Sunday, February 24, 2008

Obama is No JFK but Even If He Was His Inexperience Can’t be Cavalierly Dismissed
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

In a recent address at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton blasted arch rival Barack Obama for his inexperience. This should not be dismissed as another frantic, grasp at straws by Clinton to slow the momentum of his campaign or a badly overrated quality that few first time presidents need bring to the Oval Office anyway. The tout of Obama as the second coming of John F. Kennedy is supposed proof that a Senator with ideals and vision, ala JFK, can work wonders for the country even if short on experience.
The Obama-JFK comparison is a bad stretch and the dismissal of experience as a president-to-be attribute is an even worse stretch. JFK majored in foreign policy at Harvard and was a decorated naval war hero. His father, Papa Joe, was a multi-millionaire diplomat, confidant of presidents, and consummate political deal maker. This enabled JFK to meet a slew of European leaders. He wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning book, served fourteen years in the Senate and Congress, and came close to getting the vice presidential nomination in 1956.

Despite JFK’s years of public policy experience and political acumen, that Obama can’t match, he was still woefully ill equipped to deal with the two biggest crises that confronted his administration; the Cuban Missile crisis and the civil rights crisis. The mythmakers have spun a picture of a cool, calm, and collected JFK facing down Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in 1962. He allegedly forced him to get Russian missiles out of Cuba and that saved the world from nuclear destruction.
The truth is far different. In his memoirs Khrushchev gloated that the Soviet Union never had any intention of going to war over Cuba, and that the missiles were a bargaining chip to get the U.S. to remove American missiles from Turkey aimed at the Soviet Union. The other aim was to get the U.S. to guarantee the security of Castro’s regime.

Even if Khrushchev’s boast is sloughed off as a face saving historical falsity to burnish up his badly tarnished image; the fact is that American missiles were removed from Turkey. And in the nearly half century after the missile show-down, there has been no US military effort to oust Castro. He stepped down voluntarily and will likely die of old age.

The U.S. –Soviet stand down was brokered through back channel talks initiated by Robert Kennedy with the Soviet ambassador to the U.S. After they hammered out the bare details of the agreement it took urging by RFK and other Kennedy senior advisors to get Kennedy to finally approve the deal. JFK’s inexperience in a crisis moment cost valuable time, delays, and raised tensions. It had another tragic by-product. It earned JFK the undying enmity of the thousands of Cuban-Americans.
Then there’s the issue of civil rights. The Obama camp twisted and mangled an innocent comment Clinton made in which she praised President Lyndon Baines Johnson for driving the 1964 civil rights bill through Congress. Supposedly Clinton defamed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by minimizing his role in getting a civil rights law. Clinton, of course, got it right. It took every bit of Johnson’s relentless political arm twisting, cajoling, and deal making skills to get wavering Republicans and hostile Southern Senators who controlled key committees to back the bill or soften their vehement opposition to it.

The bill though was not Johnson’s. It was introduced by Kennedy. Despite his efforts, Kennedy could not budge Congress to take action. JFK simply did not have the political muscle to budge the bill’s opponents. Johnson did have the experience and the muscle to ultimately force passage.

The rap against Obama that he lacks the requisite experience to get the job done effectively in the White House is not a cheap and meaningless campaign shot at him. The American presidency should not be an OJT position. Voters shouldn’t be asked to make a leap of faith that an untested candidate can smoothly and effortlessly handle crisis situations that inevitably arise. Inexperienced presidents are poor crisis managers. They get us into costly and unpopular wars and brush fire conflicts. They alienate foreign friends and allies. They bungle the economy. And their administrations more times than not are riddled with corruption and cronyism. The disastrous proof is the administration of the man that Obama seeks to replace.
Even without fingering Bush’s foreign and domestic policy bumbles and ineptitude, the presidents that have been most successful in recent decades have been FDR, Bill Clinton and Dwight Eisenhower. They had two things in common. They had extensive executive and administrative experience either as governors, or in the case of Eisenhower, in the armed forces before they became president.

The lack of administrative and crisis management experience shouldn’t disqualify a prospective presidential candidate, or mean that he or she will crumble under fire. At the same time, their inexperience raises a giant question mark about the candidate. That can’t be cavalierly dismissed.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).


Eric L. Wattree said...

After seven years of agony during the Bush administration, America has learn that the most important characteristics to look for in a president is good character and common sense. We’ve learned, in a most painful way, that if a president lacks either of these qualities, everything else is meaningless. These past seven years have taught us that putting our hatred, ignorance, and self-service ahead of the best interest of the country can bring us all down. Thus, when the voters turned out the Republicans in the 2006 election, it was over character; and the current rallying cry across this land for change, is actually about electing a president with good character and common sense. Barack Obama’s meteoric rise to national prominence is America’s way of saying we are tired of the old self-serving, cutthroat, win-at-any-price type politics of the past. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us all to watch what takes place in the next two weeks very closely.
Barack Obama has Hillary Clinton on the ropes. He’s blown the heretofore presumptive presidential nominee out of the water by large margins in the last ten states of the primary election. He’s also won among Americans voting outside the country. Even Bill Clinton has acknowledged that if Hillary doesn’t get a win in Texas, she won’t get the presidential nomination. So in the next two weeks her character, and the kind of experience she brings to the table will be on display. If she’s truly committed to change, and what’s in the best interest of the United States, we’ll see a lady engaged in a valiant, yet, clean fight for the nomination. But if the “experience” she so often speaks of is of the old-style, me-first, America-be-damned kind of politics of the past, we’re going to see a lot of lying, desperate mudslinging, and win-at-any-cost kind of tactics. Personally, I’m betting on the latter–in fact, it’s no longer a bet, she’s already started.
While Hillary speaks in wistful tones of how important it is for a Democrat to be elected president in the November election, it seems that it’s only important to her if she happens to be that Democrat. Instead of lifting herself up by telling the people of Texas why she’ll be the better president, she’s engaging in the old Republican-style politics of trying to tear Obama down. She says, for example, that all Obama brings to the table is a lot of inspirational rhetoric, while she has solutions. This begs the question, if she truly believes that it is essential for a Democrat to be elected president in the next election, doesn’t it matter to her that if Obama is the nominee the Republicans will seize upon her words to try to defeat him? If she truly has the solutions to America’s problems, why doesn’t she simply lay them out, instead of attacking a fellow Democrat?
The fact is, she has no solutions. What she’s calling solutions are nothing more than a laundry list of what she thinks Americans want to hear. She says, for example, that she’s going to bring our troops home with honor--but she’s not saying how she intends to accomplish that, she simply says she’s going to do it. She also says she’s going to “work towards” providing universal healthcare. Ok, but how? That’s not a solution, that’s a goal–a goal that she’s already failed miserably at during the eight years that Bill was in office--and that was at a time when she didn’t have to focus on anything but that. If she couldn’t do it then, what makes her think she can do it now, with all the other responsibilities of being president? On the other hand, Obama has demonstrated during his eight years in the Illinois State Senate that he has the ability--or experience, if you will–to work with Republicans to get things done, including a healthcare bill.
Hillary also says that as president she can hit the ground running “on day one”, andAmerica doesn’t need a president who requires on-the-job-training. That statement is both arrogant, presumptuous, and disingenuous. Every president requires on-the-job-training. Even if Bill could return to office, the world has changed tremendously since he was president, so even he would have to take the time to learn to adapt to a new and different world. Even if that wasn’t the case, however, Hillary seems to be implying that she doesn’t require training because she’s been president before. So it seems that she’s either naive, unrealistic, or trying to take credit for her husband’s experience, none of which inspires confidence in her character. In addition, it sets feminism back fifty years.
There’s another thing about Hillary’s “day one” statement–she’s failing to acknowledge the certain gridlock that would result from Republican antipathy towards her. For Republicans, cooperating with a Clinton is one of the worse offenses that can be committed in political life. She’s got to know that–thus, she must also know that she’s lying to the American people about her ability to get things done. On the other hand, while Hillary is straining credulity to the limit, Barack Obama, with his so-called “flowery speeches”, is mending fences, building bridges, and laying the groundwork for an effective presidency. He recognizes that character and experience are great qualities for a president to have, but in order to get his policies through congress, having the ability to inspire the American people is indispensable.
Hillary is right in one respect, however–experience can be impressive, as we saw in the Texas debate–and she certainly has it. But Hillary has the wrong kind of experience–she’s experienced in the old ways of voter manipulation. During the debate we saw a chameleon at work–first we saw the cordial Hillary, but she felt she needed to set herself apart; then she morphed into presidential Hillary, but Obama easily matched her sober, no nonsense veneer; so she went into attack dog Hillary, only to quickly change tactics after being booed; towards the end, she finally settled on Immaculate Hillary, to bestow love upon her opponent–a love offering that it turns out now was both scripted and plagiarized.
Being the “experienced” politician that she is, it took her the entire debate, but she finally stumbled upon just the right tone of manipulation. But now, it turns out, not only was she plagiarizing John Edwards, after making such a big deal of the issue of plagiarism, but her most glowingly poignant moment in the debate was staged, insincere, and just another example of the old politics of voter manipulation. View the evidence above for yourself.
I have a feeling we’re going to see a lot more of this in the future, so I just wanted to give you a playbook, so you can keep up with which Hillary is on display.
Eric L. Wattree

Anonymous said...

Obama is No JFK, but maybe he just needs some time. He's not in the White House yet, anyway; he can't yet even begin to live up to Jack's vaunted reputation. Obama's got a pretty face, winsome ways, and an attractive young family, but... Only Kennedy can truthfully claim to have shared something as scrumptious as Marilyn Monroe with his Attorney General brother. Who else but the Kennedy boys can brag of filling the White House swimming pool with hi-class hookers and swimming between their legs? Hell, Obama's only possible claim to honorary-Kennedy status, besides old, fat Teddy's endorsement, is his cigarette addiction, which itself is only a faint shadow of the junky President's amphetamine cocktails, injected by a Dr. Max Jacobson, the notorious "Dr. Feel-good". Nope, Obama's no Kennedy, Allah be praised.


MustangSallie said...

Yes, yes, yes – I've changed sides! I agree with Wattree. (Wattree, just make it short and to-the-point!) I think if Obama picks a strong vice-president, like Senator Webb from VA, along with a strong cabinet, he will be fine . . . we will be fine. I will always pick character and common sense over experience any day. "Experience" is what's wrong with America - we have a bunch of "experienced" ignorant, self-severing, egotistical people running America. No one in the world likes us, but us. I want this to change. "I want change!"

Anonymous said...

yeah , yeah whatever and hillary wsnts to continue the current policy not talking to any country and getting "no where" we are not the superpower we used to be, so maybo we need to meet " and then make an agenda for future meetings. we have sanctioned/embargo all those who are not demonstrating a desire to change their current policies. where has that brought us . relying on countries that are our enemies to import goods that we no longer produce. i think that where all that"experience " has left america . the rest of the world laughs at us because they know we are not a "superpower" . we have just not figured it out yet

Anonymous said...

I am still trying to figure out what makes Obama qualified to be President. Has he run a business? Has been he been a long time driving force in the Senate? Has he been a governor of a state? No. No. No. I just don't get it. At this point, his resume doesn't match the job of President of the USA. Obama, comeback to us when you have a better resume.