Experience and Decision Making

Following on our satirical endorsement of McCain-Palin yesterday, I’d like to talk a little about the experience argument, that is, that Obama lacks the experience to be President.

This may well be true. I’d prefer someone with extensive executive experience, ideally running a state, experience matters in one very specific way: it may help you make better decisions. Having a wealth of experience may lead to the wisdom of age, or being a grouchy old person.

I see two key decisions that each candidate has had to make since the convention. One with time for reflection and consideration, and one snap decision. The first, of course, is their Vice President, and the second, how to react to the emergent financial crisis.

Let’s look at McCain’s decisions: Palin, and suspend the campaign. In each case, a honed political calculus was the experience McCain applied.

Palin is a great candidate: appealing to both the radical right and disaffected Hillary voters. A great speaker. The leader of America’s most socialist state, where each citizen gets $3,200 from the state, just for breathing. And she is so not qualified to be President, she’s a drag on the ticket. It was a great political gamble, and an awful one for a 72 year old cancer survivor to apply to the Presidency of the United States. Contrast with Obama, who chose an experienced foreign policy expert who had already run for President.

The choice to suspend the campaign was also brilliant politics. McCain, suffering from a self-imposed inability to raise funds, needed a dramatic response to the crisis. But he has no background in finance. No long experience regulating it. No seats on the relevant committees. And rather than letting the professionals do their jobs, McCain decided to grandstand. Contrast with Obama, who said “My strong feeling was that this situation was of such seriousness that it was important not to chase the cameras.”

So experience matters because it helps you make decisions in the framework of what’s important to you.

It seems that winning, not governing, is what’s important to John McCain.

On the other hand, Obama does lack experience. But it seems to me that he makes decisions well, and will continue to do so.

9 thoughts on “Experience and Decision Making

  1. Biden is a brain-damaged loopie loon plagiarist who believes FDR was president in 1929. Even putting that idiocy aside, he’s been on the wrong side of every significant foreign policy debate in the last 30 years, which recently includes supporting going into Iraq, then supporting breaking it up into 3 countries against the wishes of the Iraqi people, and finally opposing the surge which finally ended the violence there.
    Yeah, seasoned expert indeed. Great pick.

  2. Now, if we can put things in perspective.
    What many are calling a political stunt, was in fact par for the course for the Senator from Arizona. It was not about solving a financial crisis, it was about showing leadership.
    Given similar roadblocks in the past, he has helped form the ‘Gang of 14’ and the campaign finance reform mentioned in your posting. It’s a case of ‘doing something now, even if it’s not 100% right,’ vs. ‘sitting on your hands,’ and letting someone else figure it out.
    As memebers of the Senate, both McCain and Obama had a responsibility to be involved in the bailout–on whichever side.
    Only one of them seems to have done anything, and been pilloried in the press for it.
    How can you claim that it was ‘brilliant pollitics’ when, if that was the goal, it failed miserably?
    If you notice your final quote there from Obama, it’s in the past tense. After the fact.
    Where was any sort of leadership on that issue coming from that side of the campaign? No. But at least he voted something other than ‘present.’
    And is that not what we elect a President to do, lead and not hide until it’s over?
    It does make one wonder what this campaign would have looked like if Obama had kept his promise to go the public financing route:
    That a politician lies is not surprising. That they get away with it is what baffles the mind.
    http://www.midwestdemocracynetwork.org/templates/media/MDNPresidentialQuestionnaire.pdf
    Question I-B:
    If you are nominated for President in 2008 and your major opponents agree to forgo private funding in the general election campaign, will you participate in the presidential public financing system?
    OBAMA: Yes. I have been a long-time advocate for public financing of campaigns combined with free television and radio time as a way to reduce the influence of moneyed special interests. I introduced public financing legislation in the Illinois State Senate, and am the only 2008 candidate to have sponsored Senator Russ Feingold’s (D-WI) bill to reform the presidential public financing system. In February 2007, I proposed a novel way to preserve the strength of the public financing system in the 2008 election. My plan requires both major party candidates to agree on a fundraising truce, return excess money from donors, and stay within the public financing system for the general election. My proposal followed announcements by some presidential candidates that they would forgo public financing so they could raise unlimited funds in the general election. The Federal Election Commission ruled the proposal legal, and Senator John McCain (r-AZ) has already pledged to accept this fundraising pledge. If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.

  3. I’d go even more general: Obama managed to go from a relatively weak position to running a campaign which repeatedly out-thought both the Clinton and Bush/McCain machines and spent less money doing so (e.g. Clinton bankrupted her campaign lavishly paying consultants who didn’t know the primaries weren’t winner-take-all; McCain’s consultants certainly haven’t done much better with the position-of-the-day and random flailings in what used to be safe states).
    That more than anything else has convinced me that he’s a better choice – McCain seems like the CEOs who get an army of consultants in to hide the fact that they have no idea what’s going on.

  4. Neither of them have any experience running things so how they run their campaigns is really all we got. Obama hasn’t had any campaign shakeups and focused on a strategic vision with no major screwups. McCain has been tactical his entire campaign. Palin was a tactical decision. “Suspending” his campaign (and then doing nothing) was a tactical decision. Obama also understands nuance and is a thinker. I don’t agree many of his positions but McCain of 2008 has shown he no longer gets it, has problems with articulating his positions, and can’t lead. Which is sad – I would of voted for McCain of 2000.
    I was personally on the fence until Palin was chosen – I have no love for Biden but he can at least think for himself…
    (I am also looking forward to the christian right to be booted out of washington)

  5. Until McCain’s intervention, Congress had actually come to agreement on a bailout plan. McCain’s grandstanding had the predictable effect that the Republicans had to postpone agreement until McCain arrived in Washington so he could be seen to have ‘achieved’ something. Once the Republicans were putting electoral politics ahead of the bailout the deal was off as far as the Democrats were concerned as well. And as anyone with political experience would have predicted, the whole process shut down and did not restart until McCain left for the campaign trail again.
    Another oddity of the ‘suspension’ is that McCain only stopped running his adds for a total of 6 hours. And McCain did not in fact stop campaigning so much as change to a different mode of campaigning.
    In my view McCain’s response to the fiscal crisis is the principle reason that the press that had been slavishly adoring of his every word and deed, suddenly decided that he was a cynical and somewhat senile old fool.
    In terms of politics McCain’s move was a predictable fiasco. McCain showed himself to be incapable of predicting the likely response to his maneuver. He would be no match for Putin.
    Palin was certainly the last nail in the coffin for many. But what folk are overlooking is the fact that pathetic and ignorant as Palin undoubtedly is, there is at least the possibility that she might learn. There really isn’t much chance that a 72 year old maverick with attention deficit disorder is going to be doing much learning on the job. McCain does not bring the wealth of experience to the job that Reagan did (previously governor of the largest state, experience of domestic and foreign policy). His activities in the Senate have been consistently tactical rather than strategic.
    So on balance I would have to pick Palin over McCain if that was the choice on offer.
    Another mark against McCain’s judgment is his somewhat weird decision to run a slime campaign against the first American politician since Williams Jennings Bryant to bring out stadium sized crowds for his speeches. Even more so given McCain’s original core brand as a straight talker. The McCain campaign have essentially done a ‘new coke’. They have abandoned a valuable brand and got nothing in return. Unlike Coca cola, the McCain campaign cannot return to their original, they smashed it up, its gone.
    The latest attacks on Khalidi are pure McCarthyism. Replace ‘Palestinian’ with ‘Jew’ and its exactly the type of attack Goebells used to engage in. Why don’t they just find some pillow cases to stick on top of their heads and have done with it?

  6. Hawke, you say “As memebers of the Senate, both McCain and Obama had a responsibility to be involved in the bailout–on whichever side.” I don’t disagree. Obama laid out principles he thought were important, attended the White House meeting on the subject, and didn’t grandstand.
    Sometimes leadership involves setting goals and asking questions, and standing aside, rather than digging into the details and having everyone in a room grandstanding for the boss.

  7. “Obama laid out principles he thought were important, attended the White House meeting on the subject, and didn’t grandstand.”
    According to a report in the Chicago Sun Times (Sept 25), that meeting at the WH was requested by McCain and asked that both be included. So who was showing leadership?
    Can you point me to somewhere that indicates that Obama laid out his principles for the crisis prior to that time? Looked and could not find any.
    As for grandstanding, it would certainly look that way, wouldn’t it? But let’s not forget that there is a large perception problem in this country at this time.
    I am not in the tank for McCain and still considering throwing my vote away for Barr, but I at least recognise that there is a tremendous bias int he media right now against McCain. (e.g. an independent study released showed that 60% of the mainstream news reports for McCain were negative, while Obama’s number was less than half that. )
    What would have happened if McCain, or god forbid, Palin had said something as patently stupid as taking the Russian incursion into Georgia to the UN Security Council?
    For the uninititaited in the audience, Russia has veto power on the Security Council. That would have really been productive, no?
    Still see no response to the public fuinding issue. Guess we’ll just put that down under the bias that prevents criticism of Obama.
    My concern about Obama is simply this: that he has little track record, and what there is shows his willingness to talk to anyone, and to treat all points of view as equally valid.
    That is why the ‘previous associations’ issues retain some validity–not that he was ‘paling around’ with ‘terrorists’, but that the extreme points of view, ones antithetical to traditional Americanism, were obviously given validity beyond the absurdity that they deserved.
    Quite frankly, I question the content of his character.
    Based on his initial rise to power (dirty Chicago politics of disqualifying every other candidate) to running away from his commitment to public financing to throwing his Pastor under the bus when, after twenty years, he became inconvient.
    If you can put things like those up against ‘grandstanding’ and picking someone with more executive experience than Obama himself as the VP candidate and come out to the better, pull that lever for Obama with pride. I just can’t do that.
    Not sure that I can for McCain either.
    And in parting, for I shall go back into that quiet lurker space…
    Adam, I do enjoy the blog and appreciate the perspective on security. Actually laughed out loud when I saw your paper on your experiences at MS–written in TeX. Always apprecaite people that do their own homework and don’t just drink the kool-aid.

  8. Hawke,
    http://www.usnews.com/articles/news/campaign-2008/2008/09/24/mccain-suspends-campaign-shocks-republicans.html indicates that Obama called McCain to suggest they issue a joint statement of principles.
    As to the funding issue, Obama changed his mind based on the facts that were available when he changed his mind. As someone who has regularly criticized the unconstitutional limits on how we spend our money, I’m not worked up about someone not being respectful of it.
    Finally, as I’ve explained at length above, I count the quality of decisions as far more relevant than the quantity.
    PS: Have you ever tried writing an LNCS formatted doc in Word? It sucks. If you want to get deep into the metadata of that paper, look closely at the tables. One was done in Word, saved as an image, and pasted in because LaTex tables suck.

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