A non-politician as president?

A non-politician as president?
(Image via NPR)

At a 1959 news conference for college journalists, I asked Sen. John F. Kennedy a question that has recurred in many subsequent elections: Given the fact that you only have legislative experience and none as an executive, what makes you qualified to be President?

His answer: It’s not the nature of your experience that matters, but your understanding of the issues and America’s place in the world.

That sounded reasonable, but, as Kennedy and others later showed, it’s not that simple. Recent presidents have often found a substantial gap between what they envisioned as a candidate and the reality they confronted in office.

Take Barack Obama. His campaign claim — that he as an outsider could bring meaningful change better than insider Hillary Clinton — was never realistic, though many voters believed it. Nevertheless, he can boast substantial achievements, a tribute to his determination, the loyalty of fellow Democrats, the dire situation he inherited and knee-jerk opposition that prompted him to stretch his executive powers. Time will tell if successes such as Obamacare and the Iran nuclear deal survive and prosper.

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