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Obama and the experience deficit
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Interesting article over at Matt Yglesias' place about the phenomenon of Barack Obama. Most interesting is this part of his analysis:
Obama is exactly the sort of politician you would expect to garner favorable press coverage. There's a long tradition in Democratic primaries of a "fresh face" underdog candidate who's plausibly an alternative to "the establishment" but at the same time not a radical who gets treated very kindly by the press until he gets within striking distance of winning the nomination. This is the Gary Hart story, the Paul Tsongas story, the Howard Dean story. Similarly, Obama's combination of somewhat platitudinous rhetoric about finding pragmatic solutions to domestic problems is a perennial media favorite. The domestic issue on which he has the strongest actual profile has to do with energy conservation, which is the pet cause of the American elite. He's good at delivering speeches to large audiences. He's the only candidate in the race with a legitimate media star in her own right — Samantha Power — on his staff.

Generally speaking, I think there's very little that needs explaining about either the source of Obama's electoral appeal to that minority of Democrats who are supporting him or the source of his press coverage.
I've put what I consider the important points in bold. They can be distilled into one sentence: "He looks good and he sounds good, at least in the early going".

And in the early going, that's good enough.

What he presents at this time is a pleasant break from the old war-horses who everyone and their brother knew were going to be contesting this race. He's fresh, he's comes from a unique and compelling background, he's attractive and, risking being called a racist, he's very articulate. With all of that going for him it is hardly surprising he's the media's darling of the moment.

It's the second point, however, that may be his undoing. And that's his substance. I'm not suggesting he personally is without substance, I'm instead saying in reality he is without political substance. In terms of experience, he actually makes John Kerry look like he's done something with his political career in comparison.

Obama has no real record for a politician seeking national office, especially the presidency. So it's not that he's reduced to "somewhat platitudinous rhetoric", it's all he has. That's not to say he can't come up with substantive policy initiatives, but when it comes down to experience outside of wonkery, how does he answer? What does he point too? How does he close the sale?

And more importantly, how long with the media let him get away with just "platitudinous rhetoric"?

Now let's be clear here, the media in general now includes the new media as well as what is commonly known as the MSM. We know a whole bunch of folks who will be pointing to his lack of any executive experience as a major negative within the new media.

Will the MSM feature the problem or will they attempt to bury it? At least one side of the new media won't and my guess is neither will at least one of his primary opponents (the other not being much more experienced than Mr. Obama).

Your guess? Does the MSM overlook the experience factor? Does it focus on it? And, given the weariness of a large portion of the population with anything Bush or Clinton, will it matter either way?

Is Mr. Obama of the type which can overcome this sort of real deficit and remain the media's darling and everyman's hope when the primaries and national elections roll around? Are most Americans tired enough of the "usual characters" that they'll trust the nation to a fresh face, even if that fresh face is horribly inexperienced at any level?

Frankly, at this point, I just don't have a good enough read on the mood of the country to even make an educated guess (although my gut says he ends up as the VP candidate). But it will be very interesting to watch how the experience deficit is marketed and spun, that's for sure.
 
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In terms of experience, he actually makes John Kerry look like he’s done something with his political career in comparison.
On top of it all is that Senators have trouble winning the big one . . . someone with real executive experience has an advantage, and Obama has, well, about as much as I have.

 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
You’re missing a "c" in his first name in the first line.
 
Written By: Ugh
URL: http://
Obama is this elections “Great Minority Hope” like those in the past, Harold Ford, Henry Cisneros and others as a media creation he will shoot across the sky like a Shooting Star, then fade, replaced by the next candidate.

Obama’s problem is lack of experience. He will give Hillary fits, but when the hot air has dissipated, he will not be the Democratic candidate for president.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
I don’t think Obama will survive the primary - Hillary has too much ca$h and organization to overcome (she’ll likely win big in Iowa, like Kerry, and carry that through). Experience won’t be a factor at all in primary (mainly because his rivals can’t point to much more than he can).

If he somehow wins the nomination, he goes down in the presidential election, in no small part due to his race and a heaping helping of "he’s a muslim! Barack Osama Saddam Hussein Madrassa Obama!" This will be enough even without his lack of experience (which I don’t think most people care about anyway).
 
Written By: Ugh
URL: http://
er, make that "with his lack of experience"

And if people really cared abuot experience (as opposed to caring much more about other things), the 2000 election might have turned out differently (and 1992).
 
Written By: Ugh
URL: http://
And if people really cared abuot experience (as opposed to caring much more about other things), the 2000 election might have turned out differently (and 1992).
The winner in both years had at least 8 years executive experience as state governors. So I don’t understand the point you’re trying to make at all.

Obama has done nothing with comparable experience.

If you’re saying that even with that experience the two most recent president haven’t been much to crow about, then I’d agree.

But I don’t believe that negates experience as a desirable factor in selecting the next one.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I think you’re falling victim to conventional wisdom here, McQ. Obama’s chief rivals—Edwards and Clinton—have only marginally more Senate experience than he does. And Obama was a very effective and accomplished state legislator before running for national office. Compare his career to that of George W. Bush before he ran for president. Bush had no experience with national issues and his only political experience was as the governor of a state where the governor has barely any power.

I also take issue with the Yglesias’ suggestion that Obama is somehow insubstantial and "platitudinous." I think that’s unfair. Perhaps the best post I’ve read about Obama’s approach to legislating is this one from Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings. I’m curious what you think about it.

Cheers.
 
Written By: Anonymous Liberal
URL: http://www.anonymousliberal.com
If we’re looking to political experience at the national level (indeed you note "Obama has no real record for a politician seeking national office" (emphasis added)), then I think Gore and Bush I win hands down (not even close, in fact). But I guess the point was that I don’t think voters take the notion of "experience" into much (if any) consideration - especially as compared to other factors. So whether the MSM plays it up or down will matter, at most, at the margins.

Also, I didn’t take it that your point was that what mattered was "executive" experience (you mention it only once), as opposed to general "political" experience. If the former, then obviously Obama has none - but he would have more experience in washington (obviously something that could be a minus) than the most recent two presidents, experience neither Bush II nor Clinton had.

I’d bring up that he was just as experienced as Lincoln (or Eisenhower if we looking at service in elected office), but I don’t think that a valid comparison.

Also, Bush had 6 years of experience, not 8 (not that that matters in the "executive" experience question).
 
Written By: Ugh
URL: http://
Did anyone here read Ehrenstein’s Los Angeles Times editorial on Obama yesterday?

"The Magic Negro"

I’ve been idly considering exactly where to try to put that, and I don’t have my finger on it, yet.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
I think you’re falling victim to conventional wisdom here, McQ.
And I think you’re trying very hard to ignore it.
Compare his career to that of George W. Bush before he ran for president. Bush had no experience with national issues and his only political experience was as the governor of a state where the governor has barely any power.
His career isn’t comparable to Bush’s because Bush had 8 years executive experience behind him when he ran (as governor of one of the largest states in the union). What can Obama point to that is in the least comparable?

Legislative experience is not the same thing which is why Senators rarely win the White House. Legislators haven’t run anything, usually, except their mouths.

In terms of political experience, Clinton has far more than does Obama (not that it means that much but in comparison she at least has a term under her belt). And I said, right in the post, that Edwards had as little or less experience than did Obama.

Sometimes I wonder if you even write what I’ve written before you comment.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Did anyone here read Ehrenstein’s Los Angeles Times editorial on Obama yesterday?
Yup ... and promptly ignored it.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
But I guess the point was that I don’t think voters take the notion of "experience" into much (if any) consideration - especially as compared to other factors. So whether the MSM plays it up or down will matter, at most, at the margins.
Then explain to me why the last senator to win election to the presidency was JFK.

Obviously executive experience does matter to voters since they continue to put those who have it at some level into the White House.

Generals and governors ... both people who’ve had a vast amount of executive experience ... are usually those chosen over Senators (or any other legislator).
Also, I didn’t take it that your point was that what mattered was "executive" experience (you mention it only once), as opposed to general "political" experience.
My bad. But you’d think it would be obvious that past and successful experience in an executive position might be of fundamental importance when considering those running to be the head of the executive branch of government, wouldn’t you?

Everyone has some level of "political experience" but not every politician has executive experience.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Obama’s chief rivals—Edwards and Clinton—have only marginally more Senate experience than he does.
Clinton has years of executive experience in the White House and Arkansas.
Compare his career to that of George W. Bush before he ran for president. Bush had no experience with national issues and his only political experience was as the governor of a state where the governor has barely any power.


Bush had more executive experience before he was gov than Obama has now.
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
Then explain to me why the last senator to win election to the presidency was JFK
JFK’s legislative program was stalled until he was killed and someone else with real executive experience rammed it through . . .

Imagine, if that dork missed Kennedy, we might not have had the Great Society.
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
"...and promptly ignored it."

Why? I thought it was grimly fascinating. I don’t pay close enough attention to that paper to know exactly where they stand in terms of prospective endorsements or what, but I thought it was remarkable for its almost passive-aggressive whack on the guy. "He’s not real," as a matter of culture.

If a view like that gets broad traction, it happens at a far lower level than things like the man’s experience, which is a matter that’ll very likely blow over most voters’ heads, anyway.

This angle is almost visceral.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Why?
It’s a reverse play on the "Great White Hope". Not particularly clever or original in my opinion.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Well, that’s quite true, but again: most voters wouldn’t know "clever or original" if it brought ’em fresh coffee & donuts every hour on the hour.

I’d give a lot to know what the former First Grapple (Hill & Bill) really thought of it.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Obama is exactly the sort of politician you would expect to garner favorable press coverage. There’s a long tradition in Democratic primaries of a "fresh face" underdog candidate who’s plausibly an alternative to "the establishment" but at the same time not a radical who gets treated very kindly by the press until he gets within striking distance of winning the nomination. This is the Gary Hart story, the Paul Tsongas story, the Howard Dean story.
Its also the Jimmy Carter story. If you’re at least stalking 40 you know how well that worked out first hand.

 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
Imagine, if that dork missed Kennedy, we might not have had the Great Society.
That would have been a blessing, but he didn’t so we worship Camelot, and pay for the “Great Society”
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
Did anyone here read Ehrenstein’s Los Angeles Times editorial on Obama yesterday?
I did. It was like the finale of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
This is what I will predict when it comes to Obama:

However far he goes, whether in 2008, 2012, or some other time, it is obvious that after two whole years in the US Senate he has done absolutely nothing to warrant a presidential run. If Obama were a white guy, he would be laughed at for even thinking of running for President, much less actually doing it.

Obama does not have an experience deficit - he is just plain inexperienced, period. What has he done in 2 years? He has pushed to have 2 post offices in Illinois renamed for politicians. That is experience? Has he made a speech which can be called landmark? A policy he stands for? Some incredible move in foreign policy? Nothing. None. Zip. Zilch.

So, my prediction is this: if someone wants to hit Obama in the face with policy, in a debate or during the campaign, Obama will look like the novice he is, and he will bleed until he is emptied of blood. And when that happens, it will not be pretty. So all of those who think Obama is primed to go places, wait until he gets nailed on some policy question in a debate - like Dukakis when Bernard Shaw asked him about capital punishment - and watch Obama go into full meltdown.

My prediction. File it away and wait for it.
 
Written By: Alexander Alt
URL: http://
Obama’s lack of experience at the national level is a draw for many people.

Experience = Multiple Terms = Power = Corruption

What’s the point of voting for that equation?

One definition of insanity is continuing to do the same stupid things over and over while expecting different results...
 
Written By: blackshards
URL: http://www.blackshards.com
I’d give a lot to know what the former First Grapple (Hill & Bill) really thought of it.
They know he’s the "Magic Negro". That’s why they’re gearing up the opo research. As we move closer to January, you can expect a lot of stuff to start showing up in the press, and it won’t be coming from the right.

My guess is she’ll try to cripple him up enough to where he can’t win the primary but not enough for him to sign on as the VP candidate. If anything I wonder if that crew knows the difference between cripple and kill.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Then explain to me why the last senator to win election to the presidency was JFK.

This is where my confusion as to you distinguishing b/t executive and general political experience comes in.

Obviously executive experience does matter to voters since they continue to put those who have it at some level into the White House.

Or other factors about the person elected swamp the executive experience. Let’s go back through the recent presidential elections:

2004: Bush vs. Kerry - if this is about voters preferring, on any level, "executive" experience over legislative I’d be stunned.
2000: Bush vs. Gore - executive experience on both sides.
1996: Clinton vs. Dole - there might be an argument here.
1992: Clinton vs. Bush I - executive experience here.
1988: Bush I vs. Dukakis - same as 1992.
1984: Reagan vs. Mondale - the latter was Veep.
1980: Reagan vs. Carter - again, executive all around.
1976: Carter vs. Ford - same.

I would entertain an argument that the primaries weed out those w/o executive experience (which might be what you were saying).
 
Written By: Ugh
URL: http://
"My guess is she’ll try to cripple him up enough to where he can’t win the primary but not enough for him to sign on as the VP candidate. If anything I wonder if that crew knows the difference between cripple and kill."
I think he’d go for A Walk In The Park if they thought they could get away with it.

I’m not kidding.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Ugh:

I’m sorry but I don’t count VP experience as real executive stuff.

Come on, Al Gore spent 8 years "reinventing government" which really meant .. drop the number of regular government employees and then replace them with consultants.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
2004: Bush vs. Kerry - if this is about voters preferring, on any level, "executive" experience over legislative I’d be stunned.

Well, you had the actual experience of Bush vs. the flip flopping of Kerry. Is it really that hard to see?

2000: Bush vs. Gore - executive experience on both sides.

But in this case you had executive overload. Man, after 8 years of Clinton/Gore? Who wasn’t ready for something new?

1996: Clinton vs. Dole - there might be an argument here.

Puh-Leaze - Dole, has there ever been a less exciting candidate? I voted for Clinton here strictly because I was afraid of a sleepwalking prez.

1992: Clinton vs. Bush I - executive experience here.

So it’s a wash and Bush the elder lied about raising taxes...

1988: Bush I vs. Dukakis - same as 1992.

No - not the same. Dukakis was exposed for what he was and lost any shot at the president because of it.

1984: Reagan vs. Mondale - the latter was Veep.

After Ronnie’s first 4 years, Mondale had no chance.

1980: Reagan vs. Carter - again, executive all around.

You had an executive in CA who did something and an executive in the white house who did nothing. All economic indicators were bad, except for CA. Why not go with the actor?

1976: Carter vs. Ford - same.

Now you are really in the sh!t.. so many things were a mess at this point, not to mention the limited media... think about it, do you really think Carter could make it through a primary today???
 
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
Its also the Jimmy Carter story. If you’re at least stalking 40 you know how well that worked out first hand.
GOD Save us from Jimmy Carter, the bane of America.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
Come on, Al Gore spent 8 years "reinventing government" which really meant .. drop the number of regular government employees and then replace them with consultants.
Then Gore reinvented himself again and again and again infinitely. Former VP John Nance Garner, compared the office to “A warm bucket of Sh*t” The Vice President’s experience is limited to sitting in the Senate during close votes and attending funerals.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
Obama is just starting his national political career. This race is a warmup for him. I don’t expect him to get the nomination, or to win if he does, mostly because of his lack of experience. But that lack of experience has to show up in some way to get people to notice it. The usual thing is for the candidate to make a gaffe that symbolizes the flaw, preferably on camera. If he avoids that, the charge will have difficulty resonating.

By the way, I think Obama’s secret is not his articulation, which while excellent, is not rare among politicians. I think it’s that he doesn’t come across as angry or hyperambitious, as so many other pols do. I see that as stemming from an even temperament, and because his political progress is exceeding his own expectations, and perhaps even his personal goals.

He’s not like Kerry, Gore, Biden, or Clinton, who have been preparing to be President for decades and who have bags full of axes to grind. On the Republican side, only McCain appears to have a chronic case of I-want-to-be-President.
 
Written By: Larry
URL: http://
On the Republican side, only McCain appears to have a chronic case of I-want-to-be-President.
And between that and McCain-Feingold, I have a chronic case of, he-must-not-be-President.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
The "Baby Boomers" are getting old but they have built a economic and military power house. They are use to being in charge. They will not give up being in charge without a fight.

The "Baby Boomers" kids are now taking over and the boomers don’t like it.

Getting old sucks. It sucks worse when you use to be important and now you are shrugged of.
 
Written By: SKyWatch
URL: http://

 
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