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Palin, Obama, and the Experience Issue--Stuntz

Everything is faster in the internet age.  It took about ten seconds from the time McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate for the conventional wisdom to congeal:  Palin forfeits the experience issue and opens the way for attacks on McCain's judgment.  South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn analogized her to Dan Quayle, but the better analogy--if the CW view is right--is Spiro Agnew, who had served one four-year term as Baltimore County Executive and a year-and-a-half as Maryland's Governor when Richard Nixon picked him in 1968.  And the population of Baltimore County exceeds Alaska's population.


But I wonder whether the CW is right.  Seems to me, this year's election puts in play three different definitions of "experience."  One is the Washington time-serving kind.  Joe Biden and John McCain have both been in the Senate for decades without making complete fools of themselves (well, not on a regular basis anyway); that makes them qualified for the presidency on this definition.  Barack Obama is more of a stretch, since his time in Congress is much shorter.  And Palin is wholly unqualified, since she has never worked for the federal government.

The second definition is a variant of the first; it likewise looks to time in office, but the focus is on executive jobs.  George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton had six, eight, and twelve years as state governors, respectively, before entering the White House.  Senators basically talk for a living.  Governors have to make the trains run on time, metaphorically speaking.  Presidents have to know how to steer the lumbering federal bureaucracy in their preferred direction; perhaps that means executive jobs are the résumé lines that should count most.  On this view, it's hard to call any of the four candidates qualified for the presidency.  McCain, Obama, and Biden are all Senators; none has high-level executive experience.  And while Palin is her state's governor, she has less than two years in office, preceded by service as the Ethics Commissioner for the state's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission; before that she was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska--a town whose population at the time, according Wikipedia, was about 5000.


Those two definitions are the ones used, at least tacitly, in most political commentary.  But there is a third definition, and it may be the one the voters care most about:  the relevant question is not how much time the candidate has spent in the relevant government jobs, but what the candidate has accomplished during that time.  Most politicians, like most people in any line of work, leave no particular mark on the offices they hold.  Their chief accomplishment is winning elections.  But a few--the real standouts--rise to the top wherever they serve.  Mark Warner didn't just warm the Virginia Governor's chair; he blew the job away.  When he took office, the state's fiscal condition was awful; there was a massive structural mismatch between its revenue stream and the services voters demanded.  (Sort of like the federal government today:  an issue none of the candidates seems to want to discuss.)  Warner fixed that problem, improved Northern Virginia's awful road system, upgraded the state university system--and did it all while keeping taxes reasonably low.  On the Republican side, Bobby Jindal has a Warner-like record:  he seems to transform every job he holds, making Louisiana's health care system, its university system, and now the state's government as a whole accomplish much more without spending much more to do it.


How do the current candidates stack up on that definition?


McCain has plainly left his mark on the Senate--whether it's a good or bad mark depends on how one evaluates McCain-Feingold, the Senate compromise on judicial confirmations, the bipartisan immigration bill that failed to pass the House in 2006, and McCain's frequent attacks on Congressional pork.  And that's just a short list of domestic issues from the last few years.  Reasonable people can disagree about these topics, but it seems clear that McCain hasn't just been a timeserver.  The Senate of the last decade (at least) would have been a very different place without him.


Is the same true of Joe Biden, who has been a Senator for fourteen years longer than McCain?  Not obviously so, but perhaps that reflects my ignorance.  Still, nothing I've read since Obama picked him and nothing in my memory of the past thirty years makes me think that either the Senate in particular or American government in general would look different without Biden's contributions.  Quieter maybe, and a little less entertaining.  But not appreciably different.


What about Obama?  This, it seems to me, is the question that bothers a lot of voters who, like me, find Obama extremely impressive but worry that he might not be ready for the job he seeks.  The problem isn't time:  four years in the Senate are more than enough for an exceptional talent like Obama's to shine.  Nor is the problem that he was a state senator only four years ago.  State legislatures are hugely important institutions; eight years of service in one seems to me an underrated plus for a presidential candidate.  The problem is, I'm not sure what Obama did during those eight years.  It isn't obvious to me that he left a mark on Illinois government--and he should have, if he aspires to the nation's presidency.  The same point applies to his current job:  I have yet to hear any current Senator explain how Obama changed some important piece of legislation in fundamental ways, or stood up to the Democratic caucus on some major issue about which he and his party disagreed, or worked to bring about some compromise that would have been impossible without his efforts.  With McCain, the question is whether you like the things he's done.  With Obama--Biden too, I think--the question is whether he's done much.


Which brings me back to Palin.  Clearly, her résumé is thin, maybe disqualifying.  Perhaps the jobs she has held are too small to count in a national presidential campaign.  But that isn't obvious, not yet anyway.  What matters more, to me and I bet to more than a few others, is what she's done in those jobs.  The fact that her approval rating among Alaskans is in Mark Warner territory suggests that she might be the kind of governor Warner was in Virginia.  If so, that should count for a lot--even if she hasn't had much time in office.  Because time-serving won't count for much in the offices these four candidates are seeking. 


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Comments ( 35 )

Two quick observation.

First, the democrats say that this election is about understanding people in small town america. Yet their criticism of Palin is that she was the Mayor of a small town and this counts as 0 experience. So why do they disparage small town Americans as unqualified?

Second, it is interesting to watch as the media savages another women as it throws Palin under the buss as a VP candidate while it celebrates a man with equal or less experience as a qualified presidential candidate.

I did a little research to compare Palin’s record with Obama’s. Palin’s experience is comparable, but her accomplishments are much more impressive.

From 1992-1996 when Palin served on the City Council of Wasilla, Obama was teaching part time at the University of Chicago Law School and working in private practice part time.

In 1996 when Obama was elected to the Illinois State Senate, Palin was elected Mayor of Wasilla, AK.. Obama worked for legislation that would provide tax credits and subsidies to private devilopers of affordable housing. Tony Rezko received over $87 million in government funds to renovate and maintain affordable housing units, many of them in Obama’s disctrict. Many of these units lacked heat, had leaking roofs and were infested by rodents. Palin ran her small but growing city with a budget just under six million dollars and about 50 employees, and was reelected in 1999.

In 2003, Palin was appointed to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. When she uncovered corruption in the organization, and was unable to get Governor Murkowski to take action, she resigned in protest and filed charges again the offenders, taking on entrenched corruption in Alaskan politics, This fight led her to run against Gov. Murkowski in the primary, and then go on to become Alaska’s first female governor in 2006.

In 2004, Obama was elected to the US Senate. The developers who had received government funding as a result of legislation sponsored by Obama served on his campaign finance committee. Many of the buildings they had purchased with government funding were seized for code violations, or foreclosed, and the low-income residents were forced to find housing elsewhere. In 2008, Governor Palin worked with the legislature to provide Alaskans a $1200 rebate from state revenues, and successfully arranged for the development of the Transcanada Pipeline to transport natural gas from Alaska to the lower 48 states.

Do the Democrats really want to talk about this?

This was an absolutely brilliant pick by McCain. Every candidate has their own flaws but she had the most upside potential. In Alaska she buzzsawed the corrupt Alaskan Republican party. She took out the trash as opposed to Obama who benefited from the corrupt old Democratic Chicago machine.

Much is being said about Governor Palin being a "heart beat" away from the most powerful position in the world.
Personally, I have no concerns about her ability to lead and inspire the free world. She has led, she has governed, she has made tough decisions, she has real world experience, and most important, she has a defined track record of accomplishments she can sing her name to.

Mayor of a small Alaskan town is actual executive experience that neither Joe or "O" can claim, never mind being the Governor of a state where she has an 80% approval rating, vs a 90% DISAPPROVAL rating of Congress.

What "should" concern every American is Madame Pelosi being 3rd in line!!!

That... should send a shiver down the spine of anyone who cares to think about the implications of Pelosi running the show...

My brother-in-law worked for several years in Alaska, setting up half-way houses for alcoholics and drug addicts for a group called Oxford Houses when Palin was the mayor in Wasilla. They opened an Oxford House right next door to Palin's house. Needless to say, Oxford has problems moving into neighborhoods all the time. People have a lot of not-in-my-backyard fears, but Palin was very supportive. How many mayors in America would feel the same? She's the real thing!

Palin is an unrestricted line officer, Obama is a staff weenie. No offense to the very capable staff weenies out there.

To a great extent, this election is the first "Internet Election". By that I mean the influence of new media, the internet most prominently but talk radio and cable news included is finally the tail waging the dog of power and politics in America. The result is a mad and seemingly desperate grab for power by the left, along with an astonishing reformation in the GOP. The unholy alliance on the left is old line businesses like GE working with trial lawyers and teachers unions to get back into power. On the right, we see McCain of all people hooking up with Sarah Palin. America will be shocked at first by their first breath of fresh air in decades, but soon we will like the new smell, and act accordingly. Obama is screwed, and he doesn't know it, or know why...yet.

Warner improved No. Va.'s road system? And upgraded the higher education system?

To my knowledge, as a resident, the roads are worse than ever, and he starved higher ed. 66 is still two lanes inside the Beltway. Rt. 29 is horrific. The plan to allow regional taxation for better roads was invalidated by the courts.

Do you have any sources for these assertions, other than Warner p.r.?

(He was, in fact, a popular governor, but I don't understand where these particular claims are coming from. And I'm not sure he dealt with the structural issues, as opposed to being a beneficiary of a revenue boom. With real estate tanking, VA is facing a looming budget crisis, in part because it grew to rely on real estate transfer taxes.)

"The problem is, I'm not sure what Obama did during those eight years."

The best place to see what Obama did in his legislative career is here:


As for his service in the U.S. Senate, I believe he began running for president almost as soon as he got to Washington. That didn't prevent him from achieving his most significant accomplishment during that short time, however: the second volume of his autobiography,

These are good points, along with what Jim Lindgren posted at VC about the value of executive experience. But I wonder how well these thoughts hold up when applied to the modern presidency. Is a successful stint as a governor a reliable predictor of an effective president? I'm not sure that last 50 years bear out that assumption. Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush were all governors. I don't know enough about their respective terms as governor to know which of them can be deemed successes, but at least two and probably three (the identity of the third varying based on one's political leanings) would probably be considered mediocre presidents at best.

The gap between the responsibilities of a governor and the president is very large--in spectrum of issues, size of the bureaucracy, geographical diversity, level of partisanship, etc. Maybe someone has done a study, but I wonder whether the assumption that governors make better presidents is borne out by history. I don't know if there are any reliable factors for determining who will be an effective president in governing. (Maybe this is why the political process is so issue and character oriented. Think about how much coverage has been given to one candidate's pastor and the other candidate's multiple homes.)

I don't think Palin's experience and skills should be underestimated. We'll see soon enough how she holds up in a national campaign, but I think she will do well. But I also wouldn't discount what Obama has done. Even if you accept the least charitable characterizations of his legislative record, his campaign pulled off the most improbable upset since the beginning of the primary system. If you read the accounts of how he did it (Roger Simon has a fascinating multi-part Politico article dissecting the Obama and Clinton campaigns), it took a lot more than just good fortune (in contrast to his shockingly fortuitous Senate campaign). Running a hard-fought presidential campaign is a job too.

Let me see if I understand this correctly: Senator (for 3 years) Barack Obama, who's been running for President on the claim that it's judgment that's important, not experience, is now claiming that Governor Sarah Palin is not qualified to be Vice President because she doesn't have enough experience?


So with his VP pick John McCain has gotten Barack Obama to prove to the American people that his judgement is poor, since no one with good judgment would ever make such a stupid move.

Sounds like a great move by McCain, to me.

Thoughtful article. Two comments:

You perhaps slightly undersell McCain's executive experience in not including his (non-POW) military service; the military is (among other things) middle managers keeping a "lumbering bureaucracy" running. OTOH, I've not heard of any big accomplishments by McCain in this aspect of his career.

I think the article doesn't address the question of effectiveness relative to scale. The scale of government in a state like Alaska, where it's pretty much possible to know and directly interact with all the major players, is qualitatively different from that of a state like CA or TX or even VA, making the latter a much better preparation for national office than the former. It's certainly not impossible to make that transition (q.v. Arkansas), but it's more difficult to predict equal success.

Two comments about experience:
1. I don't know a job that is equivalent to being the US president. Also, it is a job of judgment and decision-making, and that means the advisors to the president count for something who is to be elected. Biden brings a lifetime of Washington experience. Palin brings a lifetime of outside the beltway experience. In a time of disruptive global change, Palin's experience may be more valuable than Biden's.

2. Palin is a brilliant pick by McCain because it takes the experience question off the table, and puts policy firmly on it. Palin seems to be accomplished at dealing with energy, ethics, finances and the function of government. Obama is accomplished at being an orator and showman. The more he speaks, the less impressed with him I get. Don't promise me results, tell me precisely what you will do based on what you have done in the past. It is why on general principle that I don't find Senators qualified for the Presidency.

So, let's just say that none are prepared or equipped to be President, and may the best man or woman win.

Let's compare and contrast Palin and Obmama:

Palin doesn't have Obama's experience in dealing with terrorists, because she hasn't been put on boards or had fundraising parties thrown for her by terrorists.

Palin doesn't have Obama's experience in dealing with corruption, because she's fought corruption instead of embracing it.

Palin doesn't have Obama's experience in dealing with earmarks, as she has refused earmark money.

So yeah, Obama is definitely the more experienced candidate. He's just got the wrong kinds of experience.

Biden "borked" Bork.

Seconding DB's comment above, and 'raising him' too. Warner had great PR. Period.

Warner didn't "blow the job away", he blew off the voters. He reneged on tax promises, lied about the budget to the general assembly, fabricated a bond crisis, did nothing for roads, and initiated the worst law enforcement corruption in the state's history.

Nothing significant got sent to upper education, critical infrastructure was ignored, and in the end --besides a couple gutted departments and higher taxes-- the state was left as if nothing had happened during Warner's term.

Warner was smoke and mirrors.

To DB and subpatre: You may be right about Warner, but I've heard a very different and much more positive assessment from my Virginia friends. I lived in Virginia for 23 years (and taught at UVa for 14), and know lots of folks around the state, including a large number in the state university system. Even my Republican friends, with a couple exceptions, say strongly positive things about Warner. The governor who destroyed the state's fiscal situation, which I remember well (because I lived there then), was Jim Gilmore with his car tax repeal. That nearly killed Republicanism in Northern Virginia.

I don't think governors can generate the kind of approval ratings Warner got with nothing but smoke and mirrors. Maybe for a few months, but not for the entirety of a gubernatorial term. The guy must have done something right. And he served during an economically tough time, especially early in his term -- unlike, say, George Allen, a popular governor (though not nearly as popular as Warner) who had the benefit of the dot-com boom flooding the state treasury with cash. The governor who destroyed the state's fiscal health was not Warner but his predecessor Jim Gilmore with his car tax repeal; I remember that well because I lived there then.

To David: Biden was far from the leading Borker of Bork. That honor goes to Ted Kennedy, hands down. Bork's nomination would have played out just as it did if Biden hadn't been in the Senate. But Biden may have changed the outcome of the Clarence Thomas confirmation battle: my understanding is that he refused to call any more pro-Anita Hill witnesses and insisted on moving to a vote, at a time when anti-Thomas forces were trying to extend the hearings. At least some anti-Thomas senators believed that made the difference in the Senate floor vote.

I'll play ball with if Palin is under qualified then Obama is too. With that said, how does too wrongs make Palin's selection right? McCain has a great chance of dying in office so he does what might get him elected, but leaves us in a terrible situation. I think I'll vote for Obama. He has demonstrated he has judgement and has been making some pretty good decisions on the road. What more can we expect...

Laura, as CO of VT-7, John McCain stepped into something of a mess, iirc, and turned the squadron around; they won their first Meritorious Unit Commendation. I know through my father that his fellow Navy pilots were impressed with the work he did there.

Actually, Mark Warner never had approval ratings as high as Sarah Palin has achieved.

I think Bill left off a major McCain accomplishment in his litany of Senatorial achievements, which seemed to only cover domestic issues. His tireless sponsorship of the surge in Iraq, almost alone in both houses of Congress, and against the initial thinking in the Pentagon and the White House, has to count as a major accomplishment.

On Gov. Palin, her national security credentials are indeed zero (even including her being the boss of the AK National Guard) as defined by Washington insiders, but here the most important thing for newcomers is good judgment, a sense of history, and getting the right people to advise you. And if, as I sense, her instincts are good but her knowledge base small, there is an opportunity wrapped up inside all this: she will not need to unlearn all the nonsense, bad history, and flat out distortions that most insiders think is correct -- ie, to take just one, that terrorsim is spawned by poverty and not by ideology and millenial religious fervor. In this regard there is a tremendous upside to Sarah Palin, and I for one can't wait to see her grow in the job.

The old rooster still has some tricks up his sleeve.

McCain is practically begging the Democrats and the media to attack Palin on experience. It's a trap.

Palin's experience level is comparable to Obama's. In some ways, she comes out ahead. She has executive experience. She has more military experience than Obama. (Commander-in-chief of the Alaska Guard still beats nothing.) While Alaska does not have a lot of people, it is still the largest state in the country. It has the longest coastline and the longest international border of any state in the country. The article is right in that while Palin doesn't have a lot of experience, the experience she has is good.

The best line of attack for the Democrats is to neutralize Palin's popularity as being caused by high oil prices. When oil is expensive, governing Alaska is easy. They can then tie that to the "out of touch" theme. ("When you don't know how many houses you own, you might think the economy is strong. When your state is funded with record oil revenues, you might think the economy is strong...")

Let's see...an ex-beauty pagent winner...with a undergraduate degree in jounalism...who does not believe in global warming...who does believe a woman should have no control over her own body and for 9 months should be viewed as nothing more than a baby container...who's main attributes seem to be stubborness and vicious competiveness... who has had next to no experience in goverment...who has a currently very messy family situation given that she had recently given birth to a downs syndrome baby, has a 17 year old daughter who is unwed and pregnant and is facing investigation for using her political office to smear her ex-brother-in-law and get him fired (he is in a custody battle with her sister)...who seems to be in bed with big oil...who is running for VP...whose running mate is 72 and is a cancer survivor...who has no foreign policy background and in fact has only been out of the country twice...who may become President of the country I love at a time when it faces the most complex foreign policy issues, economic issues and domestic issues it has in decades...Why does this sound like a totally unbelievably bad novel???? I for one am terrified and can not understand what Mr. McCain was thinking!!!!

Rebecca does a great job of parroting Democrat talking points. Seems to me Governor Palin did make a choice about carrying her baby to term. The previous post seems to prove that for the "pro-choice" folks it is really pro abortion.
Her experience in government is real; Obama's is a product of the corrupt political machine of Chicago.
She has stood up to big oil and she has international experience working with Canada on the natural gas pipeline. As commander of the Alaskan National Guard - who have a unique mission being so close to Russia - she has some sense of international politics.

Obama's twisted logic that merely running for office provides him with the qualifications, experience and credentials to perform in that office, is as laughable as his twisted logic that a whirlwind 9 day, six country, overseas photo op qualifies him as an expert on foreign policy. Obama is an empty suit who is obviously trying to create the illusion that he is something that he is not. If its a choice between an experienced mayor and Governor, with an approval rating of 80% for V.P. versus. a community organizer, and junior senator, who spent most of his time in office running for President ... I choose Palin. No Wright, no Farrakahn, no Ayers, no Rezko, no mean Michelle, NOBAMA

This is the first civilized comment discussion I've found so far! What a relief. Everywhere now is being on personal and private-life attacks on Sarah Palin. But I know Sarah Palin is strong! God Bless her and God Bless America!

Yesterday on Anderson Cooper 360 CNN, Barack has made the fact that running his presidential campaign makes him more experienced than a mayor of Wassilla. He's comparing what he does now to what Sarah Palin "did", for she is now the Governor of Alaska. Very funny, pathetic, and troublesome.

Bill -

I suspect that, when it comes to politics, what you see depends on where you sit. So, in the interest of full disclosure, I'm an Obama supporter, but one who voted for McCain in the 2000 primary season. I suppose 8 years ago that would have made me one of those moderates everyone is after, but that was before George W Bus.

Anyway, in terms of Obama's significant accomplishments, I would have thought that his work in the Illinois Senate on racial profiling and on videotaped confessions would have gotten your attention. By all objective measures, he took a leadership role on these bills. And in the US Senate, you're right, he hasn't had much time to take a leadership role, particularly since most of his early time in the senate was when the Democrats were in the minority. Still, he did work on weapons containment issues, one bill regarding which bears his name (Lugar-Obama). His Wikipedia page mentions other bills that he sponsored, some of which go directly to foreign policy/defense issues.

On the other end of the spectrum, one might say that, for all his ranting and railing about government earmarks and pork, McCain has had virtually no impact in reducing them. And more pointedly, McCain has either repudiated or backed away from many of his other lifelong positions in order to gain the Republican nomination (see, e.g., immigration). So whatever credit he gets for making his mark is diluted substantially, for me at least, by his willingness to sell his principles to the Republican party.

As for Sarah Palin, to me it really is just laughable to suggest that Palin has relevant experience. Listening to the Republican talking heads talking about her experience leading the Alaska National Guard makes me almost laugh out loud.

The thing is, I think the whole "experience" thing is hugely overblown anyway. The present administration was loaded with the most experienced folks in modern history. And look what that got us (and, to your specific point - they clearly made their mark). So I don't really care whether Sarah Palin has lots of experience, I care where she is on issues that I care about. I do care that, as Andrew Sullivan has pointed out, she hadn't before even demonstrated any interest in the relevant issues, whether she had experience with them or not.

I will say, however, that the Republicans' full-blown efforts to paint her as experienced sure smacks of desperation.

The governor of Alaska "ha[s]n't before even demonstrated any interest in the relevant issues"? Mark McKenna, what again is Alaska's economy based on? And does that thing, whatever it is, qualify as a "relevant issue" in this year's election?

Furthermore, I think you're misreading us Republicans. We're not trying to "paint her as experienced." We're noting two things primarily: first, her public record and her personal lifestyle resonate very strongly not just with McCain's reformer sensibilities, but with quite a few of us Americans. And second, the Democrat side, by attempting to paint her as unfit for service as Vice President based on her relatively limited experience, are casting what has got to be unwanted light on their Presidential pick's similarly limited experience. Do you think Obama is crazy about being compared explicitly with Palin? By his own supporters? Even if they attempt to make the comparison favorable?

It's patent that McCain's level of experience and service in government and in his life before government exceeds that of all three of the other players here. Therefore harping on experience is a loser for the Democrats. Harping on the experience of a VP pick is a big loser. They've tried up to this point to make the argument that Presidential fitness ought to be evaluated on the basis of the candidate's judgment, and that "change" is the thing we need, because they know Obama can't compete with McCain on experience. Yet Obama's judgment hasn't been demonstrated at all adequately, much less positively, except in the matter of his remarkable upset campaign - in which he had an important accomplice in the press and some help from Republicans who considered him an easier candidate to beat than Hillary. And a Chicago pol and a longtime D.C. senator with rock-solid records of voting with their parties and accomplishing little thereby - this is the "no more government as usual" ticket? Versus the "maverick" (and now the "maverick squared") alternative?

My husband's appalled at all this. He points out correctly that we're talking about the leadership of our country, not a game. My counter: I believe that Obama's positions are wrong, costly, ill-considered, and in places dangerous, and though I've never been a McCain gal on every issue, he's the better option. Therefore I support every reasonable gambit the McCain camp has to play in order to win the election, including this Palin trump. (I also think she's being "misunderestimated," as the saying goes.)

"Palin's experience level is comparable to Obama's. In some ways, she comes out ahead. She has executive experience. She has more military experience than Obama. (Commander-in-chief of the Alaska Guard still beats nothing.) While Alaska does not have a lot of people, it is still the largest state in the country. It has the longest coastline and the longest international border of any state in the country. The article is right in that while Palin doesn't have a lot of experience, the experience she has is good."

Where is the *experience* here? Supporters of Palin list roles that she's held, but not what she's done in them. Do we really want to say that being head of the National Guard of Alaska is military experience, when most of the *military* actions and decisions about a state's national guard comes from the Pentagon, not a state capital? Surely, if this experience counts as some sort of Commander in Chief experience for Palin, then Obama's service on Foreign Relations and Veterans Affairs Committees should also count as developing an understanding of military deployment, especially on an international level.

As many like to point out, Alaska is big. But do we have evidence about how Palin protected that coastline or make the state more secure? Did she really even have a chance to in less than 24 months? I'm not attacking her, but I think it is fair to acknowledge that we lack information on her. What has she accomplished or done? I want specifics of what she did, rather than just a list of roles she's held. (I mean, tonight Cindy McCain listed part of Palin's experience as serving on the PTA.)

Palin does seem to have worked for ethics in her state, particularly in her time on the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Committee. But much of the rest of her "reform" record seems checkered and unclear. Increasingly it appears that she has aggressively pursued earmarks in her various elected offices, including some of the very earmarks that McCain himself sharply criticized. Similarly, she seems to have closely worked with Ted Stevens in the past, which doesn't fit with the spin that she has "stood up to her own party."

I even heard McCain say today that Palin understands energy policy better than anyone in Washington. I think Kay Bailey Hutchinson would be surprised to hear this. I find this whole conversation about how they chose Palin for her experience very insulting to other accomplished women.

The Weekly Standard article that someone posted about Obama doesn't say that Obama has no experience. It just reports how racial issues shaped much of his legislative record. That seems at least a slight exaggeration, but even so, it demonstrates a record--as well as participation and leadership in government. What the article--and people across the nation--consistently overlook is that as a state legislator, he sponsored campaign finance reform, as well as a bill that reformed how confessions were gathered, which another poster mentioned. Some news agencies, including the Washington Post, claimed that his bill was the most significant campaign reform in the state of Illinois in the last 25 years. That's hardly failing to leave a mark on the Illinois state government. As a US Senator, he's sponsored ethics reform (a bill that McCain himself praised), and co-sponsored cross-party legislation dealing with missing nuclear material. Again, these are real accomplishments, but ones that people don't talk about.

I have no problem with people who disagree with Obama's policies and those who want to have a discussion about those policies. We're entitled to different opinions about how to best run our government, and I sincerely think such discussions make our nation stronger and better. But I see little policy disagreement in this discussion or elsewhere. Though this has been a more dignified and insightful discussion than many other places on the web, I think there is still a lot of belittling and willful ignorance about Obama's record. It mostly devolves to character discussions and a reignition of the culture wars. Isn't anyone on the right tired of that stuff?

That said, I do think the Obama campaign has done a pretty awful job touting Obama's real political experience and accomplishments. It's clear that things like "community organizer" don't mean anything to people, and I can understand why. The McCain campaign--as comments here indicate--have done an excellent job coming up with a series of bullet points of Palin's "accomplishments," even though when one looks at her record, it can be hard to see the significance of these supposed accomplishments. The Obama camp needs to do a better job at really showing and explaining to people what Obama's experience is. Because--unlike the popular myths and memes--it actually is fairly impressive (especially for someone so young). It's plain wrong and misleading to act as if all the man can do is talk. Are we so jaded and suspicious that we place no value on discourse?


An internet article on politics actually worth reading? I must have smoked something.

"Most politicians, like most people in any line of work, leave no particular mark on the offices they hold. _Their chief accomplishment is winning elections._"
"...massive structural mismatch between its revenue stream and the services voters demanded."

First presidential campaign to use either quote gets my vote!

A different Jamie:

It's probably not productive to engage this too much, but I want to make 2 points:

1. If you watched the speech last night, it's pretty clear who is making the experience comparisons. I think the Democrats response on experience was simply that you can't take McCain that seriously when he says that experience is the most important thing in the election and then picks Palin as his VP. She may have many other admirable qualities (as a reformer or whatever), but certainly she wasn't picked because of experience. And as for the important issues, according to McCain the only important issue is safety and security. She has (as you would expect from someone who has never been in national government) zero experience on that score.

2. As for McCain's experience, there's no doubt it's been longer (though, like Biden, whose service you suggest doesn't count, it's been almost entirely as a Senator). But the point is that experience really doesn't tell you that much. As I mentioned, the current administration has had LOADS of experience, and they've made blunder after blunder, in large part because they're not interested in facts when they might contradict ideology. Perhaps our most successful President, Abraham Lincoln, ran for President with perhaps less experience than any President in history(serving in the Illinois House of Representatives, losing his bid for US Senate, and being most famous for his speeches and debates).

So you can disagree with Obama's ideas (though even McCain's campaign manager doesn't want to get into a debate on "issues"), but let's let the experience thing go and stop trying to scare people into imagining all these horrible things that could happen if a Democrat is elected President (and then to hope no one notices that the Republicans have caused a large number of the problems they bemoan).

I'm very thankful at all the research that has been posted here on the candidates experience, but I think it's pretty much missed the entire point. Palin was not chosen for her experience, if she were, then experience wouldn't be a talking point. Palin was a political choice to get the women vote. That's it. Nothing more. You can go on for paragraphs about mayors of small towns, living close to foreign countries, being a senator etc. but it doesn't make any sense. No one is talking about what qualifications it takes to be the president - and that's all that should matter. I want someone to make an unbiased list of those things in a president that would help us restore our place in the world, keep peace where we can, and save our economy - forget whether you can breast feed your child in the back room of the mayor's office, or that you are black.

Wow, stumbled into a right-winger's convention here...McCain a "breath of fresh air"...? Palin more qualified than Obama? Hmm.. well, the last that I checked, McCain plans to continue the war in Iraq until "victory" is achieved, whatever the hell that specifically means (nobody knows), and before two weeks ago nobody knew who she was. Obama, on the other hand, plans to stop the hemmoraging of taxpayers' money to the Iraqi project and reinvest it in America (which the economy desperately needs) and has been talking the talk consistently for the past year about what he's going to focus on when he's president. I think everybody has to take the candidates at their word when McCain says he's going to continue the war and Obama says he's gonna take that war money and reinvest it in America. McCain has even said out loud that the economy isn't his strong suit and I think in a time when the business evnironment is so poor in America that small business owners can't find a way to stay in business and China fricken owns us, I think it's high time that economy became the issue. At the very least we can rest assured that Obama would reduce the national debt.

The Obama campaign is questioning Palin's lack of foreign policy credentials ... pehaps if Palin took a 9 day whirlwind trip to 6 countries, with lots of photo ops ... then, she'd be able to say she had as much foreign trade credentials as Obama.

What i just don't understand is this modern approach to politics where voters are segmented like markets for business and candidates chosen to match. What happened to the days of charismatic leaders? Palin can not be called charismatic by any stretch of the word.