August 22, 2007

ALL THAT ULTIMATELY MATTERS IS THAT THEY KNOW THEIR OWN:

What Presidents Don't Know ... (ANNE APPLEBAUM, August 22, 2007, The Washington Post)

Like John Kerry's flip-flops or John Edwards's haircuts, the foreign policy gaffes of Senator Obama have become a staple source of presidential campaign humor — so much so that the candidate himself has felt compelled to come up with counter-jokes. "To prepare for this debate I rode in the bumper cars at the state fair," he told an Iowa audience on Sunday.

Yet given that his main rivals for the Democratic nomination include a one-term senator and another senator whose career, at least as an elected official, is only four years longer than Mr. Obama's, maybe we should pause before laughing. After all, the barb in the jokes comes from the assumption — usually unquestioned — that there really is some specific, specialized, inside knowledge of foreign countries that some candidates have and some don't, that is essential to holding the presidency. Is that true? Or, to put it in late-night talk-show language, do you really have to know the name of the Pakistani president to be a good American president?

Clearly you don't have to know very much of anything about other countries to become America's president, this not being a criterion that matters greatly to most voters.


The best presidents--Washington, Polk, Lincoln, Coolidge, Ike, Reagan, Clinton & W--have been the ones who understood America the best. The ones who understood--or claimed to--the rest of the world have been pretty uniform flops: TR, Wilson, FDR, JFK, Nixon, & Carter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 22, 2007 8:35 AM
Comments

I think Eisenhower understood the rest of the world pretty well.

Posted by: Brandon at August 22, 2007 10:49 AM

... so did Nixon.

Posted by: erp at August 22, 2007 12:03 PM

No, he didn't. He thought the Eastern Bloc was temperamentally communist.

Posted by: oj at August 22, 2007 12:08 PM

oh please.

Posted by: erp at August 22, 2007 5:38 PM
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