Wednesday, September 3, 2008
By picking the wildly unqualified one-term governor of Alaska as his running mate, John McCain has put a giant spotlight on Brack Obama's own complete lack of qualifications to be president. Though the majority of the press has chosen to highlight Sarah Palin's inexperience and ignore Obama's, their resumes are similar.
One could actually argue that Palin's background prepares her slightly better for the White House should her ticket win and something befall John McCain. Both Palin and Obama have spent less than a full term in their current jobs and Obama has spent much of his time in office running for president.
It can also be argued that being a governor - a largely administrative job like the presidency - prepares you more for the big desk in the Oval Office. Obama does come from a more populous state, but it's not like being a first-term senator from Illinois gives you a lot of foreign policy experience.
I don't remember there being any treaties negotiated between the Chicago Cubs and North Korea anymore than I remember Alaska playing an important role in peace discussions in the Middle East. Realistically, neither Obama nor Palin has the experience to be president. Palin's presence in the race forces people to look at Obama's actual qualifications, not the bright ideals he supposedly represents.
Palin got picked because she's a woman who by political standards is pretty. Though she has frighteningly rigid views on abortion, she's a mom with five kids who might help McCain pull in some wayward former Hillary Clinton voters. Everyone knows that her selection reeks of pandering, but that never seems to bother the people being pandered to.
Realistically, Obama got nominated because he's charming and articulate. He speaks of grand ideas, at least in a vague way, and promises something different from what we have now. He offers no concrete details on how he might exact these changes, but he knows how to get a crowd going and he most certainly represents a major change from the Bush administration.
Clever speeches and buckets of idealism don't count as experience and Obama has a lot of the former, but nearly none of the latter. He'd make an excellent vice presidential candidate but his charisma and verbal skills put him on the big stage before he had actually accomplished enough to deserve to be there.
The mainstream media has chosen to ignore this, however, and has largely chosen to not question Obama's experience while spending days laughing at McCain's seemingly foolish pick. The Republican party understood what McCain was doing though and began hammering their nominee's point home for him.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and other McCain surrogates hit the talk shows last weekend and waited for the questions about Palin's lack of experience. When they came, and you had to know they were coming, they answered by comparing Palin's experience to Obama's.
Subtly unsaid was that Palin isn't running for president and would at least have some time to learn as vice president while Obama would immediately be leading the country. You can't possibly argue that Palin is ready to be president and if you cede that point than it's hard to argue the same can't be said of Obama.
I'm not eager for a McCain presidency and I question whether being a senator really prepares you for being president. Still, an experienced senator backed by an inexperienced governor simply presents a stronger ticket than one headed by a senator who masks his total lack of preparedness for the job by being really charming.
Daniel Kline's work appears in over 100 papers weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.