Tag Archives: james buchanan

Does “executive experience” equate to Presidential success? Part 5

#14 — Franklin Pierce.  He reached the rank of brigadier general during the Mexican-American War but short of being an awesome leader, I don’t count that.  His only political position before the presidency was as a Senator representing NH, so that doesn’t count either as ‘executive’ experience.  Through a number of acts by his administration, Pierce managed to splinter the country and revive all the anger between the North and South.  This quote from Wikipedia says it pretty succinctly:  “Pierce lost all credibility he may have had in the North, and, as of 2008, was the only elected president (rather than a Vice President who succeeded to the position) to fail to be renominated by his party for a second term. Pierce is ranked among the least effective Presidents as well as an indecisive politician who was easily influenced. He was unable to command as President or to provide the required national leadership. Yet, he had the courage to stand by his convictions and buck the will of is own party, leading to his political exile.”  So… EE: no; good: no.

#15 — James Buchanan.  He was a senator, and Secretary of State, but by my definition no executive experience.  Buchanan has long gone down in history as the man who allowed the Civil War to happen and was perhaps the worst president ever, and it seems this is basically true.  But to be fair, I wanted to see if maybe he had any rousing successes during his presidency.  Here’s what I found:  He tried to start a war against Utah.  He directly influenced the majority vote in the Dred Scott Decision by lobbying judges, upholding the rights to own slaves.  His administration made efforts to try to take Cuba by force.  He presided over a financial panic and was accused of financial mismanagement.  His handling of the initial seceding of southern states with complete impotency.  He declared the secession unconstitutional, but also felt it was unconstitutional for the federal government and army to do anything about it, not even preparing the army for the impending war.  He was, in actuality, a skilled politician and a brilliant man, by many accounts, and at another time might have made a very good president.  But the political climate at the time required a forceful, strong, decisive leader willing to act quickly, and this was something Buchanan was not.  So… EE: no; good: no.

#16 — Abraham Lincoln.  He was a captain in the Illinois militia for awhile, and also ran a small store for awhile before becoming a lawyer and serving in the Illinois state senate for awhile, after which he served representing Illinois in Congress (as a Representative).  So, no executive experience.  (I could draw many parallels to Barack Obama right here, but I’ll take the high road and avoid that.  😉 )  Lincoln was president during what can safely be considered the most challenging and pivotal in our nation’s history.  And granted, he did a whole lot of stuff that at a time of peace would possibly be seen as tyrannical: declaring war without Congress, suspending the writ of habeus corpus, imprisoning thousands of Confederate soldiers without due process, spending millions of dollars without congressional approval, etc.  While many of the things he did as president could (and often are) considered unconstitutional, his point of view was that, what was the point of preserving the Constitution if by doing so, it is lost entirely?  And to his point, in doing so he preserved the nation, started the country on a path of a successful Reconstruction, and freed millions of slaves.  You may not agree with the means, but you have to appreciate the result.  So… EE: no.  Good: yes.