Ben Carson: Experience is more than holding office

Carson's experience stands in clear contrast to the current president’s sparse resume and total lack of any significant accomplishment before having assumed the presidency.


WASHINGTON, May 9, 2015 – Last week, Dr. Benjamin Carson announced that he would be running for President of the United States. It has been suggested in some quarters that, given the country’s experience with the current occupant of the White House, the public will be looking for a person who has been a governmental and/or business executive to serve as the next President, and that Dr. Carson would not fit that bill.

However, history has taught that such experience is no guarantee of a successful presidency as has been exemplified by the less than stellar presidency of former Georgia Governor, Jimmy Carter, who had also previously run a successful family peanut farm. On the other hand, a lack of extensive governmental or business experience does not necessarily portend a failed presidency. Harry Truman had tried his hand at various less-than-successful business endeavors. He was a two-time senator from Missouri and was vice-president for only 82 days before assuming the presidency after Franklin Roosevelt’s death. The closest he came to executive experience was as a county commissioner and judge. Yet, history has to come to regard Harry Truman as a truly significant president, who in a 2000 C-Span poll of scholars and historians was ranked the fifth greatest president.

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Ronald Reagan, who by virtually all standards was a great president, demonstrated that strength of conviction, combined with the experience and quality of cabinet members and staff, are key to a successful presidency. He surrounded himself with accomplished, strong, and knowledgeable advisors and cabinet members, including his first Chief of Staff, James Baker, who had worked for Reagan’s primary opponent. Facing a Democratic House of Representatives, he was able to push through a significant tax rate reduction. At Reykjavik with Russia’s Gorbachev, rather than give up his Strategic Defense Initiative, he courageously walked away from a tempting offer of significant nuclear arms reductions for which he was roundly condemned.

Dr. Benjamin Carson has demonstrated an ability to overcome great odds and surround himself with accomplished professionals both as colleagues and friends. He rose from the depths of poverty and prejudice to become, before his retirement, the world’s foremost pediatric neurosurgeon. In putting together a group of some 50 surgeons and staff to successfully separate, for the first time, cephalically-conjoined twins, he exhibited the facility to address and solve a complex dilemma, and to organize a team of diverse medical specialists to complete the surgical task.

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Administrative skills were necessary when he served as Johns Hopkins’ Director of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery and the co-director of its Cleft and Craniofacial Center. Dr. Carson has served for many years on the corporate boards of both Costco and Kellogg. What he doesn’t have, as he noted in his announcement speech, is experience with budget busting.

If his exploratory committee chairman, Houston businessman Terry Giles, and four of the guests he brought to the forefront when, last year, he substituted for a syndicated radio talk host are any measure, Dr. Carson will employ very competent persons to assist in governing the country. His friendship with these men is evidence that his knowledge and interests range far outside the medical community.

Mr. Giles, like Dr. Carson, came from humble beginnings to become a very successful lawyer and businessman. He is now Chairman of Giles Enterprises which owns varied business interests.  Curtis Robinson is the owner of a construction management company. Gordon Gund is a blind businessman, inventor, philanthropist, former owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and a director of the Kellogg Company and Corning, Inc. Steven Huff is a physicist involved with cutting edge energy-saving technology.

Tony Nobles, a biomechanical engineer, is the developer of over 155 medical devices. All are innovators who know how to think outside the box.

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Like Ronald Reagan, Dr. Carson also had a regular Washington Times column. These commentaries discussed and analyzed the major domestic and foreign policy issues of the day. In those articles, he showed himself adept at understanding the wide range of subjects which a President must address.

This experience stands in clear contrast to the current president’s sparse resume and total lack of any significant accomplishment before having assumed the presidency.

America should welcome a man of Dr. Carson’s background and experience grateful that such a person is available, endure the strenuous demands of a presidential campaign, and open himself to the derision that every candidate always faces.

Richard Maggi is a writer and an attorney in New Jersey.

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  • KH

    The experience issue, well covered here, relating to successful past presidents, will continue to be less and less useful to detractors, as people learn more about Dr. Ben Carson. His solid record of all kinds of high level management responsibilities, not the least important of these, his ability to draw together the best minds to solve difficult problems, will soon be well known. These skills top those of most “experienced” politicians, many of whom lack simple common sense, demonstrated by the problems they have created for America. We are blessed to have this chance to turn things around for our country.

  • Mitch Reed

    Some excellent arguments. What impresses me most about Carson is his common-sense creativity in problem solving. As you mentioned in your excellent piece, Carson is still acquiring a a new skill-set on his self-professed want to increase his skills on economics and budgets…now isn’t that refreshing…a candidate admitting he’s still learning, I like that. But what’s funny is that the doctor has already come up with some excellent ideas to help lower our expenditures. One such solution is so common sense it’s amazing no one has said something similar far before now in 2015. The good doctor has taken a micro look into the country’s actual assets, along with how efficiently or the lack thereof, the Government operates said assets. According to Dr. Carson, there are currently 77,000 government buildings (typically its a mix of class A office space along with smaller buildings such as Post Offices, etc. currently sitting empty. Realize that they continue to deteriorate without maintenance being addressed ongoing, yet still drawing some expenses even in emptiness. Conversely; did you know according to the doctor, that the US Gov’t currently leases over 500,000 square feet of staffing and office space? I’ve determined through utilizing the doctor’s figures from his comments, along with using some reasonable Commercial Real Estate markets for comparison across the country. I assumed an average size of 25,000 square feet in size for each building. Given their replacement cost is likely to average around $220 per foot to rebuild in the event of a hypothetical total loss, you make the following calculation. 25,000 X $220 (per foot) = $5,500,000 value for the assumed building’s value. Now multiply that by 77,000 (buildings)…that totals a modest value for these vacant assets

    So just liquidating the buildings could reduce our deficit by over $423 billion dollars, less closing costs! And if the Government would just optimally operate all of their office space needs, it seems reasonable that an annual savings potential could be as much as $16 billion dollars in savings off of our deficit of $18 Trillion currently.

    I’d say the doctor has the right idea for starters when he said; ‘we do have assets though, on top of that debt’. Clearly the doctor is suggesting we should certainly look at trimming this fat back to cut our overhead.