What Kind of Experience?by Stephen Littau
In the 2008 presidential campaign, there has been much discussion about which candidates have the most experience. John McCain criticized Mitt Romney’s lack of service experience as most of Romney’s experience was gained in business and “making profits” (as if that were a bad thing). John McCain, on the other hand, served his country in the Navy as a fighter pilot, as a representative, and as a Senator. John McCain has by far the most Washington experience than anyone remaining in the race, but does this in itself somehow make him more qualified to serve as president than his recently dispatched Republican rivals, Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama?
I think not.
On the Democrat side, we have Hillary Clinton criticizing Barack Obama’s lack of experience (this from a woman who has served in the U.S. Senate less than one term longer than the “inexperienced” Barack Obama). But if one were to compare their biographies side-by-side, one would see that their levels of experience are quite similar. Both have spent most of their careers in the legal profession and as activists and neither of them have any significant real-world business experience. Both also had a relatively easy path to the Senate (Hillary’s opponent was Rick Lazio after Rudy Giuliani dropped out of the race due to health problems and marital scandals; Obama’s opponent was the a completely unelectable carpet bagger Alan Keys after Obama’s original opponent was forced to drop out of the race because of a scandal). When it comes to actual legislative accomplishments, their combined resumes could fit on one side of a business card.
The lack of legislative experience seems to be the main criticism of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama from the right, but is this the right criticism?
I think not.
If one were to look at the legislative experience of all of the Libertarian Party presidential candidates, one would find that they are virtually non-existent (which should come as a surprise to no one since there are no elected Libertarians in the House or the Senate; most elected Libertarians are small town mayors and city council members). About the only “legislative accomplishment” one might be able to point to in the current field of Libertarian presidential candidates would be Steve Kubby’s successful efforts in 1996 to pass a citizen’s initiative in California called Proposition 215 which legalized the use of medical marijuana.
Does the lack of legislative accomplishments on the part of the Libertarian presidential candidates in itself disqualify any of them from being the next president of the United States?
I think not.
Actually, the accomplishments of many of the Libertarian candidates are quite impressive. Daniel Imperato is an international businessman who has worked in telecommunications, office building development, shopping malls, sports arenas, and is a consultant for Fortune 500 companies. Bob Jackson is an engineer, entrepreneur, and inventor. Jackson’s achievements in these areas are too numerous for me to list to keep this article readable. Wayne Allen Root is a self-made millionaire who made his fortunes on sports betting and in business. He’s considered by some to be one of the world’s best odds makers and prognosticators in sports (which he has also translated this success into picking winners in politics, business, and gaming). It seems to me that someone who knows how to manage businesses by managing risks by predicting outcomes would be a great fit as president.
As impressive as many of these accomplishments from real world experiences are, no one outside of libertarian circles has ever heard of any of these individuals or their accomplishments. If experience really mattered to the voting public, these individuals would at least receive some consideration.
Does this mean that candidates running for office, including president (especially president) are often supported by voters for arbitrary reasons which have absolutely nothing to do with experience?
I think so.
Rather than focus on what a particular candidate’s past experience, maybe we should instead focus on what we will all experience if his or her policy proposals are realized.