Experience finally matters?

Posted in at 7:43 by RjZ

I don’t know much about Barack Obama. About all anyone hears though are questions and doubts about his experience. Just for example here, here,here, and here. Many of editorials defend him, and others attack, but for the headline reading public, we’re given the same question over and over again.

Experience is hardly a huge asset when you consider that only two U.S. senators have ever been elected president without stopping off as Vice President. Their convoluted records make them nearly unelectable by the general populace. Meanwhile, I don’t remember questions about the experience of governors Carter, Reagan and George W. Bush dogging their campaigns.

One could argue that experience, including his time as U.S. senator will be of great help to Obama and that he might actually have learned something about foreign policy while living abroad (Indonesia) that George W. wasn’t able to pick up from his brief travels outside of U.S. borders (a whole four countries, including travel with his father in 1975). Actually, I am not sure experience in the U.S. government is an advantage or an obstacle to better governance, but I would love to know why it matters so much for Obama and clearly didn’t for George. Is it because we’ve finally seen just what a mess can be made by someone who really doesn’t have any experience?


  1. Rachel Robson said,

    August 26, 2007 at 14:02

    Full disclosure: I’m an Obama supporter, and have committed to caucusing for him in Iowa.

    In a democracy (or republic, as the case may be), it seems to me that folks with lots of “experience” should be slightly less qualified for the job of elected official than are folks who are more recently of the private sector. If a candidate should only be elected if he has been in the government for a long time already, that means that “regular folks” can vote, but very rarely serve. That kind of government (a bureaucracy?) might work, but it’s not the kind of government our constitution sets up.

    I think what the Bush adminstration really shows is not the importance of experience (after all, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove et al. have got buckets of it!) but the importance of open-mindedness and critical thinking. I think that the past 7ish years have mainly shown us that self-confidence is appealing in a leader, but self-doubt is essential. It’s not Bush’s lack of experience that has gotten our country in such a fix. It’s his lack of wisdom.

  2. RjZ said,

    August 27, 2007 at 8:37

    Hear hear. Very insightful comment. Thanks.

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