In my book, experience is only worth a tinker’s dam if it comes in one of two flavors:
- Successful accomplishments, or
- Learning from your mistakes.
Anything else isn’t experience, but existence. As in, “Delta Tau Chi has a long tradition of existence both to its members and the community at large.” The facts that one has lived in Washington or slept in the White House do not make one qualified to run this country — and they certainly do not make you “Ready on Day One” to do so.
So, what do Clinton, Obama, and Edwards have in their backgrounds?
Well, Hillary spent 8 years in the White House as first lady. In that time the only major initiative she took on (Health care) was a complete flop. The reasons for this are well documented, and include both the way in which she ran the effort and the decision by her husband to give NAFTA a higher priority than health care when spending his political capital.
In her years as a senator, Ms. Clinton has been an effective senator for her adopted state of New York. She has been skilled at obtaining earmarks and has passed a handful of bills that she touts in some of her television ads. But, she voted to support the use of force in Iraq. She does not consider the vote to be a mistake, but rather the fault of those who provided information about the situation (Notice, however, that others such as Dennis Kucinich were able to figure out that voting for the use of force in Iraq was a Bad Idea…). She later voted for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment about Iran.
John Edwards rose from humble beginnings of which I’m sure you have already heard. He went to law school and became a successful trial lawyer, doing very well for himself in malpractice and related disciplines. He served one term in the senate, also voting for the war in Iraq. He, however, has taken the admirable step of admitting a mistake and has tried to learn from it. Edwards ran for VP in 2004 and was unable (along with John Kerry of course) to carry his home state in the general election. He has since worked on the issues of poverty and work in North Carolina.
Barack Obama spent 8 years in the Illinois senate, passing significant legislation such as reform of the death penalty system and expansion of health care coverage. He taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. In his three years in the Senate he has sponsored and passed extensive ethics reform, and he has traveled to the former Soviet republics to make progress on controlling loose nuclear weapons. On both of these initiatives he brought Republicans as well as Democrats into the fold to work together on important topics.
It boggles the mind that Hillary somehow equates her time in Washington with valuable experience, or that she tosses around numbers like 35 years with a straight face. Her only major initiative during the white house years was a complete failure. She was wrong on the Iraq war, and not only refuses to admit her mistake but compounded it by voting for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment. That kind of stubbornness and inability to learn from mistakes is what we see in the Bush-Cheney White House, and is certainly not what we need in 2008.
Experience is more than time served. Experience has to include good judgment. Being Ready to Lead means getting it right the first time, and being a leader also means learning from mistakes and recognizing when it is time to change course.
Barack Obama has a track record of 11 years in elective office — longer than either of his two opponents. He has a track record of bringing people together to accomplish significant good, reforming government, and bringing help to working families. He has a track record of self sacrifice, of working on things more important than his own aggrandizement, and being able to motivate others to do the same.
That’s the kind of experience this country needs right now, and that is why I’m supporting Barack Obama.