Expertise And The Presidency

Joseph Epstein at WSJ is trying to write off The Donald:

When I hear Donald Trump talk, I think of how much at home he would have felt in those living rooms [where money talked]. The guy’s a multibillionaire, cleaned up in real estate, so why shouldn’t he know about health care, immigration, life in the inner cities? Or if he doesn’t know, no reason why with a bit of quick study he can’t find out enough to put everything in order.

Joe is right about one thing: expertise rarely transfers.  Kevin Williamson mentioned that Peter Thiel’s chess skills and entrepreneurial skills are related.  Perhaps they are.  As a bridge player, we were happy when Ike’s bridge playing was linked to his strategy skills.  The fact is that expertise is created by hard work.  It takes, at a minimum, time, interest, ability, and effort.  Movies like the Karate Kid do a great disservice to understanding expertise.  So do the James Bond series.  Hint: Expertise is not about IQ.  IQ does not hurt.  Do we take from the Obama failure that academic skills are unrelated to being a successful president?  Or does it mean that experience is the key to being a successful president?  To consider Peter, he meets those four criteria in chess and business.  He might not be interested in bridge and have a hard time being successful at that.

The Donald does not match Peter in business as he but he has some business accomplishments. He has had good and bad moments as president.  He seems to know lots of folks and, generally, be a good judge of character.  Obama, on the other hand, seemed to know a few senators.  We shall see how it works out.

The presidency is close to a unique position.  There is no way to be an expert president prior to becoming president.  It is difficult to prepare for.  Each president has some skills that will help them but it is a learning experience.  It is why we tend to support political executives, i.e., governors, for president.  A business executive is not an unreasonable compromise.  Obama didn’t learn much about being a president during his eight years.  We will see if the Donald does.


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