Obama vs. Clinton: The Experience Question

Too late now, but we should  have limited ourselves to watching just two or three rather than 20 of the Democratic debates. Why? So much sheer repetition makes even good ideas seem like tedious boilerplate, while nonsense and bad ideas become as unendurable as the 56th hearing of a late-night used-car dealer spot.

Consider “experience,” for instance. This issue has been parsed endlessly now, and long ago it became obvious that she would emphasize quantity and he would emphasize quality. Again and again and again.

The only useful spinoff from this impasse has been a refresher course about our own history, with scholars and historians pointing out that in the long run, the “experience” question is a wash: Lightly experienced candidates have become solid presidents, while some candidates toting heavy resumes have stumbled badly in office. Hoover and Nixon had boatloads of experience. Obama and Clinton both have more experience than–brace yourself–Abraham Lincoln had before he was elected President.  Does anyone think they belong in his company?

And what constitutes valid experience for the Presidency, anyway?  Richard Reeves, in his masterful biography of John F. Kennedy (who, younger readers should know, was Kennedy before Obama was Kennedy),  had this to say in 1993:

John F. Kennedy was one of only forty-two men who truly knew what it is like to be President.  He was not prepared for it, but I doubt that anyone ever was or will be. The job is sui generis. The presidency is an act of faith.


One thought on “Obama vs. Clinton: The Experience Question

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s