Is Ted Cruz’s limited experience in major office a serious concern?

Ted Cruz’s announcement that he’s running for president was greeted by some Republicans with a warning against electing a first-term Senator to our highest office. Didn’t we just try this? How has it worked out?

I agree that, other things being about equal, a governor (or former governor) is preferable to a Senator, when it comes to fitness for the presidency. And an experienced Senator is preferable to an inexperienced one.

But it’s a mistake to suppose that Barack Obama’s ruinous presidency has anything much to do with the fact that he entered the Oval Office after only a few years in the Senate and with no relevant administrative experience.

The supposition rests on the premise that, because he was still wet behind the ears when elected, Obama wasn’t competent to handle his big new job. However, to paraphrase Michael Dukakis, the overriding problem with President Obama is ideology, not (lack of) competence.

There have, of course, been a few major instances in which the Obama administration conducted itself incompetently. The Obamacare roll-out is the most notorious. But would the bureaucracy have performed better if Obama had served an extra six years in the Senate? I don’t think so.

Would gubernatorial experience have helped? Perhaps. But one the least successful roll-outs of a state exchange occurred in Oregon, whose governor was in his third term. Maryland’s roll-out was nearly as bad. Our governor was in his second term, following two terms as mayor of Baltimore.

If we look objectively at the big picture, Obama has proven competent in pursuing his ambitious, transformative agenda. He may well succeed in overhauling our health insurance system and eventually, by extension, health care in America. He may well succeed in granting amnesty to several million Americans without the approval of Congress — a feat even he once considered not doable. And his administration has advanced left-wing causes through under-the-radar rules and regulations on multiple fronts.

When it comes to foreign affairs, Obama hasn’t just transformed our policy, in important respects he has stood it on its head. The consequence, to be sure, is that the U.S. has lost its influence, especially in the Middle East, which is falling apart.

But our loss of influence is mainly the product of ideologically-based decisions, not incompetence. Obama is ambivalent at best on the question of whether U.S. influence in the Middle East is desirable, and he’s certain that he doesn’t want to pay the military price required to maintain our influence.

Perhaps the best evidence that ideology, not competence, is Obama’s problem can be found in his second term. Four years in the White House should outweigh twice that amount of experience in the Senate. But Obama’s second term has, if anything, been more misguided than his first.

If incompetence born of inexperience were the problem, we would expect Obama’s performance to have improved (Jimmy Carter seemed to see the error of some of his ways as his one term in office progressed). Because ideology is the problem, Obama has doubled-down on his disastrous policies.

If Ted Cruz is as successful as Obama in pushing America in his ideologically-preferred direction, conservatives will applaud, provided he does so without assaulting the Constitution.


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