Monday, May 14, 2007

The executive experience question and Barack Obama

 Presidential candidate on Iraq and whether his race should be a factor in '08.Play
On the Trail with Barack Obama
ABC News via Yahoo! News - May 13 1:38 PM

Watch the video above of George Stephanopoulos's interview with Barack Obama.

Stephanopoulos asks Obama about the question of executive experience.

The executive experience is a bit different from that of experience in general. It is based mainly on historical precedent. Nearly all previous presidents have had either some experience in the executive branch or some experience in the military.

In substance, the amount of experience either in the executive or military might be very limited though. For example, Abraham Lincoln, the president that Barack likes to compare himself with the most, had no executive experience.

Lincoln's political career closely matched that of Obama's. Lincoln did have limited military experience serving as a captain with the militia during the Blackhawk War, although not on the battlefield. He went on to lead the country during the bloodiest war in its history, and what may be one of its most decisive moments.

Another president often compared to Obama, John F. Kennedy, also lacked experience in executive government. He did serve for a little over three years in the Navy as a patrol boat commander during World War II, but only after his father used his influence to get him accepted. Kennedy had been rejected by the U.S. Army when he tried to enlist because of a bad back.

Certainly, one could question whether the previous experience of these leaders prepared them for the highest executive office in the United States.

Lincoln, who was known as the "Honest Abe" and the "Rail-Splitter" defeated former New York governor and U.S. Secretary of State William Henry Seward, Sr. and former Ohio governor Salmon Portland Chase in the Republican primary. He became the first Republican president by defeating among others, Southern Democrat John Cabell Breckinridge, a former U.S. Vice President, Confederate general and Confederate Secretary of War.

In the current election, none of the Democratic front-runners has executive or military experience. Bill Richardson serves as Governor of New Mexico and Dennis Kucinich is a former mayor.

Of the Republican front-runners, Rudy Giuliani is a former mayor while John McCain has command military experience and Mitt Romney is a former governor.

However, former mayors without other more significant military or executive experience don't really have historical precedent behind them either.

About the closest thing to executive experience for Barack Obama is his work as a community organizer.

It's a new thing for sure, but Barack will be a first in many ways. His community organizing background is what makes him attractive to many people.

But can Barack be decisive?

We should remember that although most presidents had some type of military or elected/appointed executive experience it most often was not of the type that prepares one to become President of the United States.

When then-Senator John F. Kennedy defeated then-Vice President Richard Nixon, we have to say that executive experience wasn't the deciding factor. Voters can decide on decision-making capabilities using factors other than past experience.

Leadership often involves charisma. The greatest leaders in history were reputed for their charisma. Obama has charisma.

Decisiveness can be seen in the manner in which a candidate behaves in head-to-head debates, on tough issues and during the grueling portions of the campaign.

Much has been made of Obama's answer to the question on a terrorist attack during the South Carolina debate, but in fact his reply was the most cool-headed and methodical of them all.

Rather than responding with the expected emotional reaction, Obama said first he would respond to the victims of the attack, the people who are already in need. Then, he would seek to secure the nation against any possible further attack. After that, he would first seek to identify and target those who carried out the attack, not simply bomb the capitals of Iran, Syria or Libya for the sake of getting your licks in.

The idea is to stop the terrorists and not pile skulls to the sky thinking this will deter further attacks. The terrorists know that unfocused retaliation against super-generalized "enemies" only helps their cause. Look at what happened in Iraq.

16 Votes

Walk for Change


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