The Experience Factor

It seems that all manner of media have decided to rip Hillary Clinton a new one for claiming to be more experienced than her leading opponents because of her time as first lady. People are asking if Laura Bush’s status as first lady qualifies her to run for president, without acknowledging that various first ladies have different ways of serving as first lady.

A better question in this case might be whether or not Eleanor Roosevelt’s time as first lady qualified her to run for president, and there are many who might answer yes to that question. Hillary Clinton was more active than most as first lady. Comparing her to Laura Bush, who has been a fairly inactive, figurehead type of first lady, is like comparing an apple to an orange – or at least like comparing a grocery store apple to one fresh out of the orchard.

I also find it interesting that the same media attacking Hillary Clinton for her lack of experience don’t seem to be attacking any of her opponents – either Democratic or Republican – for their own deficiencies. Where are the pundits to talk about Barack Obama’s lack of experience, or John Edwards’, or Rudy Giuliani’s, or Mitt Romney’s, or Fred Thompson’s, or Mike Huckabee’s? None of these candidates have much experience in the federal government, most have little or no foreign policy experience, and some have little governing experience, period.

Take Rudy Giuliani (please, take him). Some pundits have been saying that Clinton’s lack of experience may be a problem for her when she comes up against a more experienced Republican opponent. But if Giuliani is the Republican front runner, what experience does he offer? Yes, he served as the mayor of New York for seven years. This gave him no federal experience and no real foreign policy experience, certainly nothing beyond the foreign policy experience of, for example, a very active first lady.

On the Democratic side, neither Barack Obama nor John Edwards can boast more experience than Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama has served in the U.S. Senate for just shy of three years, only half a term, and prior to that he served as an Illinois state senator for seven years. He has no executive experience, very little federal experience, and no foreign policy experience aside from his brief service on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

John Edwards’ lack of experience is even more glaring. His governmental experience includes only one term as a U.S. senator, yet he feels that this experience qualifies him to run for president. Aside from his service on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, he has no foreign policy experience whatsoever.

To me, it seems that Barack Obama’s and John Edwards’ lack of experience, especially in the area of foreign policy, should be the subject spoken of by media pundits. Whether or not Hillary Clinton’s experience as first lady “counts” seems less important when faced with two candidates who have no experience at all.

If people are looking for the most experienced candidates, they need to look past the front runners from both parties. They might, for example, look toward Joe Biden – a senator for nearly 35 years and current chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has been working in the field of foreign relations since finishing college, and he served for a year as President Clinton’s ambassador to the United Nations and for about two and a half years as his Secretary of Energy. Chris Dodd and Dennis Kucinich also boast resumes that make the three Democratic front runners look like amateurs.

Among the Republicans, most candidates have more experience than media-anointed front runners Giuliani, Romney, Thompson, and Huckabee. Duncan Hunter has served in the U.S. House of Representatives for almost 27 years and is the former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (now its ranking member). John McCain, now all but repudiated by his party, has served in Congress for 25 years and is the ranking member of the Senated Armed Services Committee. Even Ron Paul, dismissed by most, has a more impressive resume than the front runners, having served in Congress on and off since 1976.

Of course, I doubt the media are really looking to point out all the front runners’ weaknesses. And based on past elections, I know they don’t care who the most experienced candidates actually are. No, what this is really about is tearing down Hillary Clinton. They might be doing a good job of that, but in case they’ve forgotten, that’s not their job.


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