Put aside Herman Cain's social problems for a moment, and look at his resume: Successful businessman with a patriotic streak. That's pretty much it. Yet, Mr. Cain leads the Republican field in some polls, prompting a new Quinnipiac survey to ask, "Does the fact that Herman Cain never served in public office make you more likely/less likely to vote for him, or doesn't it make a difference?"
Well, 43% said it doesn't make a difference, 41% would be less likely to vote for Cain, and just 14% are more likely to support him.
The takeaway from this poll is that close to 60% of Americans don't believe any political experience is necessary in order to run the country.
Looking back, only two American presidents have ever been elected without political or military experience. William Howard Taft and Herbert Hoover had scant public sector exposure (and we know how that turned out with Hoover), but the vast majority of chief executives had politics in their blood.
Barack Obama might be an exception to that rule. His experience in the Senate was short and rather ordinary. The president has a strong legal background, but little hands-on policy experience.
That has caused him major problems, especially with the economy. Mr. Obama, a devoted liberal, bought the idea that massive federal spending would ramp up the private sector. It did not. It never has. But because the president believed he could combine economic growth with social justice, he did not listen to opposing points of view. And here we are three years later with massive economic pain.
The lesson is that experience counts. Like President Obama, Herman Cain is a charismatic speaker. He is forceful, yet accessible. Millions of folks like him and that for which he stands. But, truthfully, Cain simply does not know enough about the world to formulate specific future strategies. If he is elected to the presidency, he would have to rely on a bevy of advisors, just as President Obama has done. Paging Lawrence Summers!
We are living in a complicated, dangerous world where what happens in a chaotic nation like Greece can cause the Dow to drop 300 points in a day… where a rogue country like Iran can directly threaten us and get away with it… where our alleged ally Pakistan can hide bin Laden for years, and not pay any price. Even Lincoln and Washington would be up nights dealing with problems like these.
Thank God that President Obama appointed Leon Panetta to blow up the al-Qaeda and Taliban thugs. As CIA chief, Panetta has served the president extremely well and largely taken foreign policy criticism off the election table. Mr. Obama got lucky with Mr. Panetta. The president has been unlucky in other advisory areas.
So, experience does matter. Voting for any political candidate is a gamble. But supporting one who is light on policy achievement is a long-shot play.