Experience and the Presidency

One frequent criticism of Obama by Republicans (and many Democrats, especially before he received the nomination) is that he is inexperienced. I’ve never bought that argument because experience does not imply competence. Experience might help in some cases but I believe a president will be good regardless of past political experience. I’m also biased against career politicians because I really don’t think we should have as many career politicians as we do have. I would be happy to vote for someone for president who has zero past political experience, as long as that person seems competent and has similar social, economic, and political views to my own (at least as far as possible). I would also be happier if our Congressmen and Senators served a maximum of two or three terms (Congressmen could probably serve 5-6 terms). I don’t think we should legislate term limits; I think it should just be the “right thing to do.” This would keep Congress fresh and would hopefully reduce corruption. Experience doesn’t matter, aptitude and personality do.

Some from Obama’s campaign (including himself) and many outside his campaign compare Obama’s experience (or lack thereof) to Abraham Lincoln’s experience (or lack thereof) before being elected president. This comparison is great for Obama because Lincoln is widely viewed as the best president the U.S. has ever had. I agree (although I might put Washington first) but this view is a little ironic because Pres. Lincoln had very low approval ratings during his presidency and he was just barely re-elected. His greatness was only widely apparent in hindsight. “Lack of experience” is about the only thing Obama and Lincoln have in common.

Obama and Lincoln have very different views on social issues and government. Lincoln would be known as a social conservative today – he based many of his policies on his personal moral and religious beliefs (his personal religious beliefs factored very heavily into his policies; it is ironic that so many Democrats and liberals hold Lincoln in such high esteem as a president yet are disdainful of modern politicians who allow their personal religious beliefs to influence their policies).

Lincoln also suspended civil liberties (suspended habeus corpus) during the civil war, which any self-respecting Democrat today would be abhorred by (isn’t that the reaction to some of Pres. Bush’s “restrictions” on civil liberties?). Lincoln also vetoed very few bills because Congress made the laws and he should only rarely veto (sound familiar? – Pres. Bush has the same philosophy).

Lincoln was fairly moderate (Obama certainly is not moderate, no matter what his campaigning makes him sound like). Lincoln was also a firm believer in economic liberalism (which is a free-market hands off approach; it’s basically today’s libertarianism). Obama’s economic policies are nothing like that. I could keep going with the differences between the two but will end there.

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