy (gdp, inflation, unemployment), and political power (major programs passed, vetoes defended, judges appointed).
posted by humanfont at 7:57 AM on March 10, 2008


45moore45, it's possible to not like Hillary for reasons that have nothing to do with her sex. Most of her current touting of herself is full of crap and not many like a bullshitter.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:58 AM on March 10, 2008


To be a "great" president, you have to be in charge when a national emergency of great magnitude is taking place: The Great Depression, Civil War, WWI, WWII

As for experience prior to becoming the president, compare contenders with this guy:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Lincoln
posted by Postroad at 7:59 AM on March 10, 2008


obama-fap - Metafilter's next great American pasttime.
posted by Stynxno at 7:59 AM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Who wants to bet she already has her cabinet short-listed? Who wants to bet she already has a new Supreme Court justice short-listed? Same for Federal judges and every other political appointee? She's ready. Her first 100 days in office would be action, action, action.

Well judging by the way she has run, or not run her campaign, it would be drama, drama, drama. She's got (well documented) in-fighting in her own campaign. People pointing fingers, placing blame, and they've flat out admitted that they were out-organized, outraised (money) and planned poorly.

If anybody is looking like a great planner - well I know it's not her.
posted by cashman at 7:59 AM on March 10, 2008


IANAStatistician. 1) The hypothesis tested here seems to be "There is a linear relationship between an increase in experience and improvement on the ranking list." But why assume that the relationship is exactly linear? It seems likely, for example, that additional years of experience suffer from diminishing marginal returns at a certain point. 2) I don't think a sample size of 42 is large enough to tell us anything interesting, particularly because of the cluster of data points between five and fifteen years of experience. Because of that cluster and the small sample size, the influence of experience on the success of a presidency would have to be overwhelming for linear relationship to look right on the graph. But surely experience is just one factor among many many factors that combine to make a presidency successful. In other words: no one who thinks that experience is a factor thinks that we should always choose the more experienced candidate, no matter what. We just think it's a factor.

This "study" is a distraction.
posted by Kwine at 8:01 AM on March 10, 2008


45moore45 et al, this is NOT a post about Obama and Clinton. It is a simple study trying to prove a point. Please grind your axes somewhere else.
posted by tehloki at 8:05 AM on March 10, 2008


If McCain wins, you have only yourselves to blame for continuing short sited inaccurate self-righteous attacks like what is going on here. Continue to get misty eyed over Obama and watch him lose because his supporters tore the party apart.

You're fucking kidding, right? Clinton is the one praising McCain in hopes of beating Obama, which is enough to make me never support her again. Is this about her ego or about what's right for the country?

Flagged for wingnuttery.
posted by kableh at 8:07 AM on March 10, 2008


I demand hard metrics divided into the following categories: military strength and effectiveness (defense budget, major conflicts won/lost), economy (gdp, inflation, unemployment), and political power (major programs passed, vetoes defended, judges appointed).

I'm not a statistician, but it seems to me we can't use those measures to judge the quality of a president because they very strongly reflect the quality of the preceding presidents, and also the military and economic status of the world the president was elected into.

This isn't the most rigorous study in the world but it does make its sole point very well, which is that there is no connection between more experience and greater historical regard.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:08 AM on March 10, 2008


I still get chills whenever I visit that website.

I watched that site intently over the 2004 campaign as the electoral map shifter from red to blue and back again with each new poll. Then on Election Day, when some states turned red and my bowels turned to water.

*shudder*

(Oh, and 45moore45, you're not a troll because you have different opinions about who's best for President. You're a troll because you impute misogynistic motives to people simply because they happen to disagree with you. I've worked on a number of campaigns for strong women candidates, but have a number of strong objections about Senator Clinton's fitness for the office of President.)
posted by darkstar at 8:13 AM on March 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


"...wearing a three corner cat..."

best part of this whole discussion.....
posted by HuronBob at 8:19 AM on March 10, 2008


45moore45 (if those are your real numbers) your phrase "someone got their panties in a knot" makes the suggestion that someone posting in this thread is wearing women's underwear. I find this suggestion offensive, whether it was intended towards the men or women posting in this thread.

It also, slightly, a bit, you know -- in a way undercuts your complaint about sexism.
posted by ~ at 8:28 AM on March 10, 2008


An experienced president knows how to choose his media appearances. Really.
posted by maudlin at 8:32 AM on March 10, 2008


Ron Paul = 18 years
Mike Gravel = 8 years

Paul + Gravel = 26 years = Somewhere between LBJ and Jerry.

Therefore, Paul + Gravel = Nixon.

Now more than ever.
posted by not_on_display at 8:41 AM on March 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94: "dsword, it's not random-ass subjective ranking, it's a meta-analysis of historical surveys. The theoretical curve just indicates a curve you would expect if greater experience indicated greater awesomeness (it doesn't)."

Yeah, as I mentioned, I misunderstood what they were doing with the curve at first. But it's still pretty dumb. If you like, you can rank number of team jerseys sold and plot vs. average team high school GPA. You'll get similar results.

First, "rank" won't correlate well with anything. If you're looking at sports teams, you don't plot rank, you plot wins or something else that actually distinguishes between the top team with 100 wins and the 2nd and 3rd place team with 80 and 79 wins. Second, there are so many possible rankings that you can very likely end up with a ranking that not a single person on the planet would ever come up with on his or her own. Large groups may roughly agree on the top and bottom, but in the middle you're essentially just averaging random numbers. Glancing at the data you link to, the spread in opinions of where the mediocre presidents should be is huge. With this methodology, you're most likely just to get nearly randomly distributed data in the middle, but it's also possible to get data that would lead you to conclude that "greatness" and "experience" are highly correlated, or even that "suckiness" and "experience" are highly correlated (with a few outliers in each case). So, the exercise is pointless.

Furthermore, it's unclear how and why they would classify "experience" as they do. What is "General"? Why doesn't Dubya's experience outside of politics (screwing up various companies) count? Why wouldn't Obama's experience teaching law count? Is there no overlap between these skill sets and presidential duties?

Given all this, there's no reason to expect that you'd get their "theoretical curve." You'd expect to get no correlation, which is exactly what they got. So they've demonstrated that when you pick essentially arbitrary rankings and plot them against an incomplete measure of some uncertain variable, you get a random scatter. Great. And this barely even touches on the problems with their analysis.
posted by dsword at 8:44 AM on March 10, 2008


FYI, the r^2 on that regression is 0.02. The multiple regression on all of the factors doesn't fare much better. r^2 of 0.089, with no factor emerging as statistically significant. I could do some model selection and multi-model inference, but, really, I think the message is clear. Being president is a totally different animal than anything, and number of years of anything (service, age, etc) is not a good predictor on which the American people should make any decision making.
posted by redbeard at 8:45 AM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


The rankings are basically a meta-analysis of the opinions of over a thousand historians over 57 years

Perhaps the concern is that the third-hand meta-analysis is flawed, or that historians themselves are not often objective or even honest sources with respect to presidential history (example).

Not that I have a view about this site's truth or falsity, either way. But the criteria you defend are poor because of these types of concerns. The measurements that humanfont proposes are not only necessary because they are objective, but with statistical testing, they can be fair because of their objective, quantitative features.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:46 AM on March 10, 2008


This isn't the most rigorous study in the world but it does make its sole point very well, which is that there is no connection between more experience and greater historical regard.

That's what I took from it--my sense is that, ultimately, there aren't many decent metrics for predicting an individual's success as president. It really is such a complex, unpredictable, consequential job, that there is nothing to compare it to, and no specific experience to prepare one for it.

(Certainly, there are qualities we look for, but I think history demonstrates pretty well that some individuals one would think would be exceptional have been terrible, while others--Lincoln?--proved the opposite. And the clincher for me is that our electoral process doesn't really weight the qualities I find most valuable very much.
posted by LooseFilter at 9:05 AM on March 10, 2008


blue_beetle is putting out feelers about running.

I'm going to have to rethink my support for Obama.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:08 AM on March 10, 2008


it does make its sole point very well, which is that there is no connection between more experience and greater historical regard.

I agree. Anecdotally, as for Presidential qualifications, no one in my lifetime was more qualified to be President than George H.W. Bush, at least as far as foreign policy was concerned. While most agree that he deserves credit for building and maintaining the Gulf War coalition, his administration was more incompetent more often than not on international affairs. They completely missed the fall of the Soviet Union, bizarrely invaded Panama, and his feints to Saddam pretty much led directly to his invasion of Kuwait. If Bush's foreign policy had been more confident, there might never have been a need for the war in the first place.

Oddly and unpredictably enough, he was far better on domestic policy, where he had the courage to famously go back on his "read my lips" pledge and do the right thing, knowing that he would pay dearly for it.

The best and only indicator that you have about a candidate is how well they've run their campaign. Up until the flap with respect to Canada and NAFTA a couple of weeks ago, Obama looked to be hands down the best candidate in this year's race from this perspective. Both Clinton and McCain's staff were caught half-assing it on a few occasions.

As for "greatness"? Postroad has it. Or, to paraphrase Hamlet, some are born to it; others have it thrust upon them.
posted by psmealey at 9:32 AM on March 10, 2008


W's experience begging girls for sex is good background for international summits.
posted by lathrop at 9:40 AM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I started out wanting to vote for Hillary and believing the "Ready from Day One!" argument -- that is, until it emerged that her ambition (or her aides' ambition, which she didn't bother to contradict) was to tear down her opponent using every smear in the dirty politics playbook, including comparing Obama to Kenneth Starr and implying that John McCain would be a better president than Obama because he has more "experience."

She would be indeed Ready from Day One -- ready to assume Bush's mantle of perfecting the most divisive presidency ever. She would have plenty of help in that department if any of her current campaign honchos -- Howard Wolfson and Mark Penn for starters -- were to assume positions in her White House.

And the claim that Michelle Obama is somehow a diffident, unassuming wallflower is -- well, I don't know what to say.
posted by blucevalo at 9:45 AM on March 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


lathrop: That's why he said HW. Thank you for your "contribution".
posted by absalom at 10:10 AM on March 10, 2008


I decided a few days ago that if Obama doesn't get the nomination, I'll probably not vote for president at all unless McCain moderates on my key issues.

Truth is, I'd totally vote for Hillary -- if her campaign and supporters would stop saying that because I'm a middle-class, college educated male I don't need a president, I'm a male oppressor if I don't vote for her, and that Obama supporters are just a personality cult.

Yeah, I should GMOFB to say that, but if 45moore45 wants people like me to vote for Hillary, it would behoove her to stop implying that because I am male I am somehow inferior to her.
posted by dw at 10:26 AM on March 10, 2008


Clearly today we've learned that Michelle Obama only supports her husband because she fears strong women.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:33 AM on March 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


Same goes for Oprah.
posted by psmealey at 10:38 AM on March 10, 2008


Does it bother anyone else that Andrew Jackson is so high up on the list?
posted by lunit at 11:15 AM on March 10, 2008


Hear hear, dw. I’m a little guilty of having the thought of Ron Paul supporters being a personality cult, but the polemic claims of 45moore45 and Clinton’s supporters against Obama just smack of sour grapes.

This thread sunk low pretty quickly, but instead of trying to revive it, here’s my attempt at lowering the level of discourse even farther. Do you know why Obama’s ahead in the race for the Democratic nomination? I heard it’s because black guys have big caucus.
posted by breaks the guidelines? at 11:28 AM on March 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Does it bother anyone else that Andrew Jackson is so high up on the list?

Why? He did a stellar job of eradicating redskins from our land. He must be a great president because he's on our money! Same goes for President Benjamin Franklin.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:31 AM on March 10, 2008


Same goes for President Benjamin Franklin.

He's my FAVORITE! That's also how I know U.S. Grant was Great President: he's on money!! (Best line from Grant: "My failures have been errors of judgment, not of intent." Because, you know, that makes it all OK.)
posted by LooseFilter at 11:58 AM on March 10, 2008


Kennedy for all his PT-109 cred, was incapable of standing up to the military establishment.

I disagree. I think Kennedy's handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis showed that he's learned from his experience during the Bay of Pigs fiasco. His inexperience probably caused him to go along with the Bay of Pigs invasion (an Eisenhower administration plan), which happened three months after he took office.

However, he stood up to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (including Curtis "Bomb Them Back Into the Stone Age " LeMay) during the Cuban Missile Crisis when they unanimously recommended a a full-scale attack and invasion. He also skillfully engineered the end of the crisis by agreeing to remove American missiles in Turkey in exchange for the Soviets removing their missiles from Cuba and getting Khrushchev to keep the American part of the deal a secret, which was a giant PR win for the US. (The Soviets installed missiles in Cuba as a response to the Americans installing missiles in Turkey in the first place.)

George W is ranked higher then his father

I've never thought too highly of George H.W. Bush--I used to compare him to Reagan and say that Reagan may have been all style and no substance, but at least he had style--but compared to his son, Poppy's a giant.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:11 PM on March 10, 2008


"She is the bigger change to the political landscape than Obama with his little obedient wife who never says anything."

This is spurious on so many levels that it's not even funny. First, anybody who has ever seen an interview with Michelle Obama knows that she's the exact opposite of a "little obedient wife who never says anything." Second, if a Democrat wins the White House, a "glass ceiling" will be broken, regardless of whether Hillary or Barack is the candidate. In fact, breaking the glass ceiling for a black candidate will be more world-historically unique than electing a woman. If Hillary is elected president, her path to power would be similar to women in other nations who acquired office because of their relationship to powerful politicians, whether as wives (Corazon Aquino, Evita Peron) or as daughters (Indira Gandhi, Megawati Sukarnoputri). Regardless of the merits of these women as individuals, it's not exactly striking a blow for feminism. On the other hand, if Barack is elected president, it would be unique because he would be the first person of African descent to be the leader of a non-African country. That would break a lot of barriers, and the "glass ceiling" for women would like break a short while afterward as well. There is already speculation that Obama would give the VP slot to Janet Napolitano or Kathleen Sebelius, both of whom would be great presidents in their own right. Meanwhile, Hillary is less likely to pick a black running mate (even if it's Barack), and even her musings about a Clinton/Obama ticket sound disingenuous to me.

Besides, if breaking "glass ceilings" were our most important priority right now, we should all abandon both Clinton and Obama and throw our support to Condoleezza Rice. As a black woman, she would break two glass ceilings at once. And if the rumors about Ms. Rice's private life are true, a third glass ceiling might be broken as well.
posted by jonp72 at 12:28 PM on March 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


Kennedy also spanked the steel industry, which in those days was a much bigger force in the economy than today. Try to picture a Bush (or a Clinton) making a speech like that.

That speech opens with one of the longest sentences I've ever heard.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:17 PM on March 10, 2008


even her musings about a Clinton/Obama ticket sound disingenuous to me.

Her public musing about a Clinton/Obama ticket is a trial balloon borne of what her pollsters are telling her to say this week. If she thought floating Condi Rice's name as Veep would buy her a point or two in the next primary, she'd do that in a heartbeat. I suspect that deep down, she's a good person, loves puppies and kittens and sorts her own recycling before bringing it to the curb, but she's running one of the most cynical campaigns I have ever seen a Democrat run.
posted by psmealey at 1:28 PM on March 10, 2008


I pretty much assume the very last thing that will be thrown at Obama supporters just before the Clinton campaign sinks will be "You just don't support her because you're all a bunch of misogynists!"

Yep, gonna be pretty.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:48 PM on March 10, 2008


Were she running instead, I’d vote for Michelle Obama in a heartbeat over Hillary Clinton.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:54 PM on March 10, 2008


This "meta-study" totally ignores military experience, which while irrelevant to the current Democratic slate, has been considered very important to voters historically.
posted by klangklangston at 2:07 PM on March 10, 2008


Not with Clinton vs. George H.W. Bush in 1992 (draft-dodger vs. WWII fighter pilot), Clinton vs. Dole (wounded WWII veteran) in 1996, George W. Bush vs. Gore in 2000 (draft-dodger vs. Vietnam veteran), or Bush vs. Kerry in 2004 (another Vietnam veteran).
posted by kirkaracha at 3:47 PM on March 10, 2008


However: Monroe, Jackson, Harrison, Tyler, Taylor, Peirce, Buchanan, Lincoln, Johnson, Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Harrison, McKinley, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Bush.

In many (were I motivated to actually do real research instead of internet research, I could tell you more specifically, due to a great series of books called Campaigns for the US Presidency), that military experience was seen as crucial and a cornerstone of the campaigns. Jackson, Tyler, Taylor, Grant, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson come to mind immediately. That several of the most recent elections haven't followed this trend doesn't mean that Chester Arthur or Ulysses Grant was seen as inexperienced by voters of their time.
posted by klangklangston at 4:16 PM on March 10, 2008


Does anyone have access to a copy of SPSS and is willing to run these numbers? I'd love to see some of the outputs. Alas, alack, my student edition has expired.
posted by JimmyJames at 4:18 PM on March 10, 2008


This "meta-study" totally ignores military experience...

No, it does not. The column headed "General" is years as a military general.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:42 PM on March 10, 2008


I stand corrected—it only ignores a fair chunk of military service.
posted by klangklangston at 5:45 PM on March 10, 2008


by the way, that website is run by Andrew Tannenbaum, who is a highly respected computer science researcher.

he's definitely biased, but his take on this stuff is always interesting.

here is his FAQ regarding who he is and why he thinks he's qualified to carry out these analyses.
posted by joeblough at 7:58 PM on March 10, 2008


oops, "Tanenbaum" not "Tannenbaum"
posted by joeblough at 8:02 PM on March 10, 2008


Its funny how someone can claims to know "a lot" about statistics and clearly make two obvious and simple mistakes in trying to correlate "greatness" and "experience". Does no one check for normal distributions and the need to transform. Even better, this guy assumes that you need a high r value to have a strong correlation. After reading this, I feel kinda bad for the guy making an arse out of himself on the web. Still kinda interesting that someone took the time to do this.
posted by available at 10:31 PM on March 10, 2008


Recent New Yorker Profile of Michelle Obama.
posted by Rumple at 1:05 AM on March 11, 2008


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