Sunday, October 5, 2008

Newsweek's Nuance on the Question of Experience

Posted by Teresa at 8:07 PM
Remember how experience wasn't all that important to the news media when
Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton were facing off during the Democratic Primary.
My how things have changed since Gov. Palin entered the picture. Here's a
Newsweek article
written by Jon Meacham arguing that Gov. Palin isn't qualified
because she doesn't have experience:

John McCain is a man of accomplishment and curiosity, of wide and
deep reading, travel and experience. He is smart without being a
snob. He has authored legislation and books. He is a man of parts—
the kind of figure whom one could effortlessly imagine being president.
Are there many politically attuned people in America now who can
honestly say the same thing of Sarah Palin? That they can effortlessly
envision President Palin in the Oval Office, ready on day one to
manage a market meltdown or a terror attack? Whether one agrees
or disagrees with his politics, there is no arguing that McCain is
qualified to be president of the United States. But there is plenty
of argument about Palin's qualifications. Why should we apply a
different standard to the vice president who would stand to succeed
him?
Hmm. So Palin isn't qualified because she hasn't had the reading, travel and
experience. Interesting because Meacham argued in January it's Obama's
freshness and inexperience
that might ultimately get him the nomination against
Sen. Clinton. He used an ellipsis to use President Clinton's words against him:

If Senator Clinton ultimately loses the nomination to Obama, historians
should study Charlie Rose's December 2007 interview with Bill Clinton
as evidence of the Clintons' anxiety about and anger at the Obama
challenge. "If you listen to the people who are most strongly for [Obama],"
Clinton told Rose, "they say, basically, we have to throw away all these
experienced people because they've been through the wars of the 1990s …
and what we want is somebody who started running for president a year
after he became a senator because he is fresh, he is new, he has never made
a mistake and he has massive political skills. And we're willing to risk it."

So he seemed to see the value of newness and freshness back in January. Oh,
and then there's another Newsweek article (not written by Meacham) arguing that
experience doesn't matter at all. Here's an excerpt:

Assertions about experience were misleading when they were employed
in the Democratic primaries by Hillary Clinton. She had been a legislator—
a U.S. Senator—for eight years. Obama had been one, albeit at a different
level of government for a time—for 12 years. The only way her claim of
superior preparation could be taken seriously was to consider her two
terms as First Lady to be relevant professional training. That may be
true, but it is a claim no one else has ever promulgated in the history
of American politics. Does having been First Lady make you better
prepared to give the right answer when the phone rings in the dead of
night? Maybe it does. I'm not saying no; I'm saying I don't know, and
nobody else does either.


As for the fall campaign, I am not urging anyone to vote for Obama,
or against McCain, on the issue of experience. What I am suggesting
is that experience itself is a slippery commodity to measure—that there
is no easy way to guess what sort of political career is ideal for a president
—and that we would all be better off just listening to what the candidates
say and how they say it, and spending a little time looking into what
sort of people they are.


I guess the moral of the story is: Experience matters if you're a Republican, not
so much if you're a Democrat. Got it?
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