What makes a good commander in chief?

Scott Walker says that being an Eagle Scout prepared him to be commander in chief of the greatest military force in the history of the world.

So, there you have it. Join the Scouts, earn enough merit badges and you, too, can serve in the Oval Office.

The Republican Wisconsin governor was answering the question on a conservative radio talk show.


I won’t dismiss Walker’s Eagle Scout accomplishment as being irrelevant as Walker prepares to enter the 2016 GOP presidential primary donnybrook.

In truth, I don’t know what prepares someone to be commander in chief. The qualifications of the 44 men who’ve served as president are a mixed bag, to say the least.

A couple of our greatest presidents — Republican Abraham Lincoln and Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt — didn’t serve in the military. Yet they saw the country through two horrific wars. Virtually all Lincoln’s presidency was eaten up by the Civil War and yet he held the Union together. FDR mobilized the nation after the Japanese attacked us at Pearl Harbor and led the nation beautifully as it carried the fight to enemies in the Pacific and across the Atlantic in Africa and Europe.

Republican Dwight Eisenhower ascended to the rank of general of the Army, but didn’t have to mobilize the nation during his two terms as president. Republican Ulysses S. Grant became an Army general, but his presidency was marred by scandal.

Our three most recent presidents among them have very little combined military experience. Democrat Bill Clinton didn’t serve in the military and in fact avoided the draft back in the 1960s; Republican George W. Bush served for a time in the Texas Air National Guard, flying fighter jets stateside; Democrat Barack Obama also has no military experience.

Does prior military service equate to preparation for being commander in chief? I don’t know.

And does such service mean more than achieving an Eagle Scout ranking? I don’t know that, either.

It seems to boil down to judgment and whether a president has the right judgment — and perhaps the temperament — to lead the world’s premier fighting force.

Maybe a stint in Scouting helps develop those traits. Then again, maybe it doesn’t if the individual doesn’t already possess the innate skill and judgment required to do the most difficult job on Earth.