History Challenge: Who Was the Most Qualified Presidential Candidate EVER?

I’m not asking who was the best POTUS, mind you. Just which candidate for the office had the most impressive resume. He wouldn’t have had to be elected, even.

I ask because of this exchange on Facebook, which I repeat here word for word.

Some Guy: Have you been listening to the media know-nothing pundits and Hillary Clinton detractors critical of her foreign policy speech, denouncing her lecture as more of an attack on Con man Trump’s total lack of any qualifications to be President.

Well, Any sane person would know she is correct, Trump is not even fit to visit the White House much less live there.

Hillary was outstanding and proved without any doubt that she is indeed the best qualified person to ever seek the Presidency.

Me://the best qualified person to ever seek the Presidency.// EVER seek the Presidency? (No sir, no cult of personality here, sir.) Seriously, her qualifications beat Trump’s by several miles, although you could say the same thing about an order of french fries. But best qualified person EVER? Don’t you think that claim is a tad overboard?

Another Person: No – her education and experience make her the best qualified candidate in history. That’s resume – not personal, partisan opinion.

Some Guy: Barbara, Who would you say was better qualified than Hillary and why????

Me: Just as an example, there was another POTUS who was a U.S. senator from New York and who was re-elected, but then resigned before the second term ended to become governor of New York. He also served as Secretary of State, and achieved some notable diplomatic successes. He also served a term as Vice President of the United States before being elected President. I’d say that guy was qualified up the wazoo. And that guy was Martin van Buren, one of our more mediocre presidents.

Some Guy: Okay, So what was his record for service to the community before he went into public office, anything close to Hillary’s involvement.

Me: Having beat the socks off you in the resume department already — he was an attorney with an active law practice in his early career, and then worked his way up in local and state politics before running for the U.S. senate. He was a “surrogate” or probate court attorney, then New York State attorney general, then a New York state senator. Clinton’s resume can’t hold a candle to this guy’s. But they didn’t do “community service” in the early 19th century.

Another Person: how does a mediocre president beat a candidate was on the editorial board of the Yale Review of Law and Social Action?

Worked on Senator Walter Mondale’s subcommittee researching migrant labor?

Was a professor at the University of Arkansas School of Law?

Is a former civil litigation attorney?

Served as the director of the Legal Aid Clinic at the University of Arkansas School of Law?

Was the first female chair of the Legal Services Corporation which helps ensure everyone has equal access to justice under the law, despite inability afford it?

And first female partner at Rose Law Firm.

Co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families?

Was named twice as one of the hundred most influential lawyers in America by the National Law Journal?

(Btw – such an honor is rarely bestowed upon criminals or incompetents. Just sayin.)

That her entire career has been spent as a strong advocate for families and solid track record includes leading a task force that reformed Arkansas’s education system as First Lady of Arkansas?

That – as FLOTUS – she was instrumental in the creation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Adoption and Safe Families Act, and the Foster Care Independence Act?

Or who – with her husband – has spent the years since she was FLOTUS – establishing the Clinton Foundation – a non profit whose mission is to help the poor and disadvantaged around the world realize their potential and build better lives.

They also work to improve global health, reduce preventable diseases, create economic opportunity and growth, help communities deal with the impact of climate change – and to increase opportunity for women and girls.

The Clinton Foundation is recognized and highly respected around the world and here in the US – even – grudgingly – by the GOTP -as a tireless and powerful advocate for the vulnerable.

It receives donations from


Bill and Melinda Gates

The Rockefeller Foundation

The Coca Cola Company

The Elton John Aids Foundation

Anheuser Busch

Hewlett Packard

The Kingdom of Norway

The Commonwealth of Australia

The Government of The Netherlands

The Government of Sweden

To name just a few…

Or who – as Secretary of State – has a solid track record in international relations and policy?

Played a key role in finding and taking down Bin Laden – and authored the agreement that brought the Iranians to the negotiating table for the deal that the entire P5+1 endorsed, along with most of the rest of the world?

Or who is respected and admired around the world – as this illustrates:


Don’t like her policies? Fine.

But anyone running around snarking about not trusting her, claiming she’s a RHINO – after 20+ years of being the target of relentless, hateful Republican bs – is either not paying attention or too dumb to vote.

Name ANYONE else – in EITHER party – with a resume even close to hers.

Just ONE.

Take all the time you need.

Me: Pad it all you like — and most of that is padding, especially the stuff about the Clinton Foundation — but Martin Van Buren’s resume at the time he became POTUS was a hell of a lot more impressive than Clinton’s. And his record as Secretary of State is a lot better, I’d say. No coup in Honduras, no stupid intervention in Libya. He did some good stuff that helped folks gain peace and prosperity. I assume you can google and find that for yourself. However, the Yale Law Review didn’t exist until after he died, and like most attorneys of his time he became an attorney through self-study and apprenticeship. It was a different world.

And my point, of course, is that while Van Buren’s resume was outstanding, he was a very middle-of-the-road POTUS who served only one term. And that was just one guy I picked at random.

Some Guy: Barbara, You just cited his professional record, good, but was he opposed to slavery, did he reach out to women, children, the middle-class and the poor or was he just another white male President who ignored the great sin of slavery and just went along to get along. Now, to me, any one who turned his/her back on human slavery can do no good, but you have a right to your heroes.

Me: I already said he was a mediocre POTUS. And he’s no hero of mine. I am just pointing out that, on paper, his resume at the time he became POTUS was simply outstanding. Successful lawyer, state senator, state attorney general, state governor, U.S. senator, U.S. secretary of state (and a pretty good one), vice president of the United States. Those are just the high points; there are some other jobs/appointments he had here and there as well. His political views, some of which which I consider fairly awful, are beside the point. We’re just talking qualifications — as (Another Person) said, “That’s resume – not personal, partisan opinion.”

The fact is, if you take the time to go back and look a the details of his many offices held and what he did in them, van Buren really did have an astonishing record of accomplishments before becoming one of the most average presidents in U.S. history.  (See his Wikipedia page)

Now, if you’re talking about a guy with a sterling background in doing charitable acitivism stuff, Herbert Hoover is your man. He was internationally known for his humanitarian relief efforts.  A great many other presidents have had amazing records of accomplishment before they became POTUS, which is sorta kinda how you become POTUS.  I’d have a hard time finding someone who was a total deadbeat and became POTUS, actually.

As I’ve said  before, this is cult of personality stuff. It’s not “normal.”

Update: Thinking about it, Abraham Lincoln’s resume wasn’t that great. He’d been a lawyer and U.S. Representative. He’d been a militia captain in the Black Hawk Wars and said later most of the action he saw involved swatting mosquitoes. He got noticed because of his debates and speeches more than anything else. The guy was a slacker.

23 thoughts on “History Challenge: Who Was the Most Qualified Presidential Candidate EVER?

  1. I agree with you, maha. Van Buren had better credentials, but was a mediocre to average POTUS.

    Hillary also has a lot of experience and credentials.

    We Americans also have a tendency to elect military leaders to the presidency. Some were good to great- Washington, Ike – some were ok – Grant – some were terrible/evil – Andrew Jackson – and some got an “Incomplete” – Garfield.

    Until 2008, we have a wide variety of white male Presidents. With a wide variety of successes and failures.

    How good will Hillary be?
    I don’t know.
    NO ONE KNOWS. Outside factors affect presidencies.
    I AM sure that she’ll be a hell of a lot better POTUS than tRUMP! But so would a mushroom or legume, come to think of it…

  2. I’d have a hard time finding someone who was a total deadbeat and became POTUS, actually.

    Uhm, does the name George W Bush ring a bell?

  3. I have to say of that lengthy exchange with Those Who Will Not Listen… that’s a good chunk of your life you won’t be getting back! Go outside for a walk and smell some flowers. You earned it.

  4. Eisenhower’s resume isn’t too Presidential, but he did manage to, oh, I don’t know, defeat Hitler and save the free word.

    Taft’s resume was impressive both before and after the Presidency:

    Solicitor General of the US, Federal Judge, Governor of the Philippines, Sec. of War

  5. James Buchanan and Herbert Hoover. Although I don’t believe either previously held elected office, both had long careers of public service, including cabinet level experience.

  6. Resumes are funny things. If I was to list all the fine work I’ve done for Columbia University, Yale, John Jay college of Criminal Justice, York College, Bronx Community College..then one might get the impression I was quite the intellect when in reality I was quite the lowly construction worker.
    The point being that just because Hillary can name drop on her resume through an association or by implication, it doesn’t mean that there is any meaningful accomplishment that would overwhelmingly qualify her as POTUS. I’d wager that her being the first female partner for the Rose Law firm had more to do with her husband’s rising star then her own merits. All that glitters is not gold!

  7. Krugman made this same claim. In those exact words:

    “Well, Mrs. Clinton isn’t just the most knowledgeable, well-informed candidate in this election, she’s arguably the best-prepared candidate on matters economic ever to run for president. …”

    Good lord he is such a homer.

  8. “All that glitters is not gold”——-AND——-All that is gold does not glitter.

  9. Compared to who??? If I was going to talk about most qualified, I favor Thomas Jefferson, academically, in his government experience and personal courage.

    But if we’re talking about comparing HRC, there are two meaningful candidates, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. IMO, Bernie has integrity in gobs and enough experience. That’s why in the last vote I may ever cast, I voted for him. However, if Hillary prevails in the convention and the safe bet is she will, then the question becomes Hillary v The Donald. Those people who want to vote Green rather than vote Clinton have forgotten Florida and Al Gore.

    Throwing away your vote in a symbolic gesture of defiance/rejection of HRC if you live in a swing state is a vote for Trump and history says the results could be disastrous. I never thought the results of an election could be more catastrophic than the debacle of 2000, but Trump could be much worse than Bush, exponentially worse.

    In terms of what sort of alliance against Trump I think is justified, think of FDR and Churchill making a deal with Stalin – for the sole reason of defeating Hitler. Make whatever deal you must to keep that madman out of the Oval Office. It’s that simple.

  10. I’ve always been partial to John Quincy Adams’ resume and one could argue that Teddy Roosevelt was the most interesting man in world during his day. However my vote goes to the resume of the man who defeated incumbent 23rd President Benjamin Harrison – Grover Cleveland. His resume listed the unique experience of having been the 22nd President – I don’t see how you can be more qualified than that…

  11. Mohammed Ali has died.

    A world without Bowie, Prince, and Ali, is a more hollow place….

    I can’t believe Ali’s gone…………………..


  12. Things are strange here in WA state. We had a caucus which I didn’t participate in because I don’t like the process. Berney won. Then later last month, I got a ballot in the mail labeled primary. So I voted for Berney. Which one counts, the caucus or the primary? Heck if I know.
    If we are a democracy (and I’m not sure at this point) we should vote for whomever we want. I think that if one votes for someone else because they are afraid they are throwing away their vote, that’s not democracy. I do not want Trump to be president. However, I am not sure he would be worse than Dubya simply because the presidency under Dubya was really Cheney. I consider Cheney evil personified. However, he did have the qualifications, I guess. I’m not sure if HRC would make a good president but if I have to choose between Trump and her, then I choose her. I don’t hate her and I really can’t understand why she is so disliked and Trump is so “loved”.
    As for the gold that does not glitter, actually I think Trump is the glitter that is not gold.

  13. I really don’t think Trump can be elected but lately I have had a sneaky suspicion that if he is and he behaves the way it is being predicted, someone somewhere will take him out. Then we will be left with the VP whomever that is and I have been thinking he will pick little Marco.

  14. Pingback: Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Speech | The Mahablog

  15. A lot of conservatives are on the record calling Trump a sociopath. It’ll be interesting to see what they’ll need to be calling the D candidate when the time comes.

  16. Off Topic – but this is what a writer aspires to.

    from the Onion: Scientists Slowly Reintroducing Small Group Of Normal, Well-Adjusted Humans Into Society.

    According to officials at Cornell University, where for the past 18 years conservation researchers have operated an enclosed sanctuary for humans who are levelheaded and make it a habit to think before they speak, the endangered group is being cautiously reintegrated into select locations nationwide in hopes that they can reestablish permanent communities and one day thrive again…

    “Our hope is that within a century or so, the traits for making sound long-term decisions and being able to tolerate people different from oneself will propagate and begin to reemerge within the species at large,” he continued.

    Prior to the conservation efforts, it is believed that even-tempered people with sound judgment and the ability to put the needs of others before themselves had dwindled to less than 150 within the country’s borders, and had gone completely extinct in the nation’s businesses and civic institutions.

  17. You forgot to also mention how Abe Lincoln was also a Vampire Hunter!

    Huh?…You mean coming against those who make a living from the sweat of another man’s brow? Or is there some TV show or movie i fortunately missed?

  18. @ Swami
    I thought similarly until I got a used copy for $2. Best $2 I have spent in quite some time on a movie! Please be aware that I also find Ancient Aliens on ‘The History Channel’ (back on the freaking History Channel after being humiliated to their 2nd channel H2 after South Park’s smack down of an episode “A History Channel Thanksgiving” humiliated the network)
    Utterly ridiculous, yet VERY funny!

  19. Your comment about Herbert Hoover comes a bit less than a year after I happened to be in Iowa and visited the Herbert Hoover presidential library/museum. (He’s more associated professionally with California but was born in Iowa.) Anyway, the displays do an excellent job of describing Hoover’s humanitarian contributions, especially his work organizing food relief for continental Europe during and after the First World War. But by gawd, the section of the museum about the Great Depression and the New Deal were positively hallucinatory. If you took it all at face value, you’d think that every good idea that FDR ever had was really Hoover’s idea. Hoover was in fact an absolutely orthodox believer in laissez-faire capitalism.

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