POTUS 2012 – The “MQ” Issue

POTUS 2012 – The “MQ” Issue

A Pre-election Analysis


Jay B Gaskill

This article is driven by three premises.

When we vote for president, we are, above all, electing an executive, someone who fully understands, hopefully though hands-on experience, what it actually takes to run a large scale, complex organization.

When we vote for president, we are – or should be – voting for about one thousand highly qualified, trusted subordinates.  The narrow time frame between election and assumption of office is not enough to assemble a competent and effective governing team, no matter how talented and wise the newly elected candidate.

Moreover, we are electing someone who will be entrusted with the power to do great, lasting harm to the presidency, to the country and even the world.  And we are electing someone whose core policies, ultimate patriotism and bedrock principles should be well defined and worthy of the same trust you or I might repose, say, in taking care of all our personal affairs, including our loved ones, for several years.

THEREFORE: We Americans have the right to expect competence, honesty and realism in the context of a sincere commitment to act in the best interests of the United States of America and to protect and defend our constitution.


Given these criteria, it is possible to outline a non-partisan MQ for President Of The United States:

Demonstrated executive capacity on a presidential scale,
A critical mass of scalable policy and government contacts and trust relationships,
A character trail sufficiently transparent for reasonable vetting,
Demonstrated applied, practical intelligence,
Sincere, bedrock patriotism.


The presidency requires a certain minimum level of real world experience, to wit:

A full term as an active, effective, involved Vice President, AND/OR

Long term legislative service in a major leadership position, such a House Speaker or Chair of Ways and Means, coupled with meaningful executive service in another position, AND/OR

A Governorship or comparable executive position, ideally more than one term, of a major state or city (see below), AND/OR.

Comparable business executive experience coupled with significant government service, such as a military leader, or in one or both of the two first tier Cabinet positions Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State.

Major States, One Major City:

The top sixteen states ranked by population were California (37m), Texas (25 m), New York (19.5 m), Florida (18.5m), Illinois (12.9m), Pennsylvania (12.6m), Ohio (11.5), Michigan (9.9m), New Jersey (8.7 m), Georgia (9.8m), North Carolina (9.3m), Virginia (7.8m), Washington (6.6 m), Arizona (6.6m), Massachusetts (6.6), Indiana (6.4 million).

There is only one major city equivalent. New York City, population 8.3 million, would be the 9th most populous state. No other US City (e.g., LA is 3.8m) comes even close.


Using these criteria, the five weakest executive resumes of our 20th – 21st century presidents (reference the full list set out in the Appendix below) belonged to:

Warren G Harding (1921-1923 – Newspaper publisher, Lieutenant Governor of Ohio, US Senator for 7 years)
Herbert Hoover (1929-33 - Cabinet Secretary & head of Post WW II Relief),
John Kennedy (1961-63 - Navy commander, congressman and US Senator for 7 years),
William Clinton (1993-2001 - one term governor of Arkansas) and
Barak Obama (2009 - US Senator for 4 years).

The three Presidents on this list with the least overall executive experience were Warren G Harding (who served a brief stint as Ohio’s Lieutenant Governor) John Kennedy (with wartime service as a naval officer) and Barak Obama (whose resume included no meaningful executive responsibilities).

Warren G Harding was a “presidential-looking” man who died of a heart attack after serving two years in a presidency that was marred by the Teapot Dome bribery scandal. Harding was a US Senator who rose to prominence as a newspaper publisher, serving only 2 years as lieutenant governor before being elected to the Senate.

John F Kennedy served as a naval officer in wartime (a challenging, though small-scale leadership position, served under fire), then he served in the US House for six years followed by the US Senate for seven, having been reelected for a second term when he declared for president.

Mr. Obama served in federal office (the US Senate) for fewer than 4 years when elected POTUS and, until assuming office, had no formal executive experience.

All three men were charismatic candidates whose main claim to the job of president was a degree of prominence achieved while serving as junior members of the US Senate (Ohio and Massachusetts.)


It is noteworthy that only one of the five “resume-challenged” presidents identified here (Bill Clinton) ever served a second term, and that Mr. Clinton has the unique distinction of having been impeached.

John Kennedy’s entourage of experts, advisors and contacts was impressive for the time, given his lack of executive service. But this was a unique circumstance since the family patriarch, Joseph Kennedy, had been grooming one of more of his sons for the White house for years, and had used his considerable family money and connections to that end.

The Clintons were a smart and ambitious political couple, and Bill was, by all accounts (allowing for his infidelity issues), a natural leader and an effective governor. But Arkansas remains a tiny venue, smaller than several large US cities; and the Clintons were not particularly well connected. As a result, many key positions went unfilled for the better part of president Clinton’s first term. {It took Clinton an average 267 days to staff Senate-confirmed positions in executive agencies at the start of his administration; 457 days to fill deputy agency head positions.}

Mr. Obama’s personal connections were drawn from academia and some activists on the left with whom he had cultivated personal connections. These lightweight contacts were augmented by a modest selection of former democratic officials, elected and appointed. From necessity, Mr. Obama relied excessively on the existing congressional leadership in crafting major policy initiatives, without the hearings and dialogue that would have been required had the opposition been stronger. As a result, a plurality of democratic members of Congress will be retired by voters in November.

Mr. Obama seems to be headed for a single-term presidency. The growing speculation that there might be a democratic primary challenge raises the real possibility that the democratic establishment will join republicans in conducting a “resume review”.

It is probable that the leaders of both parties, and we the people, will face another POTUS resume review within the next year.

More than ever before, we need to insist on a demonstrated executive capacity on a presidential scale, a critical mass of scalable policy and government contacts and trust-relationships, a character trail sufficiently transparent for reasonable vetting, demonstrated applied, practical intelligence, and sincere, bedrock patriotism.

I must add that, at this challenging time in our history, the US needs a leader who is familiar with the needs of the American business community, has the courage to directly address the public debt crisis, and who has demonstrated a healthy realism about the intentions of this country’s enemies and the level of toughness needed to keep them at bay.

Therefore we the people must hold out for a proven executive of unquestioned patriotism and integrity, and to require of each candidate that his or her key advisors and cabinet candidates be pre-identified.

As this process unfolds, we should remain highly skeptical of early primary enthusiasms, particularly as these tend to run ahead of the vetting process. Sadly, we might actually be doing better with the “smoke filled rooms” of former days, where real vetting was done without undue embarrassment to the candidates.

Warning Flags

Beware claims of exaggerated executive service, i.e., as governor of a tiny, politically isolated state;
Watch for claims of exaggerated legislative service, e.g., short-term senate or congressional service, or long-term service without any substantial leadership record;
Do not settle for a lightweight advisor & cabinet candidate list, especially when there are obvious unfilled positions;
Never, never again settle for rushed or spotty vetting.

The election of 2012 will be America’s most critical political juncture in the first third of the 21st century. America really needs to get this one right.

There is no time like now to review the list of eligible politicians, and begin the recruiting and culling processes.


Survey of 20th & 21st Century Presidents


William McKinley 25th 1897 – 1901 (assassinated)

Enlisted as a Union soldier in the Civil War, promoted to Lieutenant for bravery, admitted to the bar as a lawyer in 1867, Congressman, Chairman of Law Revision, Ways and Means, Governor of Ohio.

Theodore Roosevelt 26th 1901-1909

Historian soldier, adventurer, New York Police Commissioner, Department of the Navy, Governor of New York, Vice President of the US.

William Howard Taft 27th 1909-1913

Attorney, Judge, Solicitor General, Governor General of the Philippines, Secretary of the Army.

Woodrow Wilson 28th 1913-1921

President of Princeton University, Governor of New Jersey

Warren G Harding 29th 1921-1923 (died in office)

Newspaper publisher, Ohio State Senator and Lieutenant Governor (Ohio), US Senator

John Calvin Coolidge 30th 1923-1929

Vermont lawyer, Massachusetts Governor, Vice President

Herbert Hoover 31st 1929-1933

Mining engineer, Head of US Food Administration & American Relief Administration (post WWI), Secretary of Commerce

Franklin D Roosevelt 32nd 1933-1945 (died in office)

Admitted to the New York Bar in 1908, New York State Senator, Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York

Harry S Truman 33rd 1945-1953

Farmer, businessman, WW I Artillery officer, County commissioner (MO) and US Senator, Head of wartime (WW II) Truman Committee, Vice President

Dwight David Eisenhower 34th 1953-1961

Career military, Son of a Kansas engineer, West Point Graduate, 5 Star General, Supreme Allied Commander during WW II, President of Columbia University.

John F Kennedy 35th 1961-1963 (assassinated)

International affairs degree from Harvard, Commander in US Navy (WW II), Congressman then two-term US Senator (Massachusetts), assassinated in 1963.

Lyndon Baines Johnson 36th 1963-1969

Texas high school teacher, state senator, congressman, Naval Reserve curing WWII, US Senator from Texas, Senate Democratic Leader, Senate Majority Leader, Vice President

Richard M Nixon 37th 1969-1974 (resigned)

Duke Law School, Naval Lieutenant Commander WWII, US Congressman, US Senator, Vice President, resigned from the presidency in 1974

Gerald Ford 38th 1974-1977

Yale Law School, Michigan attorney, WW II Navy Lieutenant serving in combat, later promoted to Lieutenant commander, Michigan Congressman, republican Minority Leader for 25 years, Vice President by appointment, President by succession.

Jimmie (James Earl) Carter 39th 1977-1981

Farmer, businessman, US Navy submarine engineer (Lieutenant), State Senator from Georgia and one term GA governor 1971-1975.

Ronald Reagan 40th 1981-1989

Eureka College, Lieutenant Army Reserve, sportscaster, Actor, President of screen Actors Guild, two term governor of California

George H W Bush 41st 1989-1993

Decorated WWII Naval Aviator, Yale, Texas oil CEO, two term member of congress, Ambassador to the UN, Envoy to China, Head of CIA, two term Vice President

William Clinton 42nd 1993-2001

Oxford, Yale Law School, Law Professor, Arkansas Attorney General, one term Arkansas Governor

George W Bush 43rd 2001-2009

Yale, Harvard Business School, Air National Guard, oil company exploration executive, manager of Texas Rangers baseball team, two term governor of Texas

Barack Obama 43rd 2009-

Columbia University, Harvard Law, community organizer, lecturer at University of Chicago Law School, three terms as a State Senator, partial term as US Senator.


About the Author

Jay B Gaskill is a California attorney who served as the Alameda County Pubic Defender before giving up his “life of crime” to write full time. His profile is posted at www.jaygaskill.com/Profile.pdf. He is a self-described “Truman democrat.”

Two of Jay B Gaskill’s fiction porjects are now available for purchase as e-books, downloadable to readers, smart phones and computers.

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