Factoring in Experience

In considering the candidates, one must consider Obama’s lack of experience in national and international politics. But how much wieght does this carry and how do you evaluate it?

President Bush represents one worst case scenario. As a fledgling president, he came under the control of a small group of people with a minority, highly militaristic view and through him they were able to implement views that were generally regarded as far fetched. In conjunction with that Vice President Cheney filled the vacuum of power created by neophyte president, and assumed primary control of domestic energy policy as well as p.r. responsibilities for the drum beat of war.

The undue influence of the neocons certainly contributed Bush’s rush in the direction exactly opposite to that which he promised. Bushes campaign, if you recall, included an unconditional promise to unite the nation and under no circumstances would he permit us to engage in nation building. Exactly the opposite of course has become the defining character of his presidency.

Predictability of policy is certainly a risk in choosing a president without experience. Clinton with his talk about national health care raised hopes for a liberal administration, but his policies proved to be directly in line with Reagan’s. Actually he succeeded in balancing the budget, a classic conservative goal that has been long abandoned by the Republican Party, at least during Republican presidencies of the past half century or so.

Reagan had no experience but gave what he promised, as did Carter. So I guess that it is fair to say that an inexperienced president creates a greater risk of heading in a direction that could not have been anticipated from his campaign.

Another risk is that a president might panic in a crisis. Despite the fact that most of the presidents we have elected in recent years have had little experience, we have not seen much panic, other than perhaps seeing a president decline to interrupt reading a children’s book when told we were under attack, then disappearing for a day while the vice president ran the country.

Kennedy’s willingness to launch a nuclear war over the Cuban missile crisis may perhaps have been due to a lack of experience. Recent revelations have certainly been shocking. But all in all there has been little evidence of anyone become overwhelmed and panicking while at our country’s helm.

It is interesting to think that Obama with one plus years in the Senate has more national political experience than any first term president since 1968, Nixon’s first term, with the exception of George H. W. Bush.

My conclusion is that, with the caveat that we cannot predict as well what he will do, there is not much risk in choosing a president who has little national political experience.

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