“I was speaking with one of these business owners who owns a couple of restaurants in town,” Romney said. “And he said ‘You know I’d like to change the Constitution, I’m not sure I can do it,’ he said. ‘I’d like to have a provision in the Constitution that in addition to the age of the president and the citizenship of the president and the birthplace of the president being set by the Constitution, I’d like it also to say that the president has to spend at least three years working in business before he could become president of the United States.‘”
Romney continued: “You see then he or she would understand that the policies they’re putting in place have to encourage small business, make it easier for business to grow.
Romney’s amendment would come as quite a shock to the last person to earn the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) graduated from the Naval Academy in 1958 and served more than two decades in the United States Navy, including more than five years as an prisoner of war. After retiring from the Navy at the rank of captain, McCain turned to politics and was elected to the House in 1983 and to the Senate in 1987. Because McCain devoted his life to serving his country, rather than to working in business, the Romney amendment would disqualify him from the White House.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower would likely suffer a similar fate. Like McCain, Eisenhower was a career officer before entering politics, graduating from West Point in 1915 and eventually commanding the Allied victory over Nazi Germany. It’s not clear whether Romney’s amendment would count the time Eisenhower spent as President of Columbia University as “working in business,” and Eisenhower did work two years supervising the night shift at a creamery before entering college. Unless Romney would allow Eisenhower to count his time in academia as business experience, however, Eisenhower lacked the three years required to become president under the Romney amendment. Saving human civilization from Adolf Hitler is not a sufficient qualification.
President Theodore Roosevelt also could not have been president under the Romney amendment. Roosevelt graduated from Harvard college in 1880 and entered Columbia Law School, but eventually dropped out to mount a successful bid for the state legislature. After serving two terms, he left New York to grieve the deaths of his wife and mother and worked as a law enforcement officer in the Dakota Territory. After two years in exile he returned to New York to continue a sweeping career that would include an unsuccessful bid for New York City mayor, two years as head of the city’s police commission, an appointment as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, service in the United States Army as a cavalry colonel, a successful election as governor of New York and brief service as Vice President of the United States. Roosevelt was also a prolific author and historian who wrote a history of the role of the burgeoning U.S. Navy in the War of 1812 that is still studied by scholars today. None of these experiences, however, are work in business, so Roosevelt does not appear to be qualified for the presidency under the Romney amendment.
Republican icon Ronald Reagan is a borderline case. Reagan worked as a radio announcer, an actor and as the president of a trade union before entering politics. Reagan spent eight years working for General Electric, but as host of GE’s television show General Electric Theater. It’s not clear whether this qualifies as business experience under Romney’s amendment, and it certainly does not qualify as “small business” experience.
One person who almost certainly would qualify for the presidency under the Romney amendment: Barack Obama. President Obama spent twelve years as an attorney with a small private law firm, in addition to spending two summers working for corporate law firms as a law student.