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Does Experience Improve Presidential Performance?

Republicans have for some time been attacking Barack Obama for his lack of experience. Democrats, in turn, have attacked Sarah Palin on the same grounds. Much of this is partisan posturing. Few Republicans are willing to own up to the contradiction between their attacks on Obama and their defense of Palin against the same charge; many Democrats have fallen into a parallel inconsistency.

But there is a serious general issue here: does prior experience really improve presidential performance? We have only had 43 presidents, so it is hard to draw statistically valid generalizations. It's easy to think of highly experienced presidents who performed poorly in office. James Buchanan, John Quincy Adams, and Richard Nixon are some of the best examples. On the other hand, several presidents with very little experience have done extremely well. Abraham Lincoln, whose only major elected office before becoming president was a single term in the House, is the most famous case. Among post-World War II presidents, the ones with the most prior political experience were Nixon (vice president for 8 years, prominent congressman), Lyndon Johnson (VP and powerful senate majority leader) and George H.W. Bush (VP for 8 years, various important positions in the executive branch). It's hard to argue that these leaders performed systematically better in office than relatively less-experienced counterparts such as Truman (VP for only a few months and a brief Senate career), Clinton (governor of a small state), and Reagan (governor of California, but very little foreign policy experience). Eisenhower (prominent general, but no experience in elected office), Ford (House minority leader) and Jimmy Carter (governor of a major state; member of the foreign policy-focused Trilateral Commission) fall somewhere in the middle between these two groups.

It would probably be a mistake to conclude from these cases that experience doesn't matter at all. Nonetheless, there is no systematic evidence suggesting that presidents with extensive prior political experience have done better than those with relatively little.

In my view, experience probably matters less than ideology and general political ability. The modern federal government covers so many issues that it is impossible for any one politician to have had experience with more than a small fraction of them. Even John McCain's vaunted "foreign policy" experience probably extends to only a subset of America's incredibly complex foreign relations. A successful president must rely on generalizable principles to get him through the many unfamiliar situations he is likely to encounter. That's where ideology comes in. He also needs to have a sense of the limits of his knowledge and be able to call on the expertise of others where his own is lacking. The latter is an element of general political competence. For example, I don't blame George W. Bush for lacking experience and knowledge of the relevant federalism issues at the start of the occupation of Iraq. I do blame him for failing to make adequate use of the expertise of others on this matter, which turned out to be a major error.

Obviously, a president will also need to have basic political knowledge of the type that much of the electorate lacks. Without it, he won't know enough to be able to assess or understand the advice he gets from experts. But it probably isn't necessary for him to have extensive personal experience with most of the issues he will have to address in office.

I'm not sure one can say that issue-specific experience is completely irrelevant. But I doubt that it matters nearly as much as other factors.

Cornellian (mail):
I think an interesting measure of comparison would be the first term performance of a president versus the second term performance of that same president. Presumably, no one could question whether a second term president has the necessary experience for the job, since he's just finished his first term. And does his performance really get better in the second term, or worse?

I have a vague recollection that presidents generally accomplish less in their second terms, but that may be for reasons unrelated to having more experience. At a minimum, you'd have to factor in changes in control of Congress between the first and second terms.
9.4.2008 9:49pm
wb (mail):
Ilya,

I find you claim that Nixon had more experience than Eisenhower rather odd and indefensible.. He had little real executive experience and little experience as a strategic leader as VP. In contrast Eisenhower has a vast executive, strategic and command experience. Not to mention direct experience dealing with foreign counterparts in making critical decisions.
9.4.2008 9:59pm
JWG (mail):
As I said in the other thread, you have to call him 0bama, not Obama. :)

But seriously speaking, 0bama seems to shy away from decision making until he has "enough" info. Case of analysis paralysis? Could it be enough to wreck a presidency - don't know. McCain has the opposite tendency bordering on recklessness.
9.4.2008 10:01pm
Anonymous #000:
In my view, experience probably matters less than ideology and general political ability

Well, "experience" in the sense of being able to say one has done something to whatever effect, is where ideology and political ability may be reflected. If there is little experience to reflect such things, we are left at the candidate's word alone.
9.4.2008 10:01pm
Ilya Somin:
I find you claim that Nixon had more experience than Eisenhower rather odd and indefensible.. He had little real executive experience and little experience as a strategic leader as VP. In contrast Eisenhower has a vast executive, strategic and command experience. Not to mention direct experience dealing with foreign counterparts in making critical decisions.


Nixon certainly had vastly more political experience. Eisenhower's experience as a general was very impressive. But he had never held elected office, had never dealt with any domestic issues, and had never been a candidate.
9.4.2008 10:02pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
Few Republicans are willing to own up to the contradiction between their attacks on Obama and their defense of Palin against the same charge; many Democrats have fallen into a parallel inconsistency.

While that's a lovely attempt at "ballance", it really doesn't work.

1: The Republicans are defending their #2, the Democrats are defending the "top" of their ticket. You expect more from the top person than you do from the #2.

2: Palin has actual executive experience, at jobs where she didn't stay there for a couple of years and then move on. At jobs where she did things, people saw the results of what she did, and then got to vote on her again.

That puts her miles ahead of Obama.

Does "judgment" matter? Of course. But what has Obama done where we can judge his judgment? Where's he made choices, where we can see how well his choices turned out?

Whose lives did he improve with his "community organizing"? How many ideas that he came up with, worked? How many failed? When they didn't work, did he "cling" to them, or did he learn, and move on?

What laws did he work to pass as an Ill. State Senator? Not "what laws did he get his name added to", but "what laws did he work, and fight, for?" How well have those laws worked out? Did the solve the problem they were aimed at? If not, did they at least make things better?

What has he accomplished in the US Senate? What were his issues? What has he fought for, and championed? (Hint: if the vote was more than 65 - 35 in favor, it wasn't a "fight". If it was an "ethics" law, and 80%+ of the people whose "ethics" it's "regulating" voted for it, then it's a joke of a law.)

It may very well be that there are answers to these questions. but I think we can all agree that the Obama Campaign hasn't tried to answer them.

Maybe you don't find that intensely troubling, but I do, and I think most serious voters do. Because the normal reason for dodging such questions is "we don't have an answer." Or else it's "we have an answer, but the voters won't like it."

The fact that the MSM have given Obama a complete pass on this, while jumping on Palin like Michael Moore at an all you can eat buffet, just makes things worse.

Getting 18 million Democrat Primary voters to vote for you does not qualify you to be President. In Clinton's case, it wasn't even enough to get her on the final ballot. If Barack Obama wants to be President of the United States of America, then he owes it to the American people to make a real case for why he's qualified for the job.

Not "he needs to do it in order to get elected" but "he owes it to the American people." Until he man's up and makes that case, he deserves to be trashed.
9.4.2008 10:05pm
byomtov (mail):
In recent decades, at least, the two Presidents with the most executive experience were Carter (Navy officer, successful businessman, Governor of Georgia) and George H. W. Bush (as Ilya describes). Would anyone argue that they were the best recent Presidents?
9.4.2008 10:20pm
cordsam (mail):
Rather than having a brief Senate career, Harry Truman served there for ten years. Nixon rose to prominence as a Congresman but was a Senator for two years.

More telling than politcal experience is legislative versus executive experience. Warren Harding, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon all were men of the Senate and all but Kennedy were considered failures when they left office. Without the Kennedy public relations machine, John Kennedy would probably be considered a foreign policy disaster. In 1000 days in office, Kennedy had the fiasco at the Bay of Pigs, the disaster of the Vienna summit, the construction of the Berlin Wall, the near war over missles in Cuba and the overthrow of Diem in Vietnam.

I think one reason the 60's were so bad was that the Presidents came from the Senate.
9.4.2008 10:25pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
You are missing the whole point of the "experience" controversy. A candidate should be experienced at something, so we can judge the quality of his decision making ability, and his organizational skills. Eisenhower was a successful general (he won the war). His lacking direct political experience is irrelevant because he did enough for the voter to judge him. Besides being a general is very political. Unless the candidate has some kind of track record, the voters are forced to play roulette at the ballot box. They won with Lincoln, but they could lose with McCain or BHO.
9.4.2008 10:31pm
frankcross (mail):
cordsam, Truman may have been unpopular, but he is almost universally regarded as a pretty great President. A model cited by both Republicans and Democrats.
9.4.2008 10:32pm
cordsam (mail):
Truman had a 29 percent approval rating when he left office, a figure unmatched until our current President. I thnk the people who were governed by him had a truer reading of Truman than we do today. The war in Korea is directly attributed to his Secretary of State's failures. His only true accomplishment was the Marshall plan. It is nostalgia rather than a true reading of how Truman governed that makes him popular today.
9.4.2008 10:50pm
Ilya Somin:
You are missing the whole point of the "experience" controversy. A candidate should be experienced at something, so we can judge the quality of his decision making ability, and his organizational skills.

Virtually every candidate is "experienced at something." Obama as a "community organizer" and state legislator; Palin as a small-town mayor, and so on. It's almost impossible to be a viable candidate for high office without being "experienced at something." The interesting question is whether that "something" is relevant.
9.4.2008 10:54pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Virtually every candidate is "experienced at something." Obama as a "community organizer" and state legislator;..."

That's experienced at something substantial. What does a community organizer do, and was he successful at it? Does he have some kind of track record there that shows the quality of his judgment, his ability to organize a team and lead it? What specifically did he accomplish as a community organizer? Everyone is experienced at BS.
9.4.2008 11:12pm
Hoosier:
/byomtov :
In recent decades, at least, the two Presidents with the most executive experience were Carter (Navy officer, successful businessman, Governor of Georgia) and George H. W. Bush (as Ilya describes). Would anyone argue that they were the best recent Presidents?/

Why have you left out Reagan?

OK. I am a historian of US (and European) international relations. I have given this rather more thought than is healthy for a man with a family and hobbies, and I don't want to muck up the thread with footnotes. So, some very brief comments:

1) Anonymous Triple Zero (above) hints at what I consider to be the most compelling reason that experience is vital for a would-be president: Without it, we voters cannot know enough about the candidate to decide what sort of president he (still "he," even in this election) will be. My reason for refusing from the beginning to vote for Obama is the same as my reason for not voting for Bush in 2000.

People like Obama for a number of reasons. But there is no meaninglful way to judge what he will do in office, in terms of policy, crisis control, or leadership. The past may be a poor guide to the future, but it is the only guide we have. One year as an active Senator; a term-and-a half as governor of a weak-governor state; one term in the Senate spent running for the White House (Edwards)--there is no way to know a person based on this record. Democracy requires information to function. And in these cases, there is not enough information to make a judgment. Whether long experience gives us better presidents or not, it gives us a shot at getting who we think we're getting. Why is this so controversial?

2) Comparing records of experienced versus less experienced presidents is overly tricky. First, because no two men have ever presided over the same period in time. Each had unique challenges. Nixon inheritted the Vietnam War, and thus is hard to compare with Taft, who also came in with significant foreign relations expereince, but governed a nation at peace. Second, these are individuals, so the sample base is small. Results are skewed by just a couple outliers. Again, Nixon: I think I could make a good case that his experience helped him tremendously in some of his more successful ventures, and that his presidency failed overwhelmingly because of his paranoid personality. So what can this tell us about experience.

3) Sorry to contradict Ilya, but one can't say that Ike never dealt with domestic issues. He was president of an Ivy League university, and thus dealt with higher ed, urban, and some other issues--though it is certainly true that this was not his strength. He also served a tour as an Army liason to Congress, which involved him in politcs and budget matters.

4) The US may have avoided using nuclear weapons twice during Eisenhower's administration (1954 in Vietnam; 1959 in Germany) due to Ike's willingness to slap down JCS chairmen and other brass. Experience had no doubt given him the confidence to do so. And who was ever going to have the confidence to claim that Eisenhower didn't know what he's was talkign about when it
came to war?

Experience? Better than the alternative.
9.4.2008 11:16pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
Ilya Somin writes:

Virtually every candidate is "experienced at something." Obama as a "community organizer" and state legislator

Fine. What has he accomplished in those roles?

If he's not willing, nay eager, to tell us what he accomplished, aren't we justified in assuming the answer is "nothing"?

If he couldn't accomplish much that is useful as a "community organizer", or as a state senator, why should we think he will accomplish anything useful as President?
9.4.2008 11:29pm
Elliot123 (mail):
I suppose we can only hope we are lucky enough that the experience of a candidate meshes with the challenges he eventually has to meet.
9.4.2008 11:33pm
DavidBernsten (mail):
What makes Lincoln so great, other than that historians have said so? He could have just let the South go, and instead led a war that killed 700K people, which the North came very close on several occasions to losing. If one battle going slightly differently would cause someone to be considered the worst, instead of one of the best, presidents, can we really say he was so great?
9.4.2008 11:38pm
fishbane (mail):
Those doubting skill as a "community organizer" seem to willfully ignore the "community organization" Obama's done in running - political watchers of every stripe are commenting on how well he fund-raises from literally millions of people, as opposed to the more top-down fundraising of traditional pols. Say what you will about him (and I do), he runs a very, very tight ship and is smart about mobilizing and motivating large numbers of people.
9.4.2008 11:40pm
Syd Henderson (mail):
A. Zarkov (mail):
You are missing the whole point of the "experience" controversy. A candidate should be experienced at something, so we can judge the quality of his decision making ability, and his organizational skills. Eisenhower was a successful general (he won the war).


More important than just being a general was that it was a coalition force, which meant he had to have a lot of diplomatic skill. Taylor and Grant had lots of problems because they didn't have that sort of experience, although I think Taylor might have worked out better if he'd lived longer. Winfield Scott, who lost the 1852 election, actually did have the diplomatic skill, but finally got his chance just as the Whig party was breaking up.
9.4.2008 11:41pm
Anonymous #000:
smart about mobilizing and motivating large numbers of people

Sounds more like a tent revival orator than a task delegator running a business.
9.4.2008 11:48pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Reagan (governor of California, but very little foreign policy experience)

There have been several Conspiracy postings recently claiming that Reagan had little foreign policy experience. This ignores the fact that he spent almost 50 years studying foreign policy before becoming president.

Ronnie was a commie in the 1930s and switched to a conservative circa 1950.

As a commie, he was intimately familiar with the foreign policies of the various commie groups in the California of the '30s and '40s. The Comintern was an international organization and the various movements were highly international in orientation.

Once he became a conservative, Ronnie spent decades studying, writing, and lecturing about International Communism. He produced early multimedia presentations in which records were linked to filmstriips and workbooks and distributed to study groups throughout the US.

By the time he became president, Ronnie was intimately familiar with the nature of International Communism and was thus able to defeat it.
9.4.2008 11:49pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I think the key is knowledge of human beings, which executive experience gives (tho there are exceptions). Are your subordinates trying to feather their own nest? (In Washington, usually). Are they engaged in backbiting, sabotage? (Ditto). Is someone down the chain of command distorting your orders? (Ditto). Maybe a potent supporter trying to advance an incompetent relative or friend? Might that incompetent actually turn out pretty well? How do you reconcile countless demands for more resources, all of which involve attempts to manipulate you?

Eisenhower had to deal with this, and cope with prima donnas along the way. A governor has to deal with some. A senator, with a small staff he can fire at will, probably does not (and this applies to three of the four candidates, BTW). But I'd given Palin the advantage here, simply because she's a woman. In my experience, women have better insight into personalities, and are harder for men (who form the majority of the relevant population) to mislead and manipulate. A guy with impressive demeanor and an expensive suit can lead we males off, but woman spots him in a second. Once encountered a fellow like that. Thought he was a natural leader. A female thought him an egotistical moron with varnished hair. She was right on the nose.
9.4.2008 11:59pm
Hoosier:
Syd: "More important than just being a general was that it was a coalition force, which meant he had to have a lot of diplomatic skill."

Bingo!
9.5.2008 12:12am
SecurityGeek:
The elitist crap about Obama is getting ridiculous. What path you conservatives have had the Young Obama take instead of what he did?

Let's see, born to a single mom, moved around the world, rootless, fatherless. Half black, half white, he didn't fit into any easy groups, especially growing up in Hawaii. So this awkward kid works his butt off, gets scholarships and loans and goes to Columbia and Harvard, makes editor of the law review, etc...

And then, instead of going for the six-figure brass ring, he goes into poor, mostly minority neighborhoods, trying to help people help themselves. This is elitist?

Both Obamas have done everything conservatives say they want poor African American kids to do. They pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and then tried to get others to do the same. They are basically the political version of the Cosby Show.

You can argue that his experience isn't right for the job, but calling him part of the Elite is stupid. Maybe he's an "Elite" by definition as a Senator, but he got there in the way conservatives, with their Horatio Alger stories, say poor people are supposed to get there. On their own. Without the government.
9.5.2008 12:17am
Hoosier:
I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with my right honorable colleague from Duncan. Reagan had more knowledge of the world than he was generally given credit for. But he had very little experience.

He had left North America only once(?) prior to his governorship. That was time spent in England. Nixon sent him on some trips to meet with rightists leaders. And he made the Grand Tour before his 1980 presidential run. In addition, he dealt with Mexico, and with some trans-Pacific issues while governor.

More experience than I can claim. But no real policy making responsibilities in that realm, aside from a few trade issues and immigration. Foreign policy inexperience is an occupational hazard of governors.
9.5.2008 12:18am
Hoosier:
Security Geek-- No snark intended, but did you post on the wrong thread? Looking back, I don't see anything about Obama's "elitism."
9.5.2008 12:24am
fishbane (mail):
Sounds more like a tent revival orator than a task delegator running a business.

Nevermind that most serious libertarians consider the "business" of government to be those areas that are legitimately hard problems to treat as private business concerns - hardcore libertarians put national defense and not much else in that bucket - services with free rider problems. Put aside Ross Perot charts 'n graphs, and the obvious folly, even if you really believe that government function that way.

Do you care to speak to the influence of tent revival orators in the Republican party, whether or not they're on TV? Before you say that's a small, inconsequential group, consider McCain's rather large flip-flops both recent and historic dealing with these folks. I won't get in to is running mate's history here, but any unbiased observer can find it easily.
9.5.2008 12:29am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Security Geek-- No snark intended, but did you post on the wrong thread? Looking back, I don't see anything about Obama's "elitism."
In any case, when Republicans talk about elitism, they're not talking about money. They're talking about cultural attitudes.
9.5.2008 12:47am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
I think we are using experience as a proxy for telling us if someone has good judgment and wisdom, and can be trusted to make the right decisions under pressure, with incomplete or conflicting information. But, experience doesn't always work out too well as such a proxy.

Think of it this way: if you are running a company, and have to decide whom to lay off and whom to keep, do you always keep the employee with the most experience? No, you pick the person who did the best job (unless there are union or tenure rules).

My problem with Palin is that I think that she is too much like George W --she is an ideologue, with little knowledge of the world, who nonetheless has the supreme confidence of someone who thinks she is doing "Gods Will" on earth. McCain, and Obama, I don't think believe that about themselves, but Palin strikes me as someone who clearly does.

Such people I think can be poor leaders because, if and when they make a bad decision --and all leaders, no matter how talented, make some bad decisions--they refuse to recognize the facts, and change course, because they are convinced in their own righteousness. They are also poor negotiators because, they think, the other side has nothing valuable to say, or at least that is their initial reaction.
9.5.2008 12:48am
Greg Q (mail) (www):
Um, SecurityGeek, are you deliberately missing the point, or are you just too stupid to understand?

So BHO decided to be a "community organizer". Great! What did he accomplish as one?

Why hasn't his campaign told us that?

Is it because he hasn't accomplished anything? And, if so, what does that tell us about his competence?

Or is it because his campaign thinks the American people would reject him if they knew what he accomplished?
9.5.2008 12:49am
Hoosier:
"My problem with Palin is that I think that she is too much like George W --she is an ideologue, with little knowledge of the world, who nonetheless has the supreme confidence of someone who thinks she is doing "Gods Will" on earth."

Based on what?
9.5.2008 12:59am
David Warner:
Security_Geek,

"Withoutin the government."

There, that's better. Other than that, though, I agree with your general point. Republicans might win on that line, but its awfully tough to govern there.
9.5.2008 1:12am
Bob K (mail):
Out of the box hypothetical.

McCain elected and dies on inaugeration day. Palin takes Biden as VP.

Versus

Obama elected.

Which ticket is more ready on day one?

My personal opinion is Palin/Biden. Obama has not had any noticeable effect on government other than to get himself to a position where he might actually be in charge and have to make decisions.
9.5.2008 1:17am
Randy R. (mail):
Greg Q:"Does "judgment" matter? Of course. But what has Obama done where we can judge his judgment? Where's he made choices, where we can see how well his choices turned out? "

Well, his judgment can be assessed by his first important decision -- picking a running mate. You may not like Biden, but you can't argue it's a bad choice for Obama.

What's interesting on the experience issue is that Karl Rove stated a few months ago that if Obama picked Gov. Kaine from Virginia, it would be a terrible choice, since Kaine has so little experience -- only mayor of Richmond, then a US Senator, then a Governor.

Now, of course, Rove thinks that Palin's experience, which is far less than Kaines' is sufficient for VP. I'd love for Rove to explain that, but of course he can't.

As for elitist label -- I'm getting a little sick of that. What cultural attitudes does Obama have that are elitist? Does McCian have no elistism in him, despite his 12 houses with all their hired help?
9.5.2008 1:19am
Hoosier:
"You may not like Biden, but you can't argue it's a bad choice for Obama."

Can. Have.

"What's interesting on the experience issue is that Karl Rove stated a few months ago that if Obama picked Gov. Kaine from Virginia, it would be a terrible choice, since Kaine has so little experience -- only mayor of Richmond, then a US Senator, then a Governor.

Now, of course, Rove thinks that Palin's experience, which is far less than Kaines' is sufficient for VP. I'd love for Rove to explain that, but of course he can't. "

Of course he can, Randy: TWO inexperienced candidates on the same ticket? And he was never a senator. You aren't even trying tonight.

"As for elitist label -- I'm getting a little sick of that. What cultural attitudes does Obama have that are elitist? "

Well, let's start with us dummies in the Middle of nowhere who cling to religion and our guns.

"Does McCian have no elistism in him, despite his 12 houses with all their hired help?"

12 houses? Are they breeding?

Typical of a liberal, though, to condemn a conservative for /employing people/, isn't it?
9.5.2008 1:39am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Hoosier: I admit I have only scant evidence about Palin to compare her to
George W (for Bush, you just need to read the bios of the man to discover that he thinks he is doing "God's work")..

I read about a speech she made regarding Iraq as the US being called upon to do "God's Will." Also, some reports of her style and actions as mayor --asking for the resignations of every department head, initially suggesting that they ban books she found offensive, being inflexible with others who didn't agree with her agenda--suggest this inflexible, self-righteous tendency that you see in people who hold absolutist views. But, who knows, I could be wrong and I am willing to listen carefully in the next few weeks.
9.5.2008 2:51am
Evelyn Marie Blaine (mail):
Experience is probably, ceteris paribus, a good thing, but I don't see why it would alter anyone's vote in an election.

Consider the following situation: candidate A has a great deal of experience and policy views I don't agree with; candidate B has no experience at all and policy views I do agree with. Whom should I vote for? It seems that there are two good things about experience for a political figure: it can make one more likely to form correct views on the basis of the evidence, and it can make one more effective at implementing the policies that follow from those views.

The former would be relevant if I didn't have a significant amount of information about the candidates' views already. But I do. I don't hold my opinions about politics out of whimsy: I hold them because I believe that they can be shown, on the basis of arguments, to be correct. Of course, I could be wrong about this, but I could be wrong about any of my beliefs; I do think (as one has to) that I am at least more likely to be right than wrong. So I think candidate A does not have correct views; thus, a fortiori, I think that his experience hasn't served to lead him to correct views. And as for those issues on which I don't know his opinions, or on which he hasn't yet formed opinions, induction suggests that if experience hasn't led him to the right answers elsewhere, it won't lead him to the right answers there.

As for the second benefit of experience, I don't want leaders who are effective at getting incorrect policies implemented. If I have the misfortune to have leaders with incorrect opinions about policy, I want them to be very bad at putting those views into effect. (Of course, there are some cases where there are multiple options, and a second-best course implemented fully may have more net value than an optimal course implemented partially. But in general I don't think most decisions around which political polarization occurs are like this.)

So, in general, the greater the deviation between a candidate's views from mine, the less I should view his experience as a positive factor. Experience only becomes relevant in those rare elections that are contested by candidates with very similar policy views.
9.5.2008 3:53am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Palin has actual executive experience


Not as much as you think:

During her mayoral administration, most of the actual work of running this small city was turned over to an administrator. She had been pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings, which had given rise to a recall campaign.
9.5.2008 6:05am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Both Obamas have done everything conservatives say they want poor African American kids to do


There's something else he did, that you didn't mention, that is ostensibly the conservative ideal: he got rich by creating something lots of people wanted to buy.
9.5.2008 6:06am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
So BHO decided to be a "community organizer". Great! What did he accomplish as one? Why hasn't his campaign told us that?


Did you know that McCain has exactly 13 months of executive experience? Did you know that this job is completely omitted from his official campaign bio? Don't you find that curious?

"Is it because his campaign thinks the American people would reject him if they knew what he accomplished?"
9.5.2008 6:06am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Based on what?


I think you're asking for a basis for the claim that Palin thinks she's doing "God's will." Try this:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told ministry students at her former church that the United States sent troops to fight in the Iraq war on a "task that is from God." In an address last June, the Republican vice presidential candidate also urged ministry students to pray for a plan to build a $30 billion natural gas pipeline in the state, calling it "God's will."
9.5.2008 6:06am
Angela (mail):
So BHO decided to be a "community organizer". Great! What did he accomplish as one? Why hasn't his campaign told us that?

Well, one accomplishment as a community organizer is building a campaign that ousted the Clinton machine. At least that is his most recent accomplishment in this area.
9.5.2008 8:19am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Keep in mind that, had it not been for Jeri Ryan's unaccountable inhibitions, Obama would still be in the state house trying to finagle another stoplight for his constituents. That plus the mysterious unsealing of the divorce documents.
So his experience is pretty awesome. How do you get divorce documents out into the public? Not everybody knows that stuff, you know.
But it does mean that our next president might have been chosen by a movie star who didn't want to ....aw, you know.

Where was I?

Oh. Right. I read an article by a guy telling young people to "get a life", in the positive sense. One of his points is that the more things you can do--skill sets you possess--the more things you can do. Seems reasonable, but his point was that things needing to be done come along from time to time and you are either prepared or you are not. His followup point was that the more things you know how to do, the better you are at addressing something you don't know how to do. Spillover problem-solving skills, vaguely applicable experience, that sort of thing.

The big things our presidents have to deal with are war, natural disasters, and keeping Congress from ruining the country. No president has gone into office with the experience of having been a president during a war, except FDR and LBJ. The former found war delivered to his doorstep and the latter was dumped into an ongoing war and thereafter elected with little experience of it,Kennedy having been killed so close to the end of his term. That being the case, what do you have to know before becoming president to be prepared to be presidentin case of war?
There are natural disaster plans for natural disasters and people told off to handle them.
Congress can be managed or not depending on political advisers' advice and the party layout.
Avoiding war? That's nice. But we have rarely avoided war save by retreating, which has not done us much good in the long run. And State, getting control of which Kennedy said was his toughest problem, is in charge of retreating.

Question is, just what, exactly, kind of experience is necessary?
Who was out of the country longer, McCain or Obama? What did they learn which would be valuable?
I've wandered around the larger cities of Spain, and been squired around Mexico by wealthy PAN members. I learned nothing of use in Spain and what I learned in Mexico would be useful except that about half the politically aware Americans have a soft spot for PRI because of ideology and I'd be called a fascist for explaining things to them.
I spent two weeks in Central America where I learned that the liberals lied and lied and lied about the situation.
I don't think that experience would look good on my cv when running for office.
So. What kind of foreign travel teaches you what you need to know?
The paseo on Las Ramblas? A charming collectivist folk ritual or a hundred thousand bored young people with no likelihood of progress in their lives looking for the action. Every night. Knowing which helps me as president how?
We look for character because relevant experience is not often telling and wouldn't likely apply to the crises anyway.
Obama's character is of a man who doesn't even cast a shadow, stands for nothing he'll stick with, and has no accomplishments to show us.
9.5.2008 9:16am
dolukhanova (mail):
I think you're asking for a basis for the claim that Palin thinks she's doing "God's will." Try this:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told ministry students at her former church that the United States sent troops to fight in the Iraq war on a "task that is from God." In an address last June, the Republican vice presidential candidate also urged ministry students to pray for a plan to build a $30 billion natural gas pipeline in the state, calling it "God's will."


That is a lie, at least with respect to what Palin said about Iraq.

What Palin actually said was "Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God." In other words, she is exhorting people to pray that the task is "from God," not asserting that it is. i don't know about the pipeline comment, but, since it blatantly doctored what she said regarding Iraq, the AP can hardly be regarded as a reliable source there.
9.5.2008 9:17am
A.W. (mail):
at NRO's the corner last weekend one of them crunched the numbers. the result. overwhelmingly, those presidents who had significant executive experience were better presidents. the big screaming exception was lincoln, but really it was pretty clear good presidents had executive experience.

its worth a read.
9.5.2008 10:19am
Hoosier:
Who was out of the country longer, McCain or Obama? What did they learn which would be valuable?

(No snark intended.) You are talking about time not spent in Hanoi, right?
9.5.2008 11:25am
wfjag:
Angela wrote:


Well, one accomplishment as a community organizer is building a campaign that ousted the Clinton machine. At least that is his most recent accomplishment in this area.

Having family in Arkansas and so seeing the Clintons in action for going on 30 years, I won't say I'm not grateful for this. However, it's a strike against him under the facts.

Both BHO and JSM are campaigning for votes of the center and independents on the basis of which can best reach across lines and build coalitions to address problems and break through partisan gridlock. Even on issues where I think JSM was wrong -- like the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law -- JSM has a track record of reaching across lines and building coalitions. The Gang of 14 broke gridlock on judicial confirmations.

BHO, however, has almost no record of doing this -- either in the Ill. Senate or US Senate. At Saddleback he was asked to cite an example of his defying his party's leadership and reaching out for a bipartisan solution. He cited his attempt to work with McCain on ethics reform. The problem with his example, was that what he said was at least grossly misleading, if not untrue. He did initially reach out to McCain, but when told by his party's leadership that no deal would be made for bipartisan ethics reform legislation, he immediately withdrew his offer to McCain and refused to work with the Republicans.

Now, within the Dem party, BHO had a chance to reach out to his chief rivals and build a coalition. He refused.

So, his record is one of either not reaching across lines and of not building coalitions. Is this the way you want a President to attempt to govern?
9.5.2008 11:36am
Gringo (mail):
Of the fifteen Presidents who had served in the US Senate, only two were elected directly from the Senate: Kennedy and Harding. Of those 15 Presidents who had been in the US Senate, only one had previous experience in NONE of the following: military, US Vice President, US Cabinet member, state governor, US House of Representatives. That would be Warren Harding. If you exclude US House of Representatives from the metric, you still come up with only Warren Harding.

That experience also describes Senator Obama.

Those are not good odds, Senator Obama.
Source: Wikipedia
9.5.2008 12:22pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Hoosier. I'm not sure. Sometimes concentrating on one thing is better than tuesdaymeansbelgium kind of trips.

I could see meeting foreign leaders. Look at how well Bush read Putin.

There are always stories about ancient kings disguising themselves and wandering about among their subjects finding out what they really think. What's going on that my advisers haven't told me.

Hard for a president or a candidate to do that any longer. But now there's the 'net.
9.5.2008 1:23pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
In other words, she is exhorting people to pray that the task is "from God," not asserting that it is.


I fail to comprehend the hair you're splitting. An American political leader should not be suggesting that our military activities need to be "from God." Our government and our military is supposed to reflect the will of the people, not the will of God.

People who want to involve God in military affairs might feel more comfortable living in a place like Iran or Saudi Arabia.

i don't know about the pipeline comment, but, since it blatantly doctored what she said regarding Iraq, the AP can hardly be regarded as a reliable source there.


You don't have to rely on the AP. You can watch the video yourself and see that she said what the AP said she said. The video is here.
9.5.2008 1:23pm
Anonymous #000:
People who want to involve God in military affairs might feel more comfortable living in a place like Iran or Saudi Arabia.

Yes, we acknowledge that Palin wants to establish a holy Caliphate over the world, kill all unbelievers and dissenters, and tax those who aren't ethnicly Alaskan. Her party has made dangerous inroads in this country. People are so afraid of Christians, they're installing moose-dressing basins in airports to placate them. (Did you know that wiggling your left nostril is considered unclean to her?) Even though the majority of second-generation Alaskans living in Britain polled believed that the oppressive Sure'yah Law should be implemented, it would be intolerant to act in self-defense against a charging moose.
9.5.2008 2:18pm
Hoosier:
Anonymous: Good points, all! I HATE those bastards who ask for God's belssing in times of war! Wasn't this quote from Palin too:

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

F'ing fudamentalist loon! She even wants God to help her side WIN!!!!!!!


And she eats nothing but RAW BABIES!
9.5.2008 3:58pm
Anonymous #000:
Raw polar bear babies.

That's worse for some reason. I'll have to check my little red book to see why.
9.5.2008 4:19pm
Opher Banarie (mail) (www):
Anonymous #000:
People who want to involve God in military affairs might feel more comfortable living in a place like Iran or Saudi Arabia.

I recall a soldier who was involved in training Iraqi recruits saying that they didn't participate in target practice. Apparently, shooting at someone would always hit him "if Allah was willing".
9.5.2008 7:33pm
Opher Banarie (mail) (www):
Criticizing Sarah Palin's lack of experience is like questioning the abilities of Brett Favre's 2nd string quarterback - who cares?! People vote for President, not Vice-President. The only comparison that matters (or should matter) is Obama and McCain.
9.5.2008 7:38pm
Hoosier:
Looked at from another perspective:

Does Experience Improve Sexual Performance?

Does Experience Improve Athletic Performance?

Does Experience Improve Teaching Performance?

Does Experience Improve Presidential Performance?


Are all of these controversial assertions? Or only the last of them? If so, why?
9.6.2008 12:38am
Greg Q (mail) (www):
Well, his judgment can be assessed by his first important decision — picking a running mate. You may not like Biden, but you can't argue it's a bad choice for Obama.

Actually, I can, and have. Joe Biden was a crappy choice: he emphasized Obama's experience problem w/o solving it, and is a crappy public speaker who will be a failure at his main job, which is to "sell" Senator Obama to the American people.

What's interesting on the experience issue is that Karl Rove stated a few months ago...

And you always trust your opponents to give you good advice?

Now, of course, Rove thinks that Palin's experience, which is far less than Kaines' is sufficient for VP.

How is her experience less than Kaines'? Both were elected in 2006. How many other executive positions has he held?

More importantly, When Obama's supporters argue that Palin isn't experienced enough, they validate the "experience" argument, and thus attack Obama.

Republicans criticizing Obama's VP for lack of experience wouldn't be hurting McCain, they'd be reinforcing their argument.

As for elitist label — I'm getting a little sick of that. What cultural attitudes does Obama have that are elitist?

"Bitter small towners clinging to their guns and religion." Have you really forgotten that? Trust me, the "small towners" haven't, and won't.

Ever.

The guy went to Harvard Law School. That marks him as being
part of a (self-defined) "elite", and always will.

Did you see him try to bowl? Not only did he totally suck at it, he didn't consider it important enough to practice beforehand (in order to not be pathetic). Which is to say, he didn't consider the people who like bowling important enough to get even remotely competent at their activity before doing it.

He's a hard-core left-wing metrosexual snob. That's why people like you are comfortable with him. It's equally why the Republicans will (justifiably) rip him as an elitist.

When your party decides it's willing to love America even when America doesn't give you what you want, you will then have a chance to start losing the snob label. Until then, deal.
9.6.2008 12:41am
Greg Q (mail) (www):
Evelyn Marie Blaine writes:

Experience is probably, ceteris paribus, a good thing, but I don't see why it would alter anyone's vote in an election.

Well, just to start with, given an incompetent buffoon who "agrees" with me, and a competent person who usually disagrees with me, I really don't want to have the incompetent buffoon in office making my side look bad.

The former would be relevant if I didn't have a significant amount of information about the candidates' views already. But I do.

You do? What is Obama going to do about NAFTA?
9.6.2008 12:52am
Greg Q (mail) (www):
Evelyn Marie Blaine writes:

Experience is probably, ceteris paribus, a good thing, but I don't see why it would alter anyone's vote in an election.

I left out the most important response: Most people don't have major, must have, live or die by, political beliefs. At least, not about things candidates are willing to publicly disagree on. So, if you're one of those "moderates" who decide elections, experience does matter, because competence matters.
9.8.2008 9:21pm