Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Fallacy in the Argument that Obama Lacks the Experience Needed to Be President

I've noticed a fundamental illogic in claims that Obama does not have experience sufficient to be President - an illogic that deserves to be called out.

Here's how it goes: Against the claim that Obama does not have enough national experience to be President, his supporters (including me) cite JFK and Theodore Roosevelt - two great Presidents who were criticized when first running for or assuming the office, as being too inexperienced to make a good President. To which Obama's opponents are quick to reply: yes, but JFK (Congressman for six years, Senator for eight) and Theodore Roosevelt (Governor of New York for two years, Vice President of the United States for less than a year)had much more experience than Obama.

Well, first, regarding Roosevelt, I'd question whether his experience was more or better than Obama's - though I'd be willing to concede that being VP even for six months is certainly impressive.

Much more important, however, is how the actual prior experience of JFK and Roosevelt misses the point regarding Obama: because, just as in the case of Obama, both candidates were derided for their inexperience when they ran for President in 1960 (JFK) and Vice President in 1900 (Roosevelt). JFK was told he should be patient, and let one of his elders in the Democratic Party get the nomination. (Sound familiar?) And when Roosevelt was elected McKinley's Vice President, Republican politico Mark Hanna infamously told his friends, "You've put that damn cowboy within a heartbeat of the presidency."

Tragically, Hanna's nightmare came true when McKinley was assassinated. But its ending was one of the greatest Presidents in American history, as Theodore Roosevelt moved America into the 20th century with flair and wisdom.

I expect Barack Obama will do the same for our country in the 21st.
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