Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Question of Experience

Over the past months I've listened to the candidates jab back and forth on the personal qualifications for themselves or lack thereof of the opposition. Of course they share one driving trait, a desire to become President and bask in the status that office bestows. What strikes me in these sales pitches is the absolute lack of intelligent/thoughtful dialogue with the American People.

Clearly the political machines of both the Democratic and Republican parties have come to the same conclusion. The "people" are sheep and need only to be feed the appropriate sound bites to herd them in the right direction. I would like to talk for a few moments about experience and the role it plays in our President.

I believe it has been only a recent device in the campaign rhetoric to focus on political or foreign policy experience. I think we've gone through over 200 years of electing Presidents where it was understood the value of the man (or to be liberally correct the person) is judged on everything else. George Washington, for example was revered by the population, and political leaders as almost a saint, and became the consensus 1st President. He had led the Continental Army through defeat after defeat yet managed to hold it together through his personal strength of character. This was the quality that lead to his selection, not political or foreign policy experience.

How about Abraham Lincoln? He failed in election campaign after election campaign, what about him spoke to experience of any kind? Yet today he is viewed as one of our great wartime Presidents, and the decisions he made regarding the preservation of the Nation and elimination of Slavery speak for themselves. I wonder what kind of nation we would be had he not been elected, or how better a nation we might have become if he had not been assassinated?

As far as I know there are but a handful of individuals who came into their first campaign for President with the ability to cite their "experience." They are, of course, those Vice Presidents who rose to office through the death of the incumbent and campaigned from the White House. As a whole how successful were they and how much did that on the job training provide? All in all I don't see them as vastly better or significantly worse than any of the others. Roosevelt and Truman stand out as shining examples of good people who did a good job. Johnson and Johnson would get mixed reviews in my book. Of course we all remember the great legacy of Arthur, Fillmore, Coolidge and Tyler don't we?

In a recent speech I heard Sarah Palin bolster John McCain with the line something like --Obama promises all the things he will do, John McCain can show all the things he has done. I have to admit voting for McCain comes with a mixed set of blessings for me, he is a Washington insider, and as such will be isolated and controlled by those Washington forces. Much like U.S. Grant during his terms. Obama, on the other hand makes grandiose promises, inspires the youth of our nation and perhaps can motivate change, but he is a product of the Chicago/Illinois political machine and I suspect at the end of the day will be as controllable as any long term Washington politician. The thing that sways me is I have a track record of McCain voting his conscience, and Obama voting the politically expedient choice.

We should not elect a President who will lead which ever way the polls indicate, we must elect a President who will make the hard choices and stand behind them. Judge the man based on the choices he has made, good, bad, and otherwise. Chose the one who will offer the best chance to unify and strengthen our country and no matter what else happens you can live with yourself.
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