General Question

Trustinglife's avatar

With past presidents, how reflective was their prior political record on their actions once they became president?

Asked by Trustinglife (6623points) September 16th, 2008 from iPhone

I’m curious about whether such record is a trustworthy indicator.

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3 Answers

JackAdams's avatar

The problem with attempting to use someone’s “past record” as some kind of progenitor of future actions, is that if you haven’t actually witnessed someone’s past actions, then you might have a lot of trouble actually knowing for sure precisely what their “past actions” actually were.

And, if you can’t be sure about what a person really did in their past, then you probably will be unable to predict their future movements/actions.

The poor correlation to that, would be that you can flip a coin 1,000 times, and it can end up as heads for over 700 of those times, but that track record for that particular coin, is no indication of how the coin will land on “toss #1,001,” and that illustrates the unpredictability of coins and people.

It’s my belief that when a person becomes president, he (forgive the male-only reference, please) gets a shock to his system, because he’s not really expecting anything about a job that he has never had, so whatever befalls him in the job will be new for him. So that’s one thing that happens to him.

Secondly, the new President is, in a very real way, “corrupted” by the office, and even, in a way, intimidated by it, because sooner or later, you come to the realization that you are the CEO of the most powerful (and best!) nation on Planet Earth, and that with certain limitations (and checks/balances), you discover that you have, as someone once said, “an awesome amount of power.”

That also adds to “the corruption factor,” and explains why most President are truly unable to keep their campaign promises; their intimidation and the very realistic limitations of the office prevent them from acting as they had originally planned.

One President, and I think it may have been Truman, told an interviewer, “I was astounded to find out what I could not do, as President.”

In summation, a person just doesn’t know what the office will be like, until he is actually sworn in and begins trying to accomplish what he said he would do, and it really can be most frustrating indeed, to hear an aide say to you for the first time, “I’m sorry, Mr. President, but you can’t do that.”

Harp's avatar

It’s difficult to make that assessment because many of the president’s duties are unique to that office. There aren’t many jobs that one can have prior to becoming president that will establish a record on foreign policy or military command, the president’s prerogatives. At best, you can examine their pre-election rhetoric or, in the case of former governors, their fiscal/administrative styles.

I don’t think there have been many presidents that have changed their spots once in office, though the current prez comes close. His record of conciliatory bipartisanship and fiscal restraint as governor of Texas certainly gave no hint of the polarization and runaway spending to come.

JackAdams's avatar

Excellently stated, Harp. Kudos!

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