February 5th, 2008


Oh, and as for the "experience" thing...

It may be too late -- many people will already have voted before they see this -- but one more relevant point while I think on it:

The Clinton campaign has been hammering home the issue of "experience" for months now. The implication is that Obama doesn't have enough experience to be President, and that Clinton does. In my opinion, it's nonsense. History says that "experience" is, at best, a modest benefit to a new President. Many of the worst Presidents had lots of prior executive experience; many of the best didn't.

There are some ways in which "experience" matters, but as far as I can tell it's of specific kinds. It's important that the President have clear skill at building and running a large, smoothly-running organization. Obama has demonstrated that quite ably in the past few months -- his campaign has been a model of brilliant organization, centralized and decentralized in just the right ways, and has succeeded in taking on a well-oiled election machine that everyone assumed would handily deliver the nomination to Clinton.

Despite everyone's desire for an "outsider", it's also important that the President know how to navigate the highways and byways of Washington -- to know how to get business done. Again, Obama seems to be fine. While he may not be quite the consummate insider that Hilary has become, he's been a good Senator, and he's demonstrated that he's a quick study in how real politics works.

The thing is, everyone keeps comparing him with Deval Patrick, and assuming that he's going to make the same (mostly fairly modest) mistakes that Patrick made at first. And I'm sorry folks, but that's not only rubbish, it has a casually racist tinge I dislike. The comparison is there mostly because they're both charismatic, young black politicians; if they weren't, people wouldn't be making the association. The fact is, they are different precisely *in* the area of experience. Patrick came to office with *no* real political experience: he had been a capable civil servant, but that was pretty much it. Of course he made rookie political errors -- he was a rookie politician. Obama, by contrast, has years of experience in down-and-dirty local politics, and four years as a Senator, deep in the center of Washington. It's an apples-to-oranges comparison, and an inappropriate one.

So let's be explicit: I think the experience thing is a non-issue. Yes, Obama will make some mistakes. So will Clinton, so will McCain or whoever it is who gets elected. They'll be different mistakes, but the politician hasn't been born who *hasn't* made lots of mistakes when in the big chair, regardless how much or what sort of experience they had had before. But none of these people are stupid or naive -- they wouldn't have gotten this far in this tough election if they were -- and this whole "issue" is largely a smoke-screen as far as I'm concerned...

One last thing...

It has occurred to me this morning that I've actually started *enjoying* the current race. That hasn't happened in a long time, and it's a delightful change of pace.

Stepping back, it's clearly because, for the first time in a long time, I broadly respect the remaining candidates. With (as always) the notable exception of Romney, I think they're all pretty sincere and principled folks, even the extreme ones. I mean, Ron Paul may be a bit of a nutjob and Huckabee a theocrat, but they both appear to be decent and honest, even if I think they're poorly suited to be President due to tunnel-vision.

And with it looking like McCain will probably coast to the Republican nomination, we're probably left with three plausible candidates, none of whom disgust or terrify me. That's incredibly refreshing. I've been standing in political smog for so many years, I had almost forgotten what a little clean air smells like. There's a very real chance of a final election where I get to vote *for* somebody, instead of simply *against*...