Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Obama's Experience

Washington Times 27Feb07

“Obama in the running.” Tod Lindberg, said:

“…really, what chance would a man elected to the Senate in 2004, with no previous national political experience and no executive experience in a governor's mansion either, have for the nomination of his party in 2008? In ordinary circumstances, one would have to say very little.”

What is the meaning of this “experience” criterion everybody brings up when talking about Obama? What kind of experience is essential to become president? Is executive branch experience really critical? G.W. Bush had executive experience, and a lot of help that was. What are people really asking for when they ask for experience?

Obviously, you are not going to get a candidate with experience of being the President of the United States (well, except maybe Hillary). Since it is a unique job on the planet, nobody will ever have the requisite experience.

Maybe the “experience” criticism of Obama is a disguised ageist complaint. He does of course meet the constitutionally required minimum age of 35. Are critics worried about his maturity? If so, they are way off base. One thing the man exudes is maturity and level headedness.

I think the criticism boils down to the fact that we don’t really know much about him. We haven’t seen him perform. Hopefully, in the forthcoming campaign, we’ll see how he handles himself in tough situations.

Twice I’ve picked up and thumbed through his latest book, “The Audacity of Hope,” in bookstores, and twice I’ve put it back on the shelf. There’s nothing in there beyond autobiographical information and platitudes.

I can’t visualize Obama responding to the 9-11 attacks. That’s probably not fair, since it was a unique historical event. Still.

I know he wouldn’t have invaded Iraq, that’s for sure, since that was a total non-sequitur. And if all he did was express Gulianiesque empathy and counsel of calm, that would have been dangerously inadequate.

I think he would have invaded Afghanistan, assuming that the White House knew the perps were Al Qaeda protected by the Taliban. But he would not have invaded with the CIA. I assume he would have had a Defense secretary he could count on. Would he have invaded Saudi Arabia? No, he’s not a hothead.

Would he have declared a “War on Terror?” I don’t think so. He seems above brainless slogans like that. That’s like declaring a “war on unhappiness.” Who are you going to shoot? (I guess that was the point of the “war on terror” slogan: You can shoot anybody you feel like shooting.) He's more thoughtful than that, but I don’t know what Obama’s strategy would have been.

I think Hillary would have responded well. Gore, maybe. Edwards? No clue. Obama? I have confidence in his intelligence and his character, but no sense of how he handles a crisis.

So the problem is not really that HE has little experience, but that WE have little experience of observing him.

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