What Mitt Romney Doesn't Get About Presidential Qualifications

Mitt Romney's suggestion that business experience should be required for the presidency is misguided.


So Mitt Romney thinks a candidate should be required to have three years of experience in the business community as a prerequisite for running for president. The job qualification, he told a crowd in Las Vegas, would be in addition to the age, birthplace, and citizenship requirements set by the constitution.

Set aside, for the moment, the veiled reference to whether President Obama was really born in Hawaii (which, of course, he was). Romney's standard not only would have invalidated the presidencies of a number of luminaries (like Abe Lincoln), but makes no real sense. Unless, of course, you went to an exclusive and expensive business school, and never had the pleasure of being told, as a high school graduation speaker thankfully did at a Boston-area ceremony, that you are not so special, after all.

Really, is this the time to tout business credentials? Americans admire wealth and the people who have amassed it, but they are still awfully mad at Wall Street for running the economy into the ground and then whimpering until they got a government bailout. Oh—and then giving big bonuses to executives they said were necessary to put the Humpty Dumpty economy back together again.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Mitt Romney.]

If we're going to make the job requirements that specific, why stop there? Why not make every presidential contender serve in the military—perhaps in a controversial or even ill-advised conflict. This way, the president might think twice before he or she sends people to fight and die in a no-good war.

Or maybe presidents should all be teachers—best yet, middle-school teachers who are blamed for the performance of their students, no matter how little the students care or study or even show up to class. Then, when the students whose parents don't even care enough to make sure they get to school or do their homework do, in fact, fail, the parents can blame the teachers and get them fired. That sort of experience would do a president well in dealing with Congress, which often displays the same maturity level as middle-schoolers and which on a whim might decide to not do its work.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

How about being an aid worker, or a social worker? It might be good for a president to see human misery and hopelessness firsthand, and feel the frustration of trying to help people with layers and layers of troubles. Extra points for shaking a metaphorical fist at comparatively well-off American voters and officials who fight about stupid things while a family overseas has lost everything and is living in a refugee camp.

Perhaps we could demand that presidents work as minimum-wage employees for a time, so they can see how inadequate that wage is. Or, work somewhere where they are a racial or gender minority, so they can see how it is to suffer harassment or discrimination.

The private sector creates jobs, the Republicans tell us. They've not been doing such a great job at that of late—and this, despite the fact that many big corporations are making record profits. Business experience can provide a good, if limited, perspective. But it's hardly a qualification on its own.

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