Saturday, August 30, 2008

Palin Has More Experience Than Obama

THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: In what has become the most laughable argument used by Obama supporters against Governor Sarah Palin, the issue of her "experience" as a leader has been pushed to the forefront. The argument is simply this. Sarah Palin is not "experienced" enough to be the vice presidential nominee because she's only been governor of a state (with a small population) for two years.

Now before we compare and contrast the differences between Palin and Obama, let's examine the merits of the argument. Admittedly, on the surface, the argument does have value. We could say that Palin is indeed an inexperienced leader in comparison to someone who has served as governor of a state for a much longer period of time - such as Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee for example. Indeed, compared to Washington political veterans like Senator John McCain, and even Senator Joe Biden, Governor Palin is very green and inexperienced. So if this election were about experience alone, then we could say those who criticize Palin on this have a point to be reckoned with. However, it's ironic (and considerably humorous) that those who make such criticisms do so in defense of Senator Barack Hussein Obama, who happens to be just as green and inexperienced. Obama entered high-level (national) politics just three and a half years ago, and most of the time he's spent in the U.S. Senate since then has been campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination. That's hardly a "long and distinguished" career. 

Sarah Palin was sworn in as the Governor of Alaska on December 4th, 2006.  That means she's been functioning as governor for about 21 months.  Unlike Obama, she's had no other campaigns running until last Friday, so she's been able to dedicate that time exclusively to the job of running the state.  

Obama was sworn in as the U.S. Senator from Illinois in January of 2004, which means he's held that office for approximately 55 months as of today.  However, he began his presidential campaign in February of 2007, just 36 months after he took office.  It is at that point, after just 36 months in the U.S. Senate, that Obama (and his supporters) believed he was qualified to hold the office of President of the United States.  All so-called "experience" after this time frame was split between his Senate commitments and his presidential campaign.  So what we're comparing here is Palin's 21 months of undivided "experience" to Obama's 36 months of undivided "experience."  It seems to me, and I would dare say to most voters, that if 36 months in the U.S. Senate is all the "experience" required to run for President of the United States, than certainly 21 months as a state governor is enough "experience" to run for Vice President of the United States.  I mean, fair is fair, right?  If Obama is qualified to be President at 36 months "experience," then certainly Palin is qualified to be Vice President at 21 months experience.

But that's not the only kind of experience we're talking about.  Barack Obama also served in the Illinois State Senate from 1997 to 2004.  That's a good eight years of "experience" in smaller state government.  So in all, Obama had exactly ten years of total political "experience" in elected office before he (and his supporters) decided he was "experienced" enough to run for President of the United States in February of 2007.

Sarah Palin, on the other hand, began her political career as an elected official in 1992, a good five years before Obama ever held an elected office.  She served as a member of the Wasilla City Council until 1996.  She then went on to serve as mayor of the city from 1996 to 2002 - for a total of 10 years of political "experience." After that, Governor Murkowski appointed Palin to the office of Ethics Commissioner of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, where she served from 2003 to 2004. That year in appointed office would be critical to her political career, as she resigned in protest over state internal corruption. After she resigned, Palin exposed the state Republican Party's chairman, who was accused of doing work for the party on public time and supplying a lobbyist with sensitive information. Palin filed formal complaints against both the chairman and the Alaska Attorney General, who both resigned in disgrace. In 2006 she launched her campaign to become governor of the state and in December of that year, she was sworn in. So in total, Sarah Palin has had at least ten years and twenty months "experience," as an elected official, before she was nominated to the office of Vice President of the United States. This does not include the one year she served as an appointed state officer, nor the time she spent rooting out corruption in the Alaska state government.

So to compare, Obama (and his supporters) believed he was "experienced" enough to become President of the United States after just ten years of holding an elected office of some type. While Palin (and her supporters) believe she is "experienced" enough to become Vice President of the United States after exactly ten years and twenty months of holding some kind of elected office, and one year of appointed office. Now isn't that interesting? Both Obama and Palin had almost the exact same amount of "experience" time in elected office, before they (and their supporters) believed they were ready for the Whitehouse. The only difference being that Palin has almost one more year "experience" in elected office than Obama, and one more year in a high appointed office, which Obama did not hold.  So when it comes to actual time of "experience" in official government capacity, Palin beats Obama by almost two years.  So the question remains, why do Obama supporters downgrade her experience over his?  How is twelve years of political experience somehow less than ten years?  Is it because she's a woman?  Does her being a wife and mother somehow diminish her longer time of "experience" in elected public office?

But supporters of Obama will often cite the type of "experience" when confronted with the fact that Palin has actually served more time. They'll point out that Obama was a State Senator, and a U.S. Senator, which are much higher offices than City Council and Mayor. To which I will concede that these are much higher offices in the sense that they are a function of higher government. But if we're going to talk about "type" of experience, then we cannot exclude the "type" of jobs Obama and Palin were doing during those times. For the entire duration of Obama's political career, he served as a legislator. He did not govern anything. There is a difference. A legislator writes laws, and lobbies to get them passed. Aside from public appearances and campaigning, that's about all a legislator does. He doesn't have to sign budgets, and he doesn't even have to submit them. He doesn't have to enforce laws. He has no responsibility over police forces or state guards. If there is a disaster, he has no responsibility to act. When there is an emergency, nobody looks to him for guidance. (When was the last time somebody turned to a senator for leadership during a natural disaster?  That doesn't happen.  People look to mayors, governors and presidents during those times.)  In effect, a legislator is not a leader. He's a representative of the people, assigned to a specific task within a much larger body of legislators. Palin also served as a legislator on a city council, but then she went on to serve as a mayor.  This is where her job changed from representative to leader. Now she was in charge of things. As mayor, the police force answered to her. She had to submit balanced budgets to the Council, and then sign them once they were approved. She had to plan for city management during emergencies, oversee the fire department, and plan for city development. Then as governor, she did the same thing, but on a much larger scale. Instead of a police force, she commanded a state guard. Instead of one fire department, she commanded them all, in addition to all emergency response teams, in the event of a statewide emergency. She was responsible for submitting balanced state budgets to the state congress, and signing them once they were approved. Then she had to enforce every single detail within them, and make sure that those who did not obey the laws of the state, were properly prosecuted by the state attorney general. In her hands were placed the power of life and death, as governor, she alone had the authority to pardon and grant clemency.  This is just a fraction of the duties Sarah Palin had responsibility for as governor of the state of Alaska.

In contrast, Barack Obama has never experienced any of this. He's never held an executive office, and he has ZERO executive experience. Yet, this man (and his supporters) believe he is qualified to be President of the United States after just ten years of "experience" in elected office as a mere LEGISLATOR!

Now granted, I suppose we could chalk that legislative experience up for something IF Barack Obama had been a legislator for a very long time. We could say this of John McCain and Joe Biden. But Obama hasn't been a legislator for nearly as long, and since the responsibilities of a legislator as significantly less than that of an executive officer, we could say Barack Obama really has very little "experience" at all. Especially when we compare him to Sarah Palin, who has served in elected office a little longer than him, and those duties included significant EXECUTIVE roles.

Now we could rightly say that no matter who wins the general election in November, both Sarah Palin and Barack Obama will require significant on-the-job training. The difference is that if McCain wins in November, Palin will be getting that training in McCain's shadow, and it will be in an area of government (executive branch) in which she is already very familiar.  McCain will be the Commander in Chief, and Palin will be his understudy. If however, Obama wins in November, it will be Obama who will be getting the on-the-job training, while he IS the Commander in Chief at the same time. So the real "experience" question of this election is this. Do we want our on-the-job trainee to be at the top of the presidential ticket, or the bottom of it? Is it better to have a boss that is learning how to do a job, or an understudy? Shall we have a president (like Obama) who is learning all executive duties from scratch, or shall we have a vice president (like Palin) who is simply upgrading duties she already knows?  Shall we have a Vice President with SOME executive experience, or a President with NO executive experience? Which is better? In this time of grave national security, what would be the best decision?

(UPDATE: 9/2/2008): Obama responds to The Catholic Knight...
circular logic: says he has "more executive experience" than Palin, because he's running a political campaign for an executive office.  ;o)  read it here