Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

So what should go into a want ad for President of the United States?

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Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Mon, 02/04/2008 – 11:46am

A possible ad from the future on Craigslist…

WANTED: Looking for a leader of a major democracy on the planet Earth. Must be willing to subject yourself to media scrutiny. Must be native-born and at least 35 (not subject to age discrimination). Must commit to 4- or possibly 8-year period. Salary is good, but not great. Perks lie within the power of the position, plus influence once the position ends. Must have experience, but there is flexibility as to what that means. Must start January 20.

So what kind of experience do we want from the President of the United States?

The word “experience” has been tossed out on the Democratic and Republican side of the aisle. Hillary Clinton has touted her work as an activist lawyer and First Lady. Barack Obama has noted his time as a community activist and Illinois state senator. Mitt Romney has cited his experience running Massachusetts and the Winter Olympics. John McCain offers up his many years as a United States senator.

But does experience only count in professional terms? When Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, he reminded voters of his childhood and how that childhood impacted him as a person, and would that would impact his presidency.

If we factor in the past, do we count Obama’s unusual childhood as adding to his experience? Does McCain’s time as a POW factor into his candidacy?

When we call for experience, do we mean a long resume? The best resume this year probably belonged to Bill Richardson. He has served as a Congressman, UN Ambassador to the United Nations, Secretary of Energy, and governor of New Mexico. That didn’t get him too far. The best resume in the last 30 years? George H.W. Bush. He was a Congressman, UN Ambassador, CIA director, and Vice President for 8 years. Did that translate into being a good president? Not really.

If the U.S. Senate is a key indicator, as three of the top four contenders are current U.S. Senators, Clinton (8 years at the end of 2008) and Obama (4 years at the end of 2008) don’t have a whole lot compared to McCain (21 years at the end of 2008). But will anyone vote for a candidate purely on the length of the time served in the U.S. Senate?

Perhaps experience as a Vice President is most ideal. One theory that has been tossed out is that if Hillary Clinton gets the nod, and picks Barack Obama as her VP, Obama would gain valuable experience. But quite frankly, history shows us that it’s not a viable route. Besides John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only sitting VPs who were elected president were Martin Van Buren, George H.W. Bush, and Al Gore, for those who count Gore. Richard Nixon is the only VP who later became President in a non-succession.

The Kennedy name gets brought up a lot when it comes to leadership. But John F. Kennedy has 6 years in the House and 8 as a Senator. Robert F. Kennedy had 3 years as Attorney General and would have had 4 years as an U.S. Senator at the end of 1968. Were they any less of a leader because of their “lack of experience”?

Experience hasn’t helped us with George W. Bush. He touted his mark as a businessman, but didn’t mention that he failed in his business attempts. He cited his running mate, Dick Cheney, as having the political experience. After all, Cheney was a White House Chief of Staff, Congressman, and Secretary of Defense. And look where that got us.

As each person goes to vote in the caucuses and primaries and in November, that vote will be cast based on leadership, values, positions on key issues, and yes, experience. But experience is in the eye of the beholder. If all we want is experience, the top contenders on the Democratic side would be Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy, Chris Dodd, and Dick Gephardt. But they aren’t.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both bring leadership, values, positions on key issues, and experience in their runs for the White House. Look at the entire record, not just the U.S. Senate, not just activist backgrounds, and not just childhoods. Examine the entire picture of who these people are, and decide which one of them would be the best pick to reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to solve a lot of ongoing problems.

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Written by democracysoup

February 4, 2008 at 11:46 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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