THE CHARGE OF "INEXPERIENCE"
Chuck Schumer, the senior Senator from New York, has criticized John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate for the reason that she is politically inexperienced. The New Yorker maintained the following: "After the great success of the Democratic convention, the choice of Sarah Palin is surely a Hail Mary pass. . . . Certainly the choice of Palin puts to rest any argument about inexperience on the Democratic team and while Palin is a fine person, her lack of experience makes the thought of her assuming the presidency troubling. I particularly look forward to the Biden-Palin debate in Missouri."
Schumer's reasoning creates for himself and other Democrats a Gordian knot. When they point out the problem of "inexperience" in the number two position on the Republican ticket, they become vulnerable to the same, if not more compelling, criticism of the person occupying the number one position on their own. In view of the glass house in which Barack Obama lives, does his campaign really wish to throw these stones? It is a sure path to self-destruction, not very astute.
As for Joe Biden's debating prowess, that is as suspect as his hairline. His sentences are often convoluted, and their meaning frequently leaves listeners scratching their heads in puzzlement. One can imagine a truckdriver in the heartland tuning into the Biden-Palin debate and treated to one of the Senator's garrulous questions, which meander around the mulberry bush to nowhere. One can further imagine this truckdriver being asked, "What do you think, Jack?", and his response being, "Well . . . I think that I'll have another beer." A Republican I know has already confessed to me privately that he intends to continue quaffing his favorite brew during the debate until he can no longer hear Biden's voice! And, just to think, the Delaware Senator is blessed with over three decades of foreign policy and judiciary experience. So what? Does anyone really want him at the helm of state?
What, then, do we make of the charge of "inexperience"? Not much so far as the vice presidency is concerned. It is an office, after all, which "Cactus Jack" Garner once described as "not worth a bucket of warm p---." True, but inartfully put perhaps. Yet, if McCain is elected, Palin will be only a heartbeat away, and in today's perilous world, prior experience does seem important to the office of the presidency.
Experience alone, however, hardly guarantees that one will make a superlative President. George H.W. Bush had been a United States congressman, ambassador to China, director of the CIA, and Vice President prior to topping the ladder, but I doubt he will ever be named by historians "one of the greats" or "near greats" to have occupied the Oval Office.
Abraham Lincoln, on the other hand, had been a one-term congressman before taking up residency in the White House, and that's it! But he was, in the estimation of many, the greatest chief executive in our history.
There is little evidence that anybody can predict a person's performance in the presidency on the basis of what he did or did not do in the past. Period and exclamation!
While a robust resume is not an essential condition for presidential greatness, citizens still need to know whom they are electing and placing in the highest office of the land. We cannot simply close our eyes and engage in the electoral process as if it were a variation of "pin the tail on the donkey." The paramount question we must ask ourselves is, "Based upon all that we know about persons 'X' and 'Y,' which one will do the more creditable job as chief executive, including being commander in chief?" Previous military experience, a thorough knowledge of national and international politics, intellectual candle power, integrity, unquestioned loyalty, uncommon courage, a realistic view of human nature, and the heart of a servant -- these are some of the qualities I look for in evaluating a candidate's resume. Evidence of all these may be found in his past experience, although at least some of these attributes may be seen elsewhere, as in his demeanor and writings. Yet, when I am unable to decide who a candidate really is based upon whatever sources of information are available to me, I simply cannot accord him my vote, although he may be unquestionably brilliant in numerous ways.
The "inexperience" of both Barack Obama and Sarah Palin pales in significance beside the reality of who they otherwise are. It will be interesting to see how citizens size up each of them and whom most Americans will view as an authentic and worthy leader. In the meantime, Americans seem to have an excellent understanding of who McCain and Biden are, and the Democrats lose on that comparison.
September 8, 2008