Saturday, March 01, 2008


Have you been paying much attention to the big race? Seems to me the word "change" has been replaced by "experience." Instead of the candidates harping on a need for "change" in Washington, they're all comparing levels of "experience." Silly, I say. But these constant calls to consider "experience" stick in our gourds and make us wonder sometimes - would we be better off with someone who's been there before?

Been where? Done what? What exactly do these candidates mean when they offer their experience?

Experience counts. There's no question about it. But everyone has "experience" of some kind. You and I have "experience." Experience is a byproduct of living. We are all products of our experiences here. Turns out the three major candidates (those with a statistical possibility of actually becoming President) are talking about three different kinds of experience when they're out stumping on the trail.

When Clinton talks about experience, she's not talking about years in office. She'd lose that battle to McCain faster than Bill can get his wang back in his shorts and his pants buckled back up. She'd also lose that battle to Obama, who will have held elected office for 12 years before coming President, to Hillary's 8.

So she must be talking about her Senate experience then, right? Not really. Again, her years of experience there pale compared to McCain's lengthy term of legislative service. And while she's been in the Senate longer than Obama has, Obama has passed far more progressive and substantive legislation than she has. Compare their records introducing and co-authoring meaningful legislation and you would think Obama has been there longer. It's not how long you've been in office, it's what you did while you were there that matters. On their records, again, Obama would appear to be the better choice.

So what kind of "experience" is she referring to when she pleads with the American public to choose her experience over Obama's? She can only be talking about her Oval Office experience. White House experience. Presidential experience. It reminds me of a joke comedian Chris Rock has been telling on his No Apologies tour, which I was fortunate enough to get tickets to last month.

Rock reminded us that just because our spouse is good at something, it doesn't mean we're good at it too, at least not on the merit of being married to them. "I love my wife to death," he said, "But if she got up here in front of all you people, you would not laugh. I guarantee it. Just because I can tell a joke doesn't mean she can." So when Hillary pitches her "experience" as the reason she is the better-qualified candidate, it's important to take that experience with a grain of salt. While her time as First Lady certainly qualifies as life "experience," there's a big difference between being the President and being married to one.

Meanwhile, McCain has been hammering on Obama for his inexperience, and he IS talking about YEARS. Chances are good we'll be hearing a lot more of that argument, too, because it's the only one McCain really scores on. When you're as old as he is, experience is your trump suit. It comes with the gray hair and age spots. People start to assume you know better because you've been around longer. That is, until you start spouting off rubbish and nonsense, like spending the next 100 years in Iraq, exhibiting clear dementia and reminding people that there's a fine line between experienced and senile. Does our next President need to be skirting that line? much experience in office is the right amount? Is it even necessary at all? Guess how many of our nation's 43 Presidents had more experience in office when they were elected than Barack Obama would have if he were elected in 2008. Well, we know Washington didn't have any experience in office - he was el presidente numero uno. But how many others had less experience than Obama when they took the oath to become our Commander in Chief? Do you want to guess or should I just tell you? Fine, I'll tell you. You're no fun. The answer is 24. More than HALF of our country's Presidents had less "experience" in office when they were elected than Obama would have when moving into La Casa Blanca. Turns out years of elected office "experience" isn't such a good measure of leadership capability after all. Perhaps, as Obama likes to put it, judgment matters more.

Just don't be hoodwinked by the political marketing machine. You don't need a lifetime of service in elected office to be a great leader. Abraham Lincoln, regarded by many as our greatest President, started out a simple lawyer from Illinois. Sound familiar? It's not your total YEARS of experience, or total years IN OFFICE, that qualify you to lead. It's how you've lived your life...and the experiences that made you who you are. It's the decisions you've made. Your character. Your actions, as they say - not your words.

By these measures, all three remaining candidates have a lifetime of experiences for us to compare, and differences in character to consider.

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