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Tilting at Windmills

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February 24, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

EXPERIENCE....Riffing off Scott Lemieux, Matt Yglesias takes a pot shot at Hillary Clinton's claim to be the "experienced" candidate:

If you win a primary on an "experience" argument, then you'd damn well better be more experienced than your general election opponent. McCain would make an experience argument against either opponent, so it's much better to be the opponent with a record of statements aimed at rebutting such arguments (I don't think the American people judge your qualification based on duration of service in a broken Washington system...) than to be the opponent who's been making the argument that voters need to stick with the more seasoned Washington hand.

This obviously gets into the realm of pure spin since "experience" is such an amorphous quality, but I really think that Obama partisans are missing the point here. Like it or not, most voters have a sort of vague operational view of experience that means something like "involvement in big league politics." And on that score, Hillary gets 15 years: 8 years as an activist first lady and 7 years as U.S. senator. Obama, conversely, gets a total of 3 years as U.S. senator. It may seem unfair that his eight years in the Illinois legislature don't count, but for most people they just don't. Being a backbench state legislator just isn't big league politics.

Seen through this lens, the problem with Obama isn't that he's less experienced than Hillary, but that he's inexperienced, full stop. And again, like it or not, John McCain will certainly use that as an argument in the general election campaign in a way he couldn't against Hillary. Sure, he's got 25 years to her 15, but that doesn't matter. Beyond a certain point voters aren't interested in who's got more experience, and 15 years is well beyond that point. If McCain tried to paint Hillary as inexperienced, it would be a waste of breath. Nobody would buy it.

When I decided to vote for Obama in the primary I said I had decided it was worth it to roll the dice. But make no mistake: there really is a roll of the dice here. The American public hasn't elected someone with as little big-time experience as Obama in the past century (though we've come close with Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush). I don't think that will keep him from winning in November, but it's pretty clearly a real issue.

Kevin Drum 12:53 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (154)

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OK, so under this definition, how much experience did Bill Clinton in 92? Does Governor count in a way that state leg doesn't?

Posted by: nota bene on February 24, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

If Obama is elected, he will have had 4 years in the U.S. Senate and 8 years in the Illinois State Senate.

Actually, Jimmy Carter had arguably as much experience. Some years in the state legislature, then one 4-year term as governor. He may not be the best example, however.

FDR was a nationally-known figure due to his being assistant secretary of the navy during WWI and for his being the Democratic VP nominee in 1920. However, he had only served for 4 years as governor when he was elected in 1932, before which he had been out of politics for years.

And Woodrow Wilson had never been elected to public office until TWO years before he won the presidency. As president of Princeton, he won election to the NJ governor's mansion in 1910, then the US presidency in 1912.

So it sounds like we HAVE elected some people in the past 100 years with as little experience as Obama.

Posted by: Andrew on February 24, 2008 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Of course Governor counts more. It's an executive position, as is the presidency.

Posted by: Charles on February 24, 2008 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

I think experience means little if you have to hew to current policies and McCain clearly is honoring Bush's policy decisions now in order to get into the game. I realize that may go out the window if he wins and assumes office next year but for now his "experience" doesn't mean much.

Posted by: CarlP on February 24, 2008 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Like it or not, most voters have a sort of vague operational view of experience that means something like "involvement in big league politics."

Some proof would be nice...

Posted by: Cap'n Phealy on February 24, 2008 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Andrew:

You mentioned three presidents, two of which were governors for four years. I'm not sure how that proves the point you are trying to make. In fact I'd say it proves the opposite. There are thousands of legislators in the country, and only 50 governors. Whether or not you view that as relevant experience, the offices are clearly seen as quite different. Governors are elected by an entire state, legislators by only a few thousand people in one small district.

Posted by: Charles on February 24, 2008 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

We've seen from Clinton's oversight of an inept, profligate campaign, and her inexplicable devotion to the incompetent, porcine Mark Penn, experience does not equate to competence to over see management of the federal government.

Posted by: Chris Brown on February 24, 2008 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

Governership/executive obviously different.

We elects Govs in this country, not Sens.

Though obviously we'll get a Sen this time unless Huck pulls off his miracle.

Posted by: Sarah on February 24, 2008 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry Kevin. You're right about Hillary's lack of experience compared to McCain's but the 8 years experience as an activist first lady just won't wash. No other politicians' spouses get such credit so why should Hillary? When widows have been elected it was not because of their experience, it was because they had the political machine already set up. Your main point is correct: both Clinton and Obama have enough experience.

Posted by: Carl on February 24, 2008 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

A couple of comments.

First: yes, Woodrow Wilson had very little experience. I suppose I should have said 96 years, not "a century."

Second: there are some other examples that are close. Jimmy Carter is one and George Bush is another. (But not Clinton, who had 12 years as governor of Arkansas plus his chairmanship of the DLC. And certainly not FDR, who was nationally known for well over a decade before the 1932 election.) This is one reason I think Obama can win. All I'm saying, though, is that Obama has unusually light experience in most people's eyes: three years on the national stage, none of them in an executive position. That's a liability, plain and simple.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on February 24, 2008 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

Does Governor count in a way that state leg doesn't?

Let's see.

Bush: Governor
Clinton: Governor
Bush: VP
Reagan: Governor
Carter: Governor
Ford: VP
Nixon: VP
Johnson: VP
Kennedy: 6 years rep, 8 years senate
Eisenhower: Supreme Allied Commander, Military Governor . . .
Truman: Senator, VP
Roosevelt: Governor


Who's your state representative?

Posted by: asdf on February 24, 2008 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry, but I've really got to question Kevin Drums honesty and progressiveness on this. I'm sorry, but Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter had nowhere near as much 'big time' experience as Barak Obama.

Senators have a higher national profile than almost ALL governors. Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter weren't governors of Ca, NY, TX, or Illinois. There is no concievable way that they have more 'experience' as Drum is defining it here. I'm starting to question on what criteria, exactly, men and women of Drum's age are really judging here, and I don't think I'm wrong to.

Posted by: Soullite on February 24, 2008 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

ASDF, americans have no idea who the current governor of Arkansas is. There is no way to argue that that position actually constitutes national public service in the same way as you can argue for Texas and California. Their national profiles are not in any way comparable.

Posted by: Soullite on February 24, 2008 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

"That's a liability, plain and simple."

I agree with that.

"I said I had decided it was worth it to roll the dice."

Is it a roll of the dice because of uncertainty about how Obama would govern, or because inexperience would make it harder for him to get elected?

Posted by: luci on February 24, 2008 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

i can name at least one Illinois lawyer who went onto become President who had less time in office than Obama.

IIRC, his picture's on the penny.

Posted by: cleek on February 24, 2008 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

I hope McCain does attack Obama on experience.

McCain would argue he has experience, but the only things people know him for he has completely shunned.

Campaign finance? Torture?

Let's see how far that gets him.

Posted by: bubba on February 24, 2008 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

What about Herbert Hoover? He was Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Harding and Coolidge, but (as far as I can tell), never held any elected office other than the Presidency.

Of course, I do not think of him as a great President.

Posted by: Paul Hunt on February 24, 2008 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

asdf, you really ought to give Johnson credit for being in the Senate, and both Ford and Nixon credit for being in the House.

Posted by: aphrael on February 24, 2008 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

This discussion about the need for "experience" is way too abstract. It says little that is concrete. The presidency, by its very nature, requires "on the job training." No matter who's on the top, the entire process is going to be tenuous at best until a "rhythm" is established.

It's inconceivable to me that anyone would think otherwise?

Posted by: Gerald L. Campbell on February 24, 2008 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

I think Kevin's right here, and I say that as an Obama supporter.

That said, we have to respond to the situation we have, not to the century or abstractions. Hillary's experience has either been undistinguished (Senate) or dismal once you scratch the service (First Lady). Yes, she knows the pressures of the office, but her manner of responding to those pressures has been Nixonian: She has an enemies list.

And with McCain, "experience" just piles on to concerns about his age and, with any luck, questions about a rather twisty legislative record. That, or it's an asset that Obama overcomes.

Posted by: Andy James on February 24, 2008 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

By the logic expressed by you Kevin GWBs experience as president for seven years should count for everything.

Posted by: Gandalf on February 24, 2008 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin of course accepts the argument that experience is important and many of the posts try to half prove that experience is not all that important because others haven't had it either.

Nixon had experience, so did GWB (although Molly Ivins' discussion of the worth of the Texas governorship would dicount it) and of the two Bush demonstrated executive incompetancy moreso than Nixon, yet both are/were disasters. Just what exactly is the key component of experience that makes it valuable?..being able to face down Mike McConnell and John Boehner?..besting Putin? ...constructing a meaningful health care reform program and getting it through congress?...

None of the candidates, and I include McCain, have ever done any of the above. Being president is unlike anything else in the world. We can argue that Lyndon Johnson got civil rights through Congress because of his exquisite skills. Yet he tripped royally over Viet Nam. No one in this race has 10% of the legislative skills of Lyndon. John McCain's mere presence in the Senate does not mean he has the abilities that made Lyndon Johnson so successful in that realm. Occupancy of an office does not mean experience nor does it guarantee competancy.

I am unconvinced that experience has much impact on the Presidency at all and when it does, it is due to specific talents, not some universal "experience". Grant and Eisenhower both had similar experience, none, in politics, yet history gives Eisenhower mostly positive marks and Grant is a failure. So many other factors are more important than experience.

So if you want experience, let's throw in Hillary's 60 years as a woman and Obama's 46 as a black man in America. Experience McCain sorely lacks. Both have been successful in everything they have tried (let's contrast Bush, Nixon and Grant here). It would seem that being generally successful in life is better experience than being elected for some long period to some office.

Posted by: Mudge on February 24, 2008 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

GWBush has experiences as a deserter and in failed companies. Look how far that got him, a failed country.

Posted by: IntelVet on February 24, 2008 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Kevin that the public gives Hillary part credit for being first lady. Hillary was much more invovled in her husband's inner circle of advisors than, say, either Mrs. Bush or Lady Bird Johnson.

However, the voting public doesn't care that much about long-time, relevant experience. Otherwise they wouldn't have elected G. W. Bush, Carter, JFK, and Clinton. So, I don't think lack of experience will hurt Obama much in the election.

It worries me, though. Obama has top advisors who would throw Israel to the wolves. His comments on negotiating with terrorist governments without preconditions are naive and worrisome. I could see him being another Jimmy Carter.

Posted by: ex-liberal on February 24, 2008 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

W only had one term in office as governor of Texas. I wouldn't call that a whole lot of experience.

Posted by: pol on February 24, 2008 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

What could be more amorphous, and more useless against WarHeroJohnMcCain, than Clinton's "Ready to be Commander-in-Chief on day one!".

The fact is, a race against McCain is a personality contest. I saw a poll that said (IIRC) that half of registered Democrats think he's a moderate, and it certainly seems that a good chunk of Republicans (and probably 90% of the Beltway press) are operating under the same illusion. People who really care about issues, on both sides, already know who their candidate (or at the very least, what their party) is. The Dem nominee is going to have to make the case that McCain's "experience" is rubber-stamping Bush's war, lying about his stance on torture (sadly, that's a media tactic rather than a public one), voting for every whackjob judge nominated since Bork, and wanting to bomb Iran.

Posted by: Jim on February 24, 2008 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Experience will be an issue for the general election. Bet on it. I believe experience works better as an issue when people are happy with the status quo. Making the argument that judgement trumps experience (especially re: the Iraq war)was a very wise move for Senator Obama.

Liberals will have the ability to make a forceful argument against the Bush Republican scare-mongering and militarism if (as it appears) Sen. Obama is the nominee. No excuses. Let's roll the dice that the American people have the wisdom to change course.

Posted by: danimal on February 24, 2008 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

My point was that are 4 years as a governor really better than 4 years as a senator? There are different sorts of experience you get from both. A person who serves as governor for 4 years probably has more experience managing a large organization than someone with just 4 years in the Senate. But someone in the Senate for 4 years (like Obama) has far more experience in foreign policy and better working relations with members of Congress than a governor.

Posted by: Andrew on February 24, 2008 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

His comments on negotiating with terrorist governments without preconditions are naive and worrisome.

How do you propose to resolve the Iraq situation without talking to Iran, Syria, and the biggest state sponsor of anti-American terrorism, Saudi Arabia? I saw that nitwit Frum talking about Obama "sacrificing the prestige of the American presidency". Bush has done more to damage that brand internationally than any dialogues with Iran could possibly do.

Posted by: Jim on February 24, 2008 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting notes, but I wonder, besides .... well bloggers and other obsessives, does the mass electorate give "credit" for being the Wife of a President as "experience" as such? That's a strong assertion, and merely watching this spectacle long distance, one rather has the sense that perhaps the mass electorate (again versus politically obsessed whankers - of which I do not exclude myself of course) does not.

It would seem to me McCain might very well be able to make an argument putting the mere wifely presence in the White House as pseudo experience, and perhaps a deciding portion of the mass electorate goes for it.

Of course the other fellow suffers similarly. All in all, looking from the outside, the centre Left has put forth two less experienced candidates to run against a Washington old hand.

Posted by: The Lounsbury on February 24, 2008 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Barack Obama certainly cannot match up to John McCain's many years of experience -- as a lying, corrupt, bought-and-paid-for tool of corporate lobbyists.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 24, 2008 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

When Kevnin says,". . . there really is a roll of the dice here" he's right. But does it matter?

I voted for Obama in our caucus last week, realizing I (and most voters) couldn't really know him that well or what he would do if elected. But the same could be said for every candidate for president.

George W. Bush actually had a reputation for working with Dems in the Texas Legislature. Nothing he said during the 2000 campaign would indicate that once elected, he would turn into a werewolf.

Besides, experience is overblown and may even prevent a newly elected president from considering issues and policies in a fresh way. I'm looking for somebody to shake things up, and I believe that Obama is the most likely candidate to do that. His record, such as it is, certainly is a good indicator that his heart's in the right place. To me that counts for a great deal.

Posted by: DevilDog on February 24, 2008 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, this, along with similar enthusiasm levels at rallies/on the campaign trail, is how Obama seems to me to be much more like RFK than JFK. (Throw out Bobby's AG years and you have .... 3 years in the Senate.)

Otherwise, on experience, there was a guy more than a century ago: Few years in his state legislature, one term in Congress, and a (seemingly) failed Senate bid a decade after that. I think you know who I'm talking about.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 24, 2008 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

It should speak volumes that Hillary's experience is in politics and she's getting her butt whooped in a game of politics right now by a "less experienced" individual.

Posted by: tom.a on February 24, 2008 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

The problem McCain has is that his experience is that of a bully - one of those mindless drones who supports military action by any Republican President, no matter how awful, and who opposes military action by any Democrat, even when that action is the product of a Republican President's actions.

He's a crank. Only slightly less crazy than Ron Paul. No serious party would put forth a candidate so demonstrably unfit for high office. But then this is the same party that gave us two Bushes, Reagan, and Nixon, so it's not like they have serious candidates.

Posted by: the on February 24, 2008 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

DevilDog: Bush's experience was forced on him.

Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock deserves fallout blame for helping create the myth of George W. Bush as an effective governor.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 24, 2008 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Give me a break. Laura Bush also has "8 years of experience as an activist first lady." First lady experience does not count.

Posted by: Walter Crockett on February 24, 2008 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Amusing, this item:
It worries me, though. Obama has top advisors who would throw Israel to the wolves. His comments on negotiating with terrorist governments without preconditions are naive and worrisome.

Oddly such comments taken from a non-ideologue's view from afar are rather reassuring. Blind ideology and whinging claptrap like 'negotiating with terrorist governments' as if state interests were a matter of school cliques is the sort of utter tripe that caused this last American Administration to be an utter failure. One bloody well managed to talk to and negotiate with Stalin, one can bloody well do it with Iran, and Israel can bloody well cut a deal with Hamas if they are smart. However, because of idiots, no friendly arm twisting has occurred. It would be a fine change to see some cold eyed realism in Washington on doing deals and looking out for long term interest, rather than the actually childishly naive position of "I don't talk to kids I don't like, wah wah."

Posted by: The Lounsbury on February 24, 2008 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Since 1976, the candidate with more experience in Washington has lost 7 out of 8:

Ford 28, Carter 0
Carter 4, Reagan 0
Mondale 16, Reagan 4
GHWB 12 (not counting CIA, UN, etc), Dukakis 0 [the exception]
GHWB 16 (again, not counting . . .), Clinton 0
Dole 26, Clinton 4
Gore 24, GWB 0
Kerry 20, GWB 4

McCain has 26; Obama 4; HRC 16 if you count the firstladyship, 8 if not.

Posted by: penalcolony on February 24, 2008 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

pol: "W only had one term in office as governor of Texas. I wouldn't call that a whole lot of experience."

I would think the well-and-thoroughly fleeced residents of Arlington, TX might beg to disagree with your summary dismissal of George W. Bush's professional experience.

Bush's tenure as President of the Texas Rangers baseball club provides both an excellent and compelling case study of the general modus operandi he later employed in parlaying that position into a political career -- to the ultimate detriment of nearly everyone who has found themselves subject to his whims, then and since.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on February 24, 2008 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

I kind of think the "experience" argument is moot. The general public has a fairly bad taste in their mouth at this point from a big bite of "experienced" banks, mortgage brokers, financial pundits, war mongers, economic Pollyanna's, and corrupt politicians (experienced!!!111 eleventy)

Thanks, but I'll roll the dice. I already know what's on the table and don't much like the smell.

Posted by: arteclectic on February 24, 2008 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

Keven's point was that in the eye of much of the American public, Hillary's First Lady years do count. Whether you want to count it - and I think it would be a mistake not to, in her case - is up to you. She was very activist and involved; the Health Care plan was hers; to claim "no experience" is to claim she learned nothing from those years. I think she learned a tremendous amount about running the country, and so do you if you have any sense. But again, that's up to you.

Posted by: John on February 24, 2008 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

I think some of us are missing the point here. The reason state governors often win is not because they have "executive experience", if that were the case, both Romney and Huckabee would have been more attractive than McCain. Traditionally, governors have been able to say that their "not from Washington" and are therefore better suited to reforming the system.

But hey, if you want to go on positing that voters just can't get enough of the people with the most experience in the corrupt Washington system, be my guest.

It's worked so well for Hillary Clinton.

It will work equally well for John McCain, especially now that stories of person corruption are starting to emerge.

No, honestly, Kevin - I'm always bemused whenever I see you repeating this post/argument (you seem to come back to it cyclically every week or so). When HRC was winning, it might have made some sense. Now that she's lost 11 straight contests and seems to be slipping in Ohio and Texas, I have to say it just doesn't hold as much water. At the very least, you have to admit that while the "I'm more experienced" argument may be a convincing to you, it doesn't seem to be that gaining traction with "the majority of voters".

Posted by: Tom on February 24, 2008 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

SocraticGadfly, thanks for pointing that out. My point was that he had a reputation, for whatever reason, as somewhat reasonable and that you can never really know what a presidential candidate will do once elected to the office.

It's a roll of the dice, as Kevin said. All you can do is play the odds, which to my way of thinking favor Obama to be an agent of change.

Posted by: DevilDog on February 24, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Eight years experience as an "activist" First Lady??

Beyond the health care debacle, what are you referring to? She was basically put in the background and only brought out for Rose Garden photo-ops after her corporate-centric plan when down in flames.

Posted by: CB on February 24, 2008 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

...speaking of rolling the dice...anyone seen recent nat'l polls?

McCain certainly seems ahead of HRC (you'd hope the superdelegates don't ignore that)

....but most I've seen have BO-McCain extremely close. In no way a cakewalk for the Phenomenon.

Posted by: Sarah on February 24, 2008 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, I am just tired of the Obamamania. He speaks of Hope and Unity, yet sends out mailers that our about anything but. We will see.

Posted by: LS on February 24, 2008 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is Ellison's "Invisible Man" thrust into politics. Like the black man in the story, no one sees him, only his skin.
And so it will be with Obama. It really doesn't matter what he thinks, he will have to do certain things in order to survive.
And the things he must do to survive are things that Hilary will do only if she thinks it's advantageous to her.
Obama has no choice. I like those odds. I'll be voting for Obama, if I get the chance.

Posted by: Mooser on February 24, 2008 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you would have a good argument if Obama (at 46 years old) were running against McCain (at 61 years old) in 2000. The bottom line-McCain being TOO OLD is going to be just as much a negative against him as his "experience".

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on February 24, 2008 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Well barring HRC strongly taking TX/OH/PA I think Obamamania is what we get.

Posted by: Sarah on February 24, 2008 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Penalcolony's right: whether Obama's relative inexperience is a disadvantage in the general election depends on how it positions him against McCain, not on how he stacks up against other Presidents of the past two centuries. He's not running against those people, and he's not running at those times in history.

There is a long tradition of successful "outsider" candidacies, and the outsider by definition has less "big-time" experience, if that means "experience as a Washington insider," which apparently is how Kevin is defining it.

Posted by: The Fabulous Mr. Toad on February 24, 2008 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

What sort of experience. Being in the senate -or state legislature, one is just a small dog in the pack. Being an executive, at least means one has experience as the alpha leader dog. The main advantage of senatorial experience is partly empathy and understanding of that body, and the people in it -and probably relationships. Some of that you'd get in na state legislature. What we've seen in the general election is that the longer one has been a senator, the longer the paper trail for sound bites like "he voted for it, before he voted against it". The senate is really a mine trap in this way.

On another crucial experience/ability that of inspiring people to do something in there own interest that they weren't predisposed to do, Obama wins hands down. I've supported him because I think this ability could be critical in the coming years. We have serious problems with long ignored issues, such as living beyond our means, peak oil, healthcare cost meltdown, runaway military spending ... Handling any/all of these issues is going to require motivating large numbers of people from the grassroots level.

Posted by: bigTom on February 24, 2008 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Let's put it this way: Would you waterboard for Obama? That is, would you waterboard, counting on Obama to cover for you legally and pardon you, if that's what it comes to? I doubt it. Would you eavesdrop for Obama, counting on him to cover for you and pardon you? I doubt it. And the same goes for a thousand other major and minor corruptions.
I don't care if Obama stands on the steps of the White House and tells everybody to just go on as they were during the Bush Administration, they won't do it. And they will turn on him.
For his own survival, if Obama wins, he must start out by a wholesale exposure of, and accounting for, all that is making our government a criminal enterprise. Oh Hilary can do that if she wants, but Obama has no choice.
If he does not clear out the crooks, neo-cons, theo-cons, incompetents and the insane, their first job will be to eliminate him!
I like those odds. He either does it- or he doesn't survive, maybe literally.
His interests and our interests coincide. That is not the case with Hilary. Oh, like I said, she can do it if she wants too, but Obama must!

Posted by: Mooser on February 24, 2008 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

You're not just trying to take us on a wild ride, are you, Mr. Toad?

Posted by: DevilDog on February 24, 2008 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

And that's basically why I'm voting for him.
I don't know whether to admire him or commit him for taking this on, but if he wants to do it, I'm with him!

He can't move to the right- they won't have him!
His only chance is to go the other way, and straight on through to glory!

Posted by: Mooser on February 24, 2008 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Wholesale exposure? ie confrontation? BO will never do that. This is the reconcilliation, kumbaya, group-hug candidate.

I agree with Krugman. He's going to wind up with watered-down policies trying to reach across to the GOP.

Posted by: Sarah on February 24, 2008 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Walter Crockett: "First lady experience does not count."

I would suggest that you might take time to read at least one of several excellent biographies of Eleanor Roosevelt, whose then-controversial activist role as FDR's spouse gave her political clout in Democratic circles and constituencies that certainly rivaled that enjoyed by her husband Franklin. Her willingness to deploy that clout on her husband's behalf is what made the pair such a formidable political team 80 years ago.

In many ways, the development and direction of the modern Democratic Party over the 20 years following World War II -- particularly its leadership role in the perpetual struggle for the advancement of civil and human rights in our country -- is due in large part to Eleanor's political vision and influence as her party's Grande Dame.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on February 24, 2008 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Donald From Hawaii: Jerry Jones appreciates what George W. Bush did for Arlington, so much so that he repeated the process with the Cowboys.

Arlington deserves what it's getting. If voters there wouldn't recall Mayor Vandegriff after he signed off on the bottom line of that bullshit, they deserve what they're getting.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 24, 2008 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

SocraticGadfly, you're right about the voters of Arlington getting their just deserts, but us Cowboys fans certainly don't deserve Jerry Jones.

Posted by: DevilDog on February 24, 2008 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote:
The American public hasn't elected someone with as little big-time experience as Obama in the past century (though we've come close with Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush).

Good point. I mean, the most populous state in the country wouldn't elect a governor with no experience in an elected office who ran on a promise of change in the capital...

Can you say "Collie-phone-ya"?

Posted by: josef on February 24, 2008 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

'roll of the dice' says Kevin.

Here's something that will make you feel better about your bet. Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton were left-handed, as is Barack Obama. Nixon, Carter, and the greatest of all presidential losers, George W. Bush were righties. I'd stack any one of the four lefties against any one of the four righties.

Scientist have determined that a significantly higher proportion of gifted students are lefties; that lefties are more creative, and have quicker repsonses and are better at using their brains as a whole.

As Obama failed at anything he's tried? No. High grades in school, B.A. from Columbia, law degree from Harvard, president of the Harvard Law Society, community organizer, author of two acclaimed best-sellers, Illinois Senator, US Senator, husband and father.

Keving, if you're rolling dice here, those dice are heavily weighted towards overwhelming success for Obama as the next president.


Posted by: Dilbert on February 24, 2008 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

This comment and link are directly on point. To establish the bonafides of the argument, I am lifting the introduction verbatim from Hendrik Herzberg Online:

"William Lee Miller is one of America’s most distinguished historians. I especially loved “Arguing About Slavery,” his revelatory account of pre-Civil War debate (and the suppression of debate) in Congress, but “Lincoln’s Virtues” and “President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman” aren’t too shabby, either. In a short piece hidden away on the website of the marvellously named Fredericksburg (Va.) Free Lance-Star, Miller has some fascinating things to say about Obama, Clinton, Lincoln, and William Seward. Have a look: http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2008/022008/02172008/353377.

You might have to cut and paste since I am incompetent, but it's worth a read. It addresses the experience argument head-on.


Posted by: lurkette on February 24, 2008 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, I'm not willing to roll the dice on Obama if he's not going to deliver on universal health care, as seems likely, after the Harry & Loise ads and the false flyers in Ohio. Can't afford the indulgence...

Posted by: lambert strether on February 24, 2008 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

John McCain has almost as much experience at criminality and corruption, and using the power of government to enrich himself & his corporate cronies and financial backers, as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Obama should not hesitate to point out how much experience John McCain has in such things.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 24, 2008 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

I think should he get in univ health care will be a bellweather for BO. There will be tremendous resistance from the right. Can he deliver? Doubt it.

Posted by: Sarah on February 24, 2008 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

I think the critique of the Clinton campaign holds, because they used Clinton's experience as the reason to vote for her. One can make an argument that Obama is inexperienced, and it might be a successful political attack (and fair!). But experience itself is not a very compelling positive argument. It's true of a lot of people. It's not exciting. It also isn't even necessarily good -- lots of experienced people are still bad at what they do.

If experience was really compelling, we'd have picked Biden or Richardson, or someone else. Notably, marketers don't sell their products on "experience" alone -- at most, they sell other positive qualities that evoke experience as well. Finally, it was tone-def because people are hungering for something better, not more of the same (and experience sounds like more of the same).

My two cents -- Clinton needed a different message for why people should vote for her. A Positive message about her candidacy.

Posted by: MDtoMN on February 24, 2008 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

And I ask once again, what is the big deal with experience? Rumsfeld and Cheney had oodles of that and look where they took the country?

Posted by: rational on February 24, 2008 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin;

Your observation that back bench service in a state legislature does not count is a narrow minded view of politics. Perhaps you meant it doesn't count to voters but to voters this discussion is meaningless.

Voters do not vote on the basis of experience. They have seen Obama for over a year and they are quite happy with what they see.

I guess the pundits like to trumpet political experience because in a way it makes their observations seem more prescient. In fact the internet has shown that their experience has no correlation to their wisdom. Indeed it seems the longer they have been around the less they actually know.

Posted by: Stuart Shiffman on February 24, 2008 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Experience is clearly part of the mix. Kevin's right about Obama's vulnerability to McCain on this front. But I completely agree with MDtoMN -- Clinton needs a positive message. And what's bizarre is that she's sitting on a potential political goldmine: women voters. Her campaign needs to get her out front on significance of her being the first American President who truly knows what it is like to be a woman.

Posted by: Lurch on February 24, 2008 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

... the problem with Obama isn't that he's less experienced than Hillary, but that he's inexperienced, full stop. And again, like it or not, John McCain will certainly use that as an argument in the general election campaign in a way he couldn't against Hillary.

Yes, he certainly will, but why you think he'll make that argument any more effectively than she did is beyond me. One of the points that Obama has been making throughout the primary campaign is that, whatever her experience, it didn't seem to serve her very well when it came time to make the most important vote of her Senate career -- one she never backed off of. And McCain's centuries of experience didn't serve him any better on that score. In fact, his experience tells him that we'll be doing more of the same -- for at least a hundred years, by his own reckoning.

Nor did he seem to glean much from his experience in the Keating Five affair, as he's pretty comfortable writing letters on behalf of lobbyists even while railing against them in a run for the presidency.

And what can you say about his vote on the Senate Intelligence Authorization Bill? The experience of 5 years as a POW will buy you a storied career & all kinds of street cred on military matters, but it won't give you the wisdom, decency, or spine to vote against torture.

So, yeah, Obama is a roll of the dice. Thank God for that.

Posted by: junebug on February 24, 2008 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

When McCain brings up experience Obama should ask him to sing a couple choruses of 'Bomb Iran'. Seriously. Ask him if he thinks war is funny? Ask him what experience he had between his flip-flops that warranted them. Was it political? Obama should say, 'If it was, I'm glad I don't have that kind of experience.' Get the old man riled, sit back, and watch the show. Since McCain brought up the age of the justices(his chronological contemporaries), what about his age?

Being tentative in debates with McCain would exacerbate the problem. As a young, intelligent, telegenic person there is no way Obama should not be able to outshine McCain, without seeming arrogant.

Without congressional preeminence, no democratic president would be able to get much done. If He has a good congress and a strong popular victory, things can happen. If the DINOs obstruct, then it wouldnt have mattered which democrat got elected anyway and could definitely split the party. It would be nice to have more experience, but we've got to have the congress.

Posted by: Michael7843853 OBAMA in 08 on February 24, 2008 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Donald from Hawaii: "I would suggest that you might take time to read at least one of several excellent biographies of Eleanor Roosevelt, whose then-controversial activist role as FDR's spouse gave her political clout in Democratic circles and constituencies that certainly rivaled that enjoyed by her husband Franklin."

That is a point, but not sufficient. Are you saying that the extent of Hillary Clinton's influence in eight years as first lady (almost half of which was under the shadow of MonicaGate), compares to that of Eleanor Roosevelt's, whose husband was in office much longer? Are you saying that Hillary Clinton commands the respect and influence today that Eleanor Roosevelt commanded seven years after her husband left office? Are you saying that Eleanor Roosevelt's clout as First Lady gave her enough personal political advantage that she could have successfully run for president were she living today?

Bill Clinton would wield more than the normal First Lady clout were he to become First Gentleman. But whatever he did in that role, it would not be the equivalent of presidential experience. Not nearly.

Posted by: Walter Crockett on February 24, 2008 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

I've been waiting for someone to give me an opening to point out that people who claim Sen. Obama is too young to be President overlook the fact that the best Biblical scholarship suggests Jesus Christ was no more than 33 at the time of His Resurrection. So there!

But to Kevin's point, Sen. Clinton is not claiming 15 years of experience; she is claiming 35. She's not just saying she's followed public affairs for that long (i.e. since her formal schooling ended); she's said, over and over, that she's been "fighting" for average people, workers' rights, civil rights, women's rights, the environment, and a somewhat lengthy list of other things, for 35 years. That should send up a red flag right there.

Now, you can accept the word "fighting," as Clinton uses it, as a term of art. She does kind of make it sound as if she roams around Capitol Hill looking for the enemies of working families and attacking them in the hallways, but for the sake of argument let's assume that by fighting she really means "working." Two problems:

1. Most of the things she's worked on have been election campaigns, her husbands and her own, plus those of various candidates she's helped. That's not a disadvantage in this campaign -- most of the media on this story cover campaigns for a living, so how would they know that campaign experience doesn't lead naturally to success in government? If we're evaluating Sen. Clinton as a potential President, though, this distinction is significant.

2. Working for things, even fighting for them, is not the same as accomplishing them. Neither Sen. Obama nor any of the other Democratic candidates this year have been so ungracious to point out that the one really big policy battle Clinton led as First Lady was a disaster for her husband's administration, and to assert that she was a big reason it was a disaster. Of course, from her point of view that wasn't her fault, but in the world of the Clintons nothing is ever their fault. Sen. Obama has pointed out that he was against the Iraq War from the beginning, but hasn't argued that Sen. Clinton was ineffectual in opposing Bush administration policies in Iraq, or that she sat on the Armed Services Committee while corruption was rampant in the Defense Department and missed all of it, or that the legislative efforts she has gotten involved with have all been pretty routine stuff. But all of that is true.

Kevin is right that Sen. Obama is a roll of the dice. But to believe Sen. Clinton would not be, one has to believe her ceaseless claims of vast experience are on the level. But they are largely bogus. The Democrats will probably be better off this fall conceding that the Republican candidate, the supporter of the incumbent Republican President, is more experienced, than they would be arguing that their own candidate's much shorter record of actual accomplishment in public service is less important than the fact that she's been around for as long as Sen. McCain has.

Posted by: Zathras on February 24, 2008 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Aghast! Haven't you heard, as per the mainstream media (South Carolina), the phrase roll of the dice is officially a coded racist statement.

Posted by: aline on February 24, 2008 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Secular Animist, MDtoMN, rational and Junebug all make excellent points that Obama could use to good effect on the experience issue. I hope someone from his campaign takes note.

Posted by: DevilDog on February 24, 2008 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

amplifying my previous comment: First lady experience is also not equivalent to senatorial experience or legislative experience. A first lady is an emissary, not an executive or a lawmaker.

Posted by: Walter Crockett on February 24, 2008 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

Given how screwed up everything is, why is "experience" a desirable trait? Wouldn't we be better off with someone fresh?

Posted by: vinnie's cousin on February 24, 2008 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Zathras makes some excellent points. As for Kevin's broad point regarding the relative experience of the candidates still standing, my sense is that experience cannot be quantified so starkly as a static credential comprising years and office held. Words and ideas do matter, and they must speak to the times. This is why so many voters will be (to use Bill Clinton's clever image) rolling the dice with a relative newbie like Obama in 2008.

Posted by: paxr55 on February 24, 2008 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Didn't Abe Lincoln only serve in the House of Representatives before becoming president?

Posted by: SPR on February 24, 2008 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Well, let me just make one very obvious point.

Let's accept Kevin's observation that the two Presidents in the past century or so who have had the least experience -- while still having more experience that Obama -- are George W Bush and Jimmy Carter.

What do you think those examples, from opposite sides of the aisle, are trying to communicate to us?

Go right up to them and listen very, very closely...

Posted by: frankly0 on February 24, 2008 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

lambert strether,

You spend most of your time on the web attacking Obama, but you never say who you support. Just who is your candidate?

Posted by: JMcCain on February 24, 2008 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Didn't Abe Lincoln only serve in the House of Representatives before becoming president?
Yep, another "inexperienced", gifted orator from Illinois.
Abe Lincoln served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1847 to 1849.

(FWIW, I agree with Kevin that BObama lacks experience. And suspect that his judgment is far better than JMcCain's.)

Posted by: Bill Arnold on February 24, 2008 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you apparently want to give Hillary credit for the eight years she served as first lady. Fair enough, but if she runs on that in the general, McCain will force her into a choice Obama so far has not demanded: accepting that the spouse is a partner in governance (and the de facto admission that Bill's going to be co-president again), or admitting that being first lady isn't exactly the same as having led.

The issue isn't abstract. Right now, Hillary is pissed at Obama because he's saying she supported NAFTA, despite the fact that there's no evidence she ever spoke against it in the 90s. So she's running on Bill's record when it suits her, and claiming to be able to escape it when it doesn't. Do you honestly think the GOP will let her get away with that?

Posted by: Jeff Alworth on February 24, 2008 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

Clinton's only the most recent counterexample. NOBODY knew who the hell he was, his experience was laughable on its face, he looked about 15 years old, and he beat a sitting President.

If Obama does what Bill did, which was to say "experience=more of the same," then Obama wins in a walk. Because people don't want more of the same.

Fundamentally, people don't see the Presidency as a technocratic position--something where you add up prerequisites and then qualify. They want inspiration, leadership, intangibles.

The experience argument only works if things are going well and people want them to continue. Then experience stands in for "I know how to keep this going, because I've been doing it." But if people decide they want change, then DC experience is irrelevant because it's experience in being part of a system they've deemed incompetent.

When voters think our nation is on the wrong track--which is the situation we have today--then experience in Washington is like experience working as an accountant at Enron. Anybody would much rather hire the kid fresh out of an accounting program than the former SR VP of compliance at Enron.

Posted by: anonymiss on February 24, 2008 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

I think should he get in univ health care will be a bellweather for BO. There will be tremendous resistance from the right. Can he deliver? Doubt it.

Posted by: Sarah

Seriously, does anyone ever stop and think that the President can only enact what is put on his desk by the House and the Senate? We're not electing a short term absolute monarch.

Let's assume that Obama wins the primary and the GE, it's not as if Hillary Clinton will be without influence. As to whether he can deliver it, assuming Hillary Clinton wins the primary and the GE (the second being the more doubtful proposition, IMHO), can she deliver better than he can? I don't think so. In fact, I suspect the opposite might prove true.

Posted by: Jim on February 24, 2008 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

I strongly recommend against giving all these people orange hats or some other sort of identifiable clothing.

Posted by: B on February 24, 2008 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

Obama got it right on Iraq, but now will face some other truly daunting national security challenges. Just because Bush has been overly belligerent towards Iran does not mean that it is not a threat; nuclear-armed Pakistan is a dangerous situation, and Aghanistan needs some new, innovative thinking to avoid defeat.

Just what is it about Obama's experience that gives one confidence he can deal with these other situations, which unlike Iraq are truly dangerous for us?

Posted by: bob h on February 24, 2008 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure it has already been said, but another Senator named Lincoln from Illinois was equally inexperienced.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on February 24, 2008 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

John McCain has lots of experience -- as a crook.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 24, 2008 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

"Governors are elected by an entire state, legislators by only a few thousand people in one small district."
Posted by: Charles on February 24, 2008
-------

And, don't forget Obama won his senate seat almost by acclamation since (his senate campaign opponent) Alan Keyes wasn't even an Illinois resident.

Posted by: MarkH on February 24, 2008 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

It would seem that being generally successful in life is better experience than being elected for some long period to some office.
Posted by: Mudge on February 24, 2008
-------

That would've been an excellent measure to use when considering Dubya. He failed at everything and was always saved by his family.

Has Obama succeeded at everything in life? More than Clinton (or Edwards)?

Posted by: MarkH on February 24, 2008 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

Barack Obama certainly cannot match up to John McCain's many years of experience -- as a lying, corrupt, bought-and-paid-for tool of corporate lobbyists.
Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 24, 2008
--------

Good enough to repeat!

Posted by: MarkH on February 24, 2008 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

It's clear from this discussion that even relatively engaged and knowledgeable people cannot agree on what constitutes "experience." Matt Yglesias has said that experience is a loser's argument, and that if experience were really important to the electorate we'd be electing senior Senators to the presidency all the time, which we don't. The whole Governor v. Senator/executive v. legislative thing is almost certainly true, except that it doesn't matter when there aren't any governors in the race.

My take on it is this: less "experience" is a plus because you don't have the record of votes to mine for oppo dirt. McCain has a paper trail of shame a mile long. Obama, on the other hand, is much more of a blank slate, and he successfully persuades people to project positive traits, like their own hopes, onto him.

He'll win because he hasn't been around long enough to be buried in slime like McCain, because he's young and vigorous instead of old and curmudgeonly, and because the GOP slime machine has just lost credibility with people--the wages of overreaching.

Oh, and while Lincoln did only have two years in Congress at the time of his election, he had just spent years helping to found the Republican Party to fight slavery, the pre-eminent issue of the mid-19th century US. He was hardly "inexperienced."

Posted by: Daddy Love on February 24, 2008 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

Vegas here I come. I'm gonna roll the dice and bet the future of all America on one roll! Woo hoo!

Obamalamadingdong and all that jazz.

We've been fortunate this campaign because Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Biden, Dodd, Richardson and Kucinich are all accomplished in their lives. We have many criteria we can use to select among them.

Too bad the Obamamaniacs just picked based on a superficiality.

Posted by: MarkH on February 24, 2008 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Has Obama succeeded at everything in life? More than Clinton (or Edwards)?
Posted by: MarkH

I'd say they're pretty comparable in terms of life achievement. Ivy League law degrees on merit rather than legacy, political activism, and his primary race against Dan Hynes was arguably tougher than either of HRC's races in New York. Neither has shown as much leadership in the Senate as I would have liked.

Posted by: Jim on February 24, 2008 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

Obama has 3 years experience as Democratic United States Senator, which trumps McCain's no experience as a Democrat whatsoever. Obama has more relevant experience than McCain to winning this year's presidential election.

Posted by: d. b. cooper on February 24, 2008 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

Too bad the Obamamaniacs just picked based on a superficiality.

Ah, that good old circular firing squad! Not like that ever proves counterproductive. Most people I know who were on the fence and broke for Obama did so over the AUMF. Funny, I don't think of war as a "superficiality". But as you imply, I'm probably just too stupid to know any better.

Posted by: Jim on February 24, 2008 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary's 35 years of experience:

subtract 10 for the health care fiasco
subtract another 10 for the wrong headed votes on Iraq and Iran
Another 3 for the flag burning amendment
The Wal Mart years-take off another 3
All the Goldwater girl years-another 2
take off 5 for being a neo-con/AIPAC supporter.

She's left with 2 years of experience.

Posted by: Fran the Upper East-Side Limousine Liberal on February 24, 2008 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Kevin Drum:

I aspire to the epic vacuity of David Broder.

Slightly longer:

What experience are you talking about Kevin? What does experience produce? Are there different kinds of experience, even in the same arena, that produce different results.

I could swallow two pages of Newsweak and puke a better analysis. But then again, I don't do catblogging.

Posted by: vorkosigan1 on February 24, 2008 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

Like it or not, most voters have a sort of vague operational view of experience that means something like "involvement in big league politics." And on that score, Hillary gets 15 years: 8 years as an activist first lady and 7 years as U.S. senator. Obama, conversely, gets a total of 3 years as U.S. senator. It may seem unfair that his eight years in the Illinois legislature don't count, but for most people they just don't. Being a backbench state legislator just isn't big league politics.

And yet in 2000, if one jumped on the experience bandwagon, they were offered up boatloads of it on the GOP side!

Dick Cheney: former Congressman, former Secretary of Defense, former White House Chief of Staff.

Donald Rumsfeld: also a former Congressman, former Secretary of Defense, and former White House Chief of Staff

Colin Powell: National Security Advisor and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

John Ashcroft: Former Governor and Senator.

I mean, hell...That's an impressive lineup of experienced political players, movers and shakers!

How could you POSSIBLY go WRONG??

Posted by: Quinn on February 24, 2008 at 8:18 PM | PERMALINK

And by the way, electing ANY President is a roll of a dice. That goes for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain.

Posted by: Quinn on February 24, 2008 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

This is the classic definition of a BULLSHIT article. It just doesn't make sense. It says nothing. So what should be the litmus test again for a Presidential candidate? What a bunch of garbage!

Posted by: Avik Roy on February 24, 2008 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

..but most I've seen have BO-McCain extremely close. In no way a cakewalk for the Phenomenon.

I am no Obama-maniac but I'll go out on a limb here: Obama defeats McCain in a landslide. You heard it here.

(I formerly posted as 'obscure')

Posted by: mattski on February 24, 2008 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

Ya know, I like John Edwards a lot. But I gotta go with John Kerry and his experience.

It's a slam dunk!

Posted by: Quinn on February 24, 2008 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK

What's all this "experience" got us so far? Thurmond was as big an ass at the end.

Experience is not the thing we need in 2008. It is in fact leadership.

Posted by: Sparko on February 24, 2008 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans and McCain will eat Obama for breakfast. He'll be back in the Senate, a failure. And the progressive blogosphere will have only themselves to blame.

Posted by: jmh on February 24, 2008 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

What's all this "experience" got us so far? Thurmond was as big an ass at the end.

Is the ass scale logarithmic? Thurmond was arguably a pretty big ass in '25 when he was banging his maid, in '48 when he ran for President as a Dixiecrat, and in '57 when he filibustered the the CRA.

Posted by: asdf on February 24, 2008 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

Thurmond was as big an ass at the end.

I read that as "Thurmond has as big an ass at the end." Teach me to surf without contacts or glasses.

Posted by: shortstop on February 24, 2008 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

And the progressive blogosphere will have only themselves to blame.

Because we have such a huuuuuuuuge influence on the low-income, rural, union, blue-collar, etc. demographics that joined the young, affluent, highly educated, etc. demographics in voting for him.

Posted by: shortstop on February 24, 2008 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

Matt Y. wrote:

If you win a primary on an "experience" argument, then you'd damn well better be more experienced than your general election opponent.

Uh, why is that? Matt Y. is a real let-down nowadays.

Posted by: Swan on February 24, 2008 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

What I meant--

To make it totally clear--

Is, what's Matt saying? That we should nominate the less experienced person so he will look even less-experienced when the general-election opponent makes the "experience" argument?

Seems like Matt should have his liberal blogger's license taken away.

Posted by: Swan on February 24, 2008 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

During the past 7 years every single Executive Department, branch and division was corrupted by Rove and Cheney. Serious crimes were committed. And whether anyone likes it or not, it will take someone with the breadth of knowledge of Washington and the labyrinthine bureaucracy of a Clinton to even know where to begin to clean it up. Obama's hubris and aggrandizement are no match for the job.

BTW, where does he get off speechifying about how "he fought blah blah blah in the courts and as a civil rights attorney"?

Posted by: Chrissy on February 24, 2008 at 10:24 PM | PERMALINK

And furthermore.....

Not only did Obama not fight any case in the court Obama did not even show up in court to pay his parking tickets.

Turkey.

Posted by: Chrissy on February 24, 2008 at 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

Swan, Matt Y was trying to say that if the basis of Hill's campaign in the primary is her experience, she will not be able to use that same justification in the general, against McCain. Maybe that will matter and maybe she will make the necessary adjustments in her campaign, but the point is still valid. If she bases her electability on experience, and she comes up against an opponent with more experience, she has a problem.

Chrissy, I sure there will be plenty of Democratic help available to assist in routing out the Republican rot, if Obama was so inclined. Hill, for one, sounds like she would be a great resource. I am assuming Obama will get cooperation from Democrats in the House and Senate, unlike the last two Democratic Presidents, Clinton and Carter.

Posted by: says you on February 24, 2008 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

says you: this is not the time for on-the-job training. This ship is sinking. Someone who needs to ask where the restroom is and where the DOJ is, can't convene a committee needs to spend more time in the Senate. At least 8 years. Relying on paid help like Bushie did is dangerous. If you don't have a good working knowledge of what your advisors are telling you - you're dangerous. We need someone who knows their way around the city, the country, the world. Not a part-time legislator, part-time lecturer, "community organizer" for a period of months.

Posted by: Chrissy on February 24, 2008 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

@swan

If you win a primary on an "experience" argument, then you'd damn well better be more experienced than your general election opponent
.

Seems self-evident to me. Once you've established "experience" as the determinative factor for undecided voters, you don't get to take that back in the general election. It's framing. Try explaining to Tweety why your 8 years as first lady was crucial but your opponents' 21 years on the armed services committee should be disregarded.

If this election becomes a referendum on who has more experience then the democrats will lose. If it becomes a referendum on the past 8 years the democrats will win.

Posted by: Adam on February 24, 2008 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

Chrissy,

I think that both are up to the task for cleaning up the executive branch, after all, Obama was a constitutional law lecturer at U of Chicago law school, so he has an intimate understanding how the executive branch functions.

Posted by: Micheline on February 24, 2008 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

Micheline: sometimes I can be a bit obtuse but that was a joke, right?

Posted by: Chrissy on February 24, 2008 at 11:10 PM | PERMALINK

I used to think that Clinton was truly ready as opposed to Obama, but the mismanagement of her campaign is not cause for confidence.

Posted by: Micheline on February 24, 2008 at 11:10 PM | PERMALINK

Abraham Lincoln! 'Nuff said.

Posted by: goggle_eyes on February 24, 2008 at 11:13 PM | PERMALINK

I was not joking. I do agree that hands on experience is better than anything but having an understanding of constitional law and the US Code and CFR is very useful in that they determine how one should govern since we are a nation that usually follows the rule of law

Posted by: Micheline on February 24, 2008 at 11:18 PM | PERMALINK

Campaign management has more to do with the ability to be devious and the complicity of the press. Case in point: George W. Bush and his campaign run by Rove and abetted by the Washington moronic press. Much like Obama.

Successful campaigns are often based on deception. The ability to run a successful campaign is not the same as the ability to run a government.

Posted by: Chrissy on February 24, 2008 at 11:21 PM | PERMALINK

Obama's got this covered. The issue really isn't going to be experience, it's going to be judgment. And there's no way McCain can win that.

Some will say that we live in different times and it's no longer relevant, and blah, blah, blah, but Abe Lincoln was in the very same state legislature, served only two years in the U.S. House, and managed to be a pretty good president anyway. Experience is a good thing, but it's overrated.

Posted by: Bob Miller on February 24, 2008 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

Not knowing that your campaign was spending money like there was no tomorrow belies her point that she will be an excellent executive. She should at least had some awareness of how much money was spent and such. All she needed to do was review a financial report. Failure to apply for delegates in PA shows lack of due diligence. The same with regard to learning just recently the Texas primary. She puts herself out as a micro-manager but then you learned of these things and just undermine her point.

Posted by: Micheline on February 24, 2008 at 11:36 PM | PERMALINK

Chrissy,

As had been stated many times in this campaign, the key is judgment. The President's whole job is judgment; judgment in choosing direction, judgment in selecting advisers, judgment in choosing options and a thousand other judgments that will come along.

Running a campaign is not all about slime ball tactics, it is a complex project that involves a lot of people. It starts with selecting a team and making sure they perform adequately. Obama has executed his campaign very well, Hillary has been a disaster. They are both running for head of the executive branch, they need to be able to execute.

Hillary has no more executive experience in government than Obama. First lady and Senator are not executive positions. One of the positives for Hillary is that she has one of this country's best executives, over the last 40 years, very close at hand.

Posted by: says you on February 24, 2008 at 11:44 PM | PERMALINK

The ability to run a successful campaign is not the same as the ability to run a government.

True. However, the inability to master numerous simple concepts and tasks in a campaign, or to surround oneself with competent people, is not a confidence-builder in the eyes of people wondering how one will govern, particularly when one has been through several national campaigns already and should have learned a great deal from them.

The Clintons used to be quite adept at campaigning, but their utter refusal to adapt, consider the changed landscape and lose the sense of entitlement long enough to plan an entire primary season in case of early losses...well, I can think of more comforting and reassuring presidential traits.

Posted by: shortstop on February 24, 2008 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

Bull. Hillary was handicapped by a press that has attacked her every word and Bill's every word and Obama has been lavished with ridiculous and undeserved praise for each phony utterance of his own or someone else's. Close scrutiny of Obama's campaign would probably show a similar waste of money. Who does pay for those desinger suits of the Obama's anyway ?

Posted by: Chrissy on February 24, 2008 at 11:58 PM | PERMALINK

I do agree that Clinton's media coverage has been considerably harsher than Obama's, but this is about more than wasting money, as you concede when you ignore the many other points of campaign misadministration outlined above. Media coverage cannot be blamed for Clinton failing to get Pennsylvania delegates lined up, convince her foot-in-mouth husband to keep his yap shut, have competent strategists aboard and lose the losers, build and have ready a decent ground operation for states with primaries after Feb. 5, and so on and on. She has made just about every misstep possible, which has greatly exacerbated the problem of her poor coverage.

But you're not really trying to defend Hillary here, Chrissy; as your posts demonstrate, you've never really been pro-anyone, but rather vehemently, rabidly anti-Obama. We get it. But at some point you're going to have to get that he is very likely to be the Democratic nominee. Are you going to put your efforts toward getting McCain elected? Because that's pretty much what you'll be working for if you keep up this non-stop insanity until November.

And if that's what you want, don't you think it would be honest to say so up front?

Posted by: shortstop on February 25, 2008 at 12:21 AM | PERMALINK

You know what Chrissy. Life isn't fair.

If HC was handicapped in the primary by the press then she will be handicapped in the general by the press.

And so she will lose.

And I'm not interested in voting for a loser.

You are only giving me another reason not to vote for her on march 4th.

Posted by: Adam on February 25, 2008 at 12:21 AM | PERMALINK

Adam, the exact same press that attacked Hillary will attack Obama. The difference is he has vulnerabilities that haven't been exploited and will be harder to explain away as bias and old news.

shortstop: will you please bug off. Thank you. Obama is a jackass and NO I do not like him. I have supported Edwards and now Clinton. STFU.

Posted by: Chrissy on February 25, 2008 at 12:43 AM | PERMALINK

I don't understand the self-hating Obama voter shtick. Rumsfeld had a resume to put Hilary to shame. So what?

Posted by: Ryan on February 25, 2008 at 12:48 AM | PERMALINK

Yaaaaay Kevin.

You nailed it. Like Kevin I also tilt to Obama, but his inexperience is a liability. Denying it is foolish. We have an election to win and drinking koolaid will not help.

Listening to Obama people spin his inexperience is like listening to Hillary people deny the unpleasant dynastic side to her candidacy.

Let's live in the real world people.

Posted by: tomtom on February 25, 2008 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

STFU

Wow Chrissy, your laser-like logic has one me over.

Oh, wherever do I go to sign up?

Posted by: Keith G on February 25, 2008 at 2:22 AM | PERMALINK

one = won, must stop playing with kittens when typing, sorry.

Posted by: Keith G on February 25, 2008 at 2:23 AM | PERMALINK

"his primary race against Dan Hynes"

Revisionist history on the intertubes...who knew?

Obama's competition was Blair Hull who his campaign (Axelrod?) torpedoed by pushing the messy divorce story to the Chicago Trib. Obama was down 10 points to Hull a month before the election. He may have beaten Hull if the divorce story never came out but Obama's team didn't want to take that chance.(Hynes was never ahead of Obama in any Tribune, Sun-Times or SurveyUSA poll in 2004)

Posted by: reality on February 25, 2008 at 5:28 AM | PERMALINK

You know KD, you repeat a tired meme and suggest its something most people believe without citing any evidence and without acknowledging that this meme is CLEARLY FAILING as HRC made this the entire focus of her anti-Obama platform and she's pretty much lost the nomination.

Can McCain, a bumbling idiot of a politician, really pull this experience meme off better than HRC, a geniune political force? I doubt it.

I also think YOU miss Yglesias's point. HRC made "experience" her big issue. It's widely perceived as her greatest strength. But against McCain, that "strength" becomes neutralized at best or flipped back on her at worst ("I've got the most experience!").

No matter if either has passed that mysterious threshold of "experience", HRC can't use the experience meme that she has practiced and based her entire campaign on against McCain and that's a problem for her were she to get the nomination.

Posted by: Nobcentral on February 25, 2008 at 8:02 AM | PERMALINK

it would seem that inexperience vs experience is kind of in a dead heat. you could say that bush II, clinton I, reagan, carter, kennedy, eisenhower were all "inexperienced". and fdr had been gov for only four years.

yes, obama is a roll of the dice, but in a way voting for anyone is a roll of the dice.

Posted by: dave Buchen on February 25, 2008 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

will you please bug off. Thank you. Obama is a jackass and NO I do not like him. I have supported Edwards and now Clinton. STFU.

Compelling!

Posted by: mattski on February 25, 2008 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

Most American voters don't think years of big league experience is crucial. If they did, they wouldn't have elected GWB. the candidate of experience in this race was Joe Biden (36 years in the US Senate) not Hillary Clinton and he was instantly rejected.Obama can put someone like Joe Biden on the ticket to counteract the experience argument (Hey, it worked for GWB).
What Americans are looking for President is above all leadership, IMO- a vision of where the candidate wants the country to go. obama does have that-although the vision is kind of fuzzy and unfocused.

Posted by: stonetools on February 25, 2008 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

In a match up between Clinton and McCain experience is a non-issue.

In a match up between Obama and McCain, Obama's lack of knowledge and experience is a big issue.

Posted by: Chrissy on February 25, 2008 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

Chrissy: considering Shortstop is about the most balanced, witty and most level headed of all the commenters I have ever seen here, your STFU rant against her reasonable assertions places you in the Thurmond ass category.
It is a constant scale of assness too, for those who wondered about its metrics. One Thurmond ass equals 10 decades of outrageous behavior divided by social douche baggery. Experience? Yow. No need for Jimmy Hendrix rhettorical questions.

Posted by: Sparko on February 25, 2008 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

Sparko, evaluations of wit and level-headedness are hightly subjective. Shortstop lacks a substantive argument for Obama so she criticizes the motivations and comments of others who believe him to be without character or experience. Her imperial and presumptive "we know" tone and personal judgment and is out of place. Shortstop is not the board nanny around here but she tries to denigrate and censor and cajole other commenters. Obama is the worst Democratic candidate I have ever seen and because he has 'bamboozled' many doesn't mean the rest of us need to assent to this nonsense or be labeled. If you read shorstop's nasty jibe you'll notice the veiled "traitor" label she uses. (you're helping McCain!!! so you better STFU).

[No, I am the board nanny, and you, my dear, are on my last nerve. --Mod]

Posted by: Chrissy on February 25, 2008 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

Sparko: most level headed of all the commenters I have ever seen here

Bwa! I know you're going for the final implosion of Chrissy's head, but let's not get carried away here!

Chrissy: she criticizes the motivations and comments of others who believe him to be without character or experience...

Comments--sometimes, sure, but not the motivations of anyone but you and frankly0, the crazy old aunts of the blog. And you won't have noticed, because you don't listen to other people, but I've been equally hard on people who were viciously knee-jerk anti-Clintonites. There are fewer of them since Obama's just about wrapped up the nomination, but they used to post quite energetically and I went after them with equal enthusiasm.

Obama is the worst Democratic candidate I have ever seen

Maybe not an old aunt after all...were you born in 1996? Shouldn't you be in school?

If you read shorstop's nasty jibe you'll notice the veiled "traitor" label she uses. (you're helping McCain!!! so you better STFU).

I don't think you're a traitor. I think you're genuinely mentally unbalanced or at least continuously emotionally overwrought, and I think almost everyone here agrees with that. Look, Miss Chrissy, you've never responded to our many queries about why you thought Edwards' part of one Senate term/zero other legislative experience was sufficient and Obama's part of one Senate term/state senate experience is not. You've never explained why Edwards' excellent platform, so completely at odds with his actual Senate record, was trustworthy while Obama's words aren't. I don't think you've ever said a single positive, really pro-Clinton thing; your every post is an anti-Obama display of hydrophobia that makes us pray for universal veterinary health care.

Your sole consistency is Obama hatred--it's the only thing that ties together your collection of wildly moving goalposts and incoherent outbursts.

I'm pretty sure you'd rather McCain won than Obama. If I'm wrong, I'm all ears.

Posted by: shortstop on February 25, 2008 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

I thought long and hard about this before switching from Hillary to Obama. Given the fact that Obama's campaign has been run so efficiently leads me to the conclusion that he would be the type of President who would surround himself with competent people. I believe he would find the best person suited for the job, even if it's a Republican, and would be willing to LISTEN to his advisors - something I am not sure the Clinton camp would. The lack of experience is a little troubling, but only a little in my mind. She has tons of experience around her now and looks where it's gotten her.

Posted by: Joy on February 25, 2008 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Shortstop lacks a substantive argument for Obama so she criticizes the motivations and comments of others who believe him to be without character or experience.

Chrissy,

You're flat wrong to say that shortstop's remarks lacked substance. She made specific, fact-based points. She criticized Hillary, using facts, as a corrective for the hysterical-sounding criticism of Obama coming from some quarters...

I'm no Obamamaniac, and I don't think shortstop is either, but I can detect anti-Obama mania when I see it and as shortstop well said, it isn't helpful.

Goggle-eyes put the experience question in the proper light:

Abraham Lincoln! 'Nuff said.

Posted by: mattski on February 25, 2008 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

If I'm not censored I'll just simply say that I have never called people crazy old aunts, never accused them of hatred, never cleverly accused them of having hydrophobia or being an animal, of being unbalanced, of having their heads explode from whatever.

I have defended Edwards and Clinton many times on this blog. Edwards especially because I admire his standing up for average people without money against powerful moneyed interests. Maybe the hardest thing in this society. And also his brilliant plans - copied by both Clinton and Obama.

I've posted here and never been censored since early '04 and never been made fun of by Mod but I think it's clear that maybe an occasional read - and a look at the cats on Friday (although I have 3 of the stress reducers of my own and fat border collie to gaze at) is about it for me.

Will truly miss the good band-and-forth that goes on here sometimes though.

[You have never been moderated (censorship is government purview) I simply pointed out that, to the person who has been tasked with the job of reading every comment on every thread, you have become repetitive and annoying. --Mod]

Posted by: Chrissy on February 25, 2008 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Quibbles on Presidential experience.

FDR had only 4 years experience as governor before the 1932 election.

Hoover's "big political experience" was secretary of Commerce for 8 years.

Taft was secretary of war for four years.

Teddy Roosevelt had 2 years of experience as Governor of NY before being selected for veep, and had been a midlevel local and national political appointee for about 10 years before that.

Grover Cleveland has two years as governor.

Chester Arthur had nothing that would qualify as "big" experience prior to being made veep.

Lincoln had just two years in the House.

Obviously there is a mixed bag there, with three of our greatest presidents, and several mediocrities.

Posted by: Raskolnikov on February 25, 2008 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

This is less of a defense of Barack Obama than an acknowledgment that some voters will not grant Hillary Clinton an extra eight years of experience points because her husband was President. I can't put my fiancee's work history on my resume. Why is serving as First Lady treated differently?

Posted by: jonp72 on February 25, 2008 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

I find it delightful reading when Hillary talks about the advantage of her experience vs the unknown challenger of Obama. Funny how that shoe fits now but when she and her busband were running for the same office, he with his 'big leagues' experience as Governor of where? Oh, Arkansas, that 'experienced' shoe didn't fit.

The other delight I get from listening to Hill is her challenge to Obama to say what he's accomplished as an US Senator. That presumes that Hill's 7 years has accomplished something we don't know about, something other than record deficits, an ongoing support of the war in Iraq, "the war on terror", lowered taxes on the upper 1% of income earners here in the US, any stand on constitutional issues such as Gitmo, loss of habeas corpus, unfettered spying on Americans, etc, etc. All Obama has to do is point out her "accomplishments" as a Senator and the question becomes mute as she should be if that's her best shot.

Posted by: Zane on February 25, 2008 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Bush the Lesser had less than eight years in the third most powerful job in the Texas governor and before that he screwed up in one private job after another.

Baraka Obama has some government experience, but he also has community organizing experience, which deals with government from the other side.

Funny how the Dems equate "experience" with government experience and the ReThugs seem to want private sector experience. Tho when the ReThugs actually got the opportunity to vote for someone with exactly their kind of private sector experience (i.e. ripping off the working class to benefit the investor class) they didn't vote for him in droves.

And I'll say, too, in Obama's defense, that he's run a hell of a campaign, and that right there is executive experience in running perhaps one of the most chaotic organizations there is.

Posted by: Cal Gal on February 25, 2008 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

Chrissy said, "this is not the time for on-the-job training."

Sorry, Chrissy, but there is no training for being elected to your first term as POTUS. Unless, of course, you've actually been acting as POTUS for a while, which means the only person ever to not need on the job training is Dark Lord Cheney.

Did the Little Idiot really only serve FOUR years in the third most powerful job in Texas? Geeze, it worse than I thought.

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