Ohhh, But Are You Experienced? Have You Ever Been Experienced?


The men of Powerline serve up a perfect example of Republican opinion on Barack Obama.

Unless one counts his good looks, good speaking, and bi-racial status, it's difficult to discern Obama's qualifications for the presidency. Obama has never run anything of substance… A serious country would not take his candidacy seriously.

The last open election for the White House pitted Al Gore against George W. Bush. Gore had been in national politics for 24 years; eight years each as congressman, senator, and vice president. Bush had been the governor of Texas for six years, and before that a businessman with—let's be nice about it—a mixed record of achievements. Still, the Bush campaign tried to present their candidate as a man who'd lived in the real world and the corporate world versus this orange-colored hack who'd grown up in Washington, D.C. and never really left. Fifteen percent of voters cast their ballot based on experience. Gore won them by sixty-five points. But Bush had beaten Gore soundly on the questions of trustworthiness, likeability, and being a strong leader, which more voters cared about, so he won (despite getting fewer votes overall etc etc).

The point is that voters don't make their presidential decisions (arguably any political decisions, but especially presidential ones) based on a checklist of the factors that make a good president. The issues change every four years. And there are two possibilities for 2008. One: We learn that 21,500 extra troops were what was standing between total defeat and total victory in Iraq, and George W. Bush becomes the most beloved president since Jed Bartlet. Two: Iraq gets worse, the Bush presidency continues to crumble, and voters want to scramble away from the legacy of the last eight years faster than the audience at an Uwe Boll movie. If we find ourselves living in that second scenario, a cipher like Obama (especially if he colors in his bio by talking about cutting spending and getting out of Iraq) is exactly who Americans will want to elect. They won't necessarily be "unserious" for wanting to, either.

Republican grumbling about Obama is probably all about projection, anyway. Republicans have been gunning to elect the first black president for a while, hence the 1996 Colin Powell boomlet, the 2005 Condi Rice boomlet, and the 2006 efforts to elect a black Republican farm team to office in Pennsylvania (Swann), Maryland (Steele) and Ohio (Blackwell).