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Are You Experienced?

One of the most common charges levied against Barack Obama and, sometimes, Hillary Clinton as they seek the Democratic nomination for the presidency is that they lack experience. On the one hand, it is perfectly fair to demand to know that a candidate for the highest office in the land has at least a basic level of competency. On the other hand, I'm not sure that experience, in and of itself, is all that it's cracked up to be.

Look at the Bush Administration. Bush had been the governor of Texas. Colin Powell had a lot of military experience (which made him unique among Bush's cabinet picks). Donald Rumsfeld had been involved in Republican administrations as far back as the Nixon Administration. Dick Cheney served as George Bush Sr.'s Secretary of Defense. One might argue that the current administration had plenty of experience.

All that experience, and Bush's approval ratings are in the 30's? We're in an endless unwinnable "war" in Iraq while Osama Bin Laden (you know, the guy who is actually responsible for 9/11) kindly sends us videotapes once in a while and the Taliban are not so quietly retaking Afghanistan. The economy is beginning to tank, again. Decent healthcare is a luxury few can afford. Global warming is treated like a political football, not a real problem, because this administration refuses to believe anything that isn't explicitly spelled out in the Bible. No Child Left Behind leaves children behind in critical thinking skills (that's what it was designed to do). American citizens died in New Orleans because the president was too busy doling out compliments to political appointees to actually order an effective response (or maybe it was because all of the National Guard troops were in Iraq. Hey, at least they're guarding A nation...). The list goes on and on...

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Okay, enough of beating up on the Bushies. I have a somewhat more personal experience with what experience means and doesn't mean. I once worked for an organization (which shall remain nameless) in which all executive level personnel were political appointees. At the top was the Executive Director. She was in her 50's and had lots of "experience" in her field of expertise. She was also one of the most incompetent, reviled, disrespected, inarticulate, thoughtless, and downright destructive (to the organization's mission) persons to ever hold her position.

By contrast, that same organization at ome time hired a new human resources director. Granted, the guy got the gig because he was connected, but the thing that immediately irked the organization's staff was that the guy was only about 26 years old and virtually fresh out of college. This man had very little experience in anything and he was given an executive-level position. The organization's staff collectively rolled its eyes when he came on board. A couple of years passed and he was proven to be very thoughtful, accommodating, and more than competent. Staff commonly admitted that they were skeptical of his abilities in the beginning, but he had proven himself worthy of his job title. And he's a nice guy.

The point that I'm trying to make is that experience, all by itself, is not the be-all / end-all in determining the qualifications of a presidential candidate. Frankly, I think that all of the candidates, Democratic and Republican, are at the very least capable of effectively executing the office of the presidency, policy issues aside. I mean George W. Bush has proven that literally anybody, even a blithering idiot, can be the president. What is important is that the candidate possesses a basic level of intelligence and critical thinking skills that allows for the foundation of good decision-making.

Besides, the more experience one has in this arena usually means that one has become more of a Washington insider, and isn't that something that we want to get away from and bring in some fresh blood?


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