Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Experience Factor (The Hidden MoDo)

Maureen Dowd responds to the rising voices from the Right Wing Noise Machine who are highlighting Barack Obama's inexperience to scare folks off of his flirtation with a 2008 presidential bid (Haunted by the Past is fully available to Times Select subscribers):
Many Republicans have been tut-tutting about the author of “The Audacity of Hope” having the audacity to hope.

“I think people might want a little more experience than that, given the nature of the times we live in,” Dick Cheney told Sean Hannity.

Charles Krauthammer wrote that, despite Senator Barack Obama’s charms, he could not win in ’08: “The reason is Sept. 11, 2001. The country will simply not elect a novice in wartime.”
When Sonny (aka George W. Bush), as Colin Powell called him, announced his candidacy in 1999, I asked him if it was scary to run for president knowing so little about foreign affairs.

“There will be moments when situations, incidents will flare up,” he replied, blissfully unaware of the conflagration to come. He said he could lean into his dad’s advisers, and trust his gut about which ones to trust and which to “kiss off.”

Yesterday, Senator Obama, asked about his short résumé, made the same claim that judgment is more important than experience. But he acknowledged that President Bush has given learning-on-the-job a bad name.

“I mean, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have an awful lot of experience, and yet have engineered what I think is one of the biggest foreign policy failures in our recent history,” he told The Times’s Anne Kornblut. “So I would say the two most important things are judgment and vision. Well, judgment, vision and passion for the American people, and what their hopes and dreams are.”

Those who declaim on the need for Senator Obama to have more experience must forget who’s running the country. It often seems that the most inexperienced person alive is George W. Bush — even after six years in office.

These might be a few of the reasons that the RWNM voices are rising, from "Obama's New Rules" at Slate:
4. Old liberalism is dead.
Closely allied to the assumption that Democrats can't win because they're too secular is the view that they can't win if they're too liberal. This assumption has steered Hillary Clinton toward the center, following her husband. I tend to share this view myself. But somehow it doesn't seem to apply to Obama, who has excited centrist Democrats and many moderate Republicans while steering clear of the Democratic Leadership Council and earning a perfect-100 score from Americans for Democratic Action in his first year in the Senate. Obama began his political career as a community organizer and civil rights lawyer in Chicago. He is close to unions and voted against CAFTA, the most recent free-trade agreement to come before Congress. His domestic policies are consistently liberal on issues like national health care and affirmative action (though he supports the death penalty in certain circumstances and has not come out for gay marriage). He was a big dove on the Iraq war. None of this seems off-putting to people who would dismiss almost any other candidate with Obama's views.

5. Extreme partisanship works.
Obama can thrive as a liberal because of another paradox: the resonance of his moderate, deliberative style and calls for "common ground." The lesson of recent elections seemed to be that bipartisanship was dead. Congressional gerrymandering, the rise of the Section 527 loophole, and a more partisan media have all contributed to the current, polarized environment. Obama rejects all of this. The main theme of his book is that something has gone wrong with American politics because of how divided, absolutist, and bitter it has become. He invariably tries to see issues through the eyes of his opponents, sometimes to the point of self-parody. Though the call for bipartisanship is the quintessential Washington platitude, it doesn't sound that way coming from Obama. He somehow makes civility, moderation, and compromise into rallying cries.


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