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Thoughts on Experience

August 29, 2008

If there is one aspect of this election that galls me more than any other, it is the constant back and forth over “experience”. Every time that word gets trotted out, I cringe.

Does experience matter? Of course it does, so long as it is relevant and transferable.

John McCain would have us believe that he is the better candidate on the grounds of his experience as a POW. I’m sorry, but what? How does the experience of getting shot down and locked away in a POW camp for five years qualify one to serve as commander in chief? Oh, right, it doesn’t. While it is a harrowing tale, it has nothing to do with relevant, transferable command experience.

When did any form of combat experience suddenly equate to this magical ability to run the country? I don’t get it. I just don’t. McCain’s time as a POW is no more a qualification for office than John Kerry’s purple heart or JFK’s PT 109. It’s the cult of the war hero, nothing more. Now Eisenhower, there was a man who could legitimately claim that his military experience qualified him for the presidency. As Supreme Allied Commander, he had to play the role of both diplomat and general. He had to negotiate daunting logistics, contentious personalities, and oversee the largest military operations in the history of warfare.

Alas, we don’t exactly have any Eisenhowers waiting in the wings, though I would note that experience by itself is not gaurantee of success. Conversely, some of our best presidents have been men of relatively little experience, among them Abraham Lincoln, whose resume prior to gaining the presidency is strikingly reminiscent of Obama’s…

7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 31, 2008 1:00 pm

    While you are correct, experience does not always equal greatness – the “wisdom” of experience does put you on the right path. Nobody can ever have experience as Commander in Chief unless they were running for re-election, but you can have experience leading, and developing large groups of people or organizations, dealing with your constituent base, delivering on promises and seeing projects/systems through. This is the kind of experience that will help you to become a successful leader, potentially of our country.
    Don’t focus just on his 6 years as a POW he has over 23 years of military service and has been involved in government for over 26 years. By my standards, that is quite a bit of “experience”. Plus he is a tough SOB and can get all the free beer he wants……

    Personally, I’ll take that over another “face-jock” lawyer who will tell you anything to make himself look better. Work a while with minimum/hourly wage earners and blue collar folks and you will see what the victim/government handout/liberal somebody else take responsibility for me mentality gets you. I won’t go on a rant, but it’s not a pretty site.

  2. Matt permalink*
    August 31, 2008 8:09 pm

    Yes, but he trots out his time as a POW at every available opportunity. It reminds me in many ways of some of the old hands at the agency I used to work for, who would bring up that one hit campaign they did fifteen years ago.

    Personally, I have serious reservations about the “wisdom” of experience, especially in an era of geopolitical shift such as we are now experiencing. Throughout history, that wisdom has a way of locking people into the old ways of thinking, of preparing to fight the last war without appreciating that the battlefield has changed. The Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld approach to Iraq is a prime example of that, as is the Democratic knee-jerk responses of “quagmire” and “Vietnam”. As for McCain, his foreign policy ideas strike me as being stalled out sometime back in 1986.

    Of course, in my opinion, this election is about more than experience. It is about appreciating that the world, and America’s role in the world, has changed, and that we can no longer keep going as we have been. The Bush years have twisted conservatism beyond all recognition. The party of Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Reagan no longer exists. Economic and governmental conservatism have been superceded by social conservatism, which to my mind goes against the principles upon which this country was founded.

    I still long for a party that supports a small, rational government, and that encourages personal and community responsibility instead of yet another program or handout, but the cold, hard fact is that the Republicans abandoned small-government policies years ago.

    There are still a lot of problems neither party or candidate addresses to my satisfaction, and probably always will be. But, things being as they are, I prefer Obama’s approach to the issues of the day.

  3. Jenny McDougall permalink
    August 31, 2008 10:26 pm

    Now for a shallow commentary…Ya know, Obamam has those creepy-looking grayish lips that I just don’t trust. McCain is like ,so much cuter, and MATURE, and he was pretty good on SNL the other night, I like his little jowls. McCain & Palin would be fun to watch as they run the nation! People need to stop killing babies. Yes, women have rights,but so do the little fetus’ that God created!!! Don’t go to bed with someone if you’re not prepared to have a kid!! That’s a pretty good deterrent for pre-marital sex – having a kid & not being able to get an abortion. It would have made ME think twice, before making bad choices ( unless I was drunk, of course)

  4. August 31, 2008 10:31 pm

    Hey, we all have our own opinion, one of the great things about our country. I’m not saying that McCain is my favorite candidate ever – but I am not buying what that snake charmer Obama is selling. I fear his “change” would only be to further along his liberal and personal agenda. He does have an incredible stage presence, but he has strong Muslim ties and for years belonged to an angry and I hate to say it, but a racist church and only left when the media attention got to hot.

    I won’t attempt to out debate you in the political area, simple fact is that you are to smart for me. All I will say is beware of the liberal agenda, things are not always as they seem. Spend 20 plus years working on the front lines in the service industry and you too may fear where the liberal mindset could take us, but that is a rant for a different time. Not all change is bad, but not all change is good either.

    PLUS – FREE BEER!!!!

  5. Matt permalink*
    September 1, 2008 7:40 pm

    Personally, I don’t trust McCain. I did at one point in time – at least as much as any politician can be trusted – but his vote in February AGAINST the torture ban struck me as a sell out of epic proportions.

    And, as more information about Palin comes to light (not her pregnant daughter – I consider that a private family matter – but rather her actually having supported the bridge to nowhere…), the more I find myself distrusting his decision-making process.

  6. September 1, 2008 10:58 pm

    I agree with you – there are no good choices!


  7. Matt permalink*
    September 2, 2008 9:14 am

    Doubt it’ll be Powell, but I wouldn’t be surprised if David Petraeus decided to run in 2012 or 2016…

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