Monday, May 21, 2007

Experience for President

Last night I was listening to a community radio station dj interview a local band member (both sounded about college aged or mid to late 20s) and the conversation turned to politics, with both guys agreeing that they found all the Democratic presidential candidates problematic--Hillary was a sell-out, insider politician who panders to every group possible. And Barack, well, they like Barack, but they are concerned with his "lack of experience" and hence, they are supporting John Edwards, mostly because of his work on poverty.

So there are a few problems with their support of Edwards over Obama. First thing, Edwards only ran for one public office in the state of North Carolina (the Senate) and he didn't even serve out his full term because he was running for for President--he didn't get the nod but did get picked to serve as VP, which is something people seem to forget when they cite Obama's lack of experience as a reason not to vote for him--I mean, Edwards did the same thing, although perhaps people also cited lack of experience at his candidacy, I can't quite recall. And while I think that he has done some good public service and that, in particular, the policy he is trying to enact for funding students to go to college is admirable and far thinking in its scope, I also have a hard time swallowing how serious he is about poverty given the lavishness of his home, which was featured in Newsweek magazine (I mean, $5 million dollars--do you really NEED a $5 million dollar estate???!!!).

Finally, it's the experience charge against Obama that I find hardest to swallow. Obama has served in both the Illinois State Congress as well as the U.S. Senate (granted, he is a junior senator, but still, he is serving and is on a few impressive committees, like Foreign Relations). He worked as a grassroots communitiy activist in the South Side of Chicago right after graduation for a few years, decided he needed a law degree to do the things he really wanted to do in terms of community activism, graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 1991 with his pick of top tier firms, but turned down these corporate offers to work for a firm in Chicago that focused on Civil Rights litigation. He has YEARS of working with different local, civic, state, and now federal committees and organizations--he has clear experience in dealing with various constituencies, and he has lived in so many different regions of the U.S.--Hawaii, California, New York, Illinois, and now Washington DC. His experience, both politically and personally, I think speaks for itself.

So when people choose to support Edwards over Obama and cite experience, what do they really mean? Edwards is only 8 years older than Obama. He has years more experience in the courtroom as a trial lawyer, a lucrative career that put his current personal worth somewhere between $12-60 million dollars (I don't know why such a wide span--I'm getting this from an internet source on, but does his experience as a trial lawyer or his personal wealth give him experience to be President? Or is it that Edwards looks the role--has the right sounding name, the right profile, the right look to be President? Couldn't it be that people, subconsciously, just don't believe that Obama "looks" like Presidential material, and so they resort to an inaccurate assessment of his experience?

If the shoes fits....

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