Thursday, September 4, 2008

Is Obama "Experienced" Enough to Be President?

Experience- seems to be a recurring theme in this Presidential election cycle.  What experience is relevant?  No one's been President before.  And there really isn't any other job like it.  Being Governor is not the same as being President.  Being a CEO is not the same as being President. It's probably the toughest and most unique job in the world.  So, the experience factor is always subjective. But, surely we can make some judgment as to whether the life experience a candidate has had might be helpful.

The Sarah Palin nomination has been fascinating.  While Democrats and Independents struggle to figure out the strategy behind the pick a few things are emerging.  It's very clear that the Republicans have handed out the talking points on what to say when questioned about Sarah Palin and her lack of qualification for the VP role.  It's either "You're being sexist." (which Carly Fiorina accused the Obama campaign of).  This is a deliberate attempt to get Hillary Clinton voters as often, in the same breath, they'll utter Hillary's name and say her supporters have learned to recognize sexism.  The second strategy is to turn it around on Obama. The experience thing, when brought up by McCain, hasn't worked  the past.  By nominating Sarah Palin, they have baited the Obama camp into bringing it back into the conversation so they can get a second shot at it, saying not only is Sarah Palin as experienced as Barack Obama or Joe Biden, she's actully MORE experienced when it comes to executive decisions.  It's funny that they never answer the question based solely on her own qualifications.   They always jump to talking about how her experience compares to Obama's.  Well, let's compare them.  Nothing detailed. This is just a very quick summary- a few bullet points on each.
  • Obama has had foreign policy experience. 
  • He's been on the senate foreign relations committee. 
  • He's served in the federal government. 
  • He runs a multimillion dollar organization (his campaign) and quite effectively.  His campaign has been praised and shockingly beat the Clinton machine.
  • He has traveled (and lived) abroad.
  • He went to the most (arguably, I guess) law schools in the country where he was voted President of the Law Review. 
  • He has taught constitutional law. 
  • He was elected by millions. 
  • He has been endorsed by many who know his work (as well as Hillary's), etc., etc.  People who know what it takes to be President have stood up and vouched for Obama during an election when they could have chosen Hillary Clinton (who no one argues is not qualified).
BTW, the former President whose experience probably most closely matches Obama- Abraham Lincoln.  Before being elected, he spent 8 years in the Illinois legislature and 2 years in the US House of Representatives. He did a pretty good job.  BTW, here's a fascinating semi-scientific study I found that relates "experience" to performance as president.  http://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2008/Info/experience.html
Sarah Palin
  • Degree in journalism from a small midwestern school.
  • Worked as sportscaster
  • Mayor of Wasilla, AK (a town smaller than my subdivision- pop. 6,500). In the 1996 election for Mayor, she won 616-413.
  • Didn't have a passport until she became governor
  • Governor of Alaska for less than 2 years.  Alaska- not the largest state in the U.S. as spun by the Republicans (unless you're going by land mass), the 3rd from the bottom.  Population of Alaska- less than 700,000 (about 1/4 to 1/3 the size of Brooklyn New York).
  • "Commander-in-Chief" of the Alaska National Guard (when have you ever heard that term used to describe a governor?) .   In the governor's race, she got 99,619 votes. Obama had almost 90,000 people in Mile High Stadium listening to his acceptance speech.
Wasilla city hall


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