In response to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ suggestion that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is not qualified to be president, Sen. Barbara Boxer responded with claims that Clinton is not only qualified, but is the best qualified person ever to run for president.
— Barbara Boxer (@BarbaraBoxer) April 7, 2016
Clinton does, of course, have an okay resume as far as collecting offices goes. She was secretary of state for four years, and before that was a senator from New York for eight years. First lady isn’t a political office, but Clinton was known to be more substantially involved in policy matters than many other presidential wives.
But is Clinton really the most qualified person ever to run for the White House? If Boxer’s claim is correct, here are nine people who were less qualified than Clinton to run for president:
1. Henry Clay
The political achievements of Clay are almost too many to list. He was Speaker of the House for three separate stints totaling about ten years, he was secretary of state for four years under John Quincy Adams, and he also spent nearly 15 years as a senator from Kentucky.
He wasn’t an empty suit, either, as he was the driving force behind the American System economic plan. On three separate occasions he helped preserve the union against secession, by brokering the Missouri Compromise, lowering tariffs to defuse the Nullification Crisis, and concocting the Compromise of 1850.
Clay also practically invented the modern Speaker of the House, shifting it from a mediating role to the most powerful single position in Congress. He ran for president four different times, coming closest in 1844, but was defeated every time.
2. George Washington
George Washington led the rag-tag Continental Army through seven years of war against Great Britain, the greatest military superpower of the day. After winning, Washington resigned his military commission and rejected any suggestion that he be made king or dictator of the United States. He later chaired the Constitutional Convention, something Clinton has never done.
3. Dwight Eisenhower
Eisenhower was the president of Columbia University for several years and was NATO’s first military commander, bolstering the alliance’s credibility and allowing it to survive substantial skepticism from Congress.
He also beat Hitler.
4. George H. W. Bush
Bush rivals Henry Clay in his ability to pile up offices en route to the presidency. Bush started off by spending 4 years as a representative from Texas and two years as ambassador to the U.S., and was then chief U.S. liason to China, headed the CIA, and of course spent eight years as Ronald Reagan’s vice president. He also had a notable career as a successful oil executive in Texas.
5. James Madison
Madison was excellently qualified for the Constitution’s top office, because he was the Father of the Constitution, doing more than anybody else to shape the structure of the final document. He also helped secure its passage by authoring a big chunk of the Federalist Papers, and then as a member of the first Congress played a critical role in the creation of the Bill of Rights. He also served as Thomas Jefferson’s secretary of state for a full eight years, during which he helped complete the Louisiana Purchase and kept America from being sucked into the war between Britain and France.
6. Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson is famous for writing the Declaration of Independence, but he had plenty of other achievements. Among other things, he was governor of Virginia, the U.S. minister to France, and the country’s first ever Secretary of State. He was also vice president under John Adams, though at the time the office was almost completely inconsequential. In addition to the offices he held, Jefferson was the ideological leader of the Democratic-Republicans, the most successful political party of the early United States.
7. James Monroe
Monroe is not as famous as Jefferson and Madison, but he may have been the most qualified of the three. Besides being a hero in the Revolutionary War (he was grievously wounded at the Battle of Trenton), he had an extremely long and successful career in government prior to becoming president. He spent three years as senator, had two stints as governor of Virginia, and spent about seven years combined as the U.S. minister to France and Great Britain, two absolutely critical diplomatic posts. He was then Secretary of State for James Madison during the critical period of the War of 1812, where the United States waged war against Britain in order to protect its rights as an independent country.
8. William Howard Taft
Taft had a very long and successful career has a public servant before he arrived at the presidency almost by accident. At just 32, he became solicitor general under Benjamin Harrison, and he followed this with an 8-year stint as a U.S. circuit court judge. Despite his desire to serve on the Supreme Court, he left his judicial post to become civilian governor of the Philippines, where he distinguished himself by treating the native Filipinos as equals and laying the groundwork for the country’s eventual independence. He then served as Teddy Roosevelt’s Secretary of War, and became his chosen successor as president despite not really wanting the job in the first place.
9. Bill Clinton
[dcquiz] Bill Clinton was an absolute force of nature in politics from an early age. After overcoming an impoverished childhood to earn a Rhodes Scholarship and graduate from Yale Law School, Clinton became Arkansas attorney general when he was just 30 years old, and was governor by age 32. He won six separate terms as Arkansas’ governor, chaired the National Governors Association, and played a key role in creating a more moderate “New Democrat” brand that helped the party reclaim the White House in 1992.
Clinton achieved all this even though he was never married to a U.S. president.
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