Mixed messages sent about experience

Published 12:04 am Sunday, October 5, 2008

As the presidential campaigns have heated up, Republicans and Democrats have been wielding the proverbial weapon of experience as if it was a tangible blade, but neither want to admit that it is a double-edged sword.

Republicans have been quick to point out that candidate John McCain has 26 years of service in the U.S. House and Senate, served his country in the Navy during wartime and has a diverse track record of leadership. All these are things of which to be proud and the GOP has been smart to tout those accomplishments.

But on the other side of this presidential coin, the Republicans try to downplay the importance of experience when it comes to Sarah Palin.

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The Alaska governor for the past two years boasts little experience on the national level and has to rely on her short time leading the state and her 10 years as a councilwoman and mayor of the city of Wasilla, a town several thousand people smaller than Ironton and about five times smaller than Huntington, W.Va.

So savvy political enthusiasts are quick to pick up on the fact that the campaign is trying to use slight of hand on the voters by saying “Look, John McCain’s experience is important. … Oh, don’t worry about Sarah Palin’s experience, she knows what she is doing.”

But don’t think this double standard is just on that side of the aisle. The Democrats are in just about the same boat.

While quick to point out Palin’s deficiencies, the Dems want to talk about their own vice presidential candidate, Delaware’s Joe Biden, who has an impressive record during his 36 years in the U.S. Senate.

Biden is recognized by many of his peers as an experienced leader who has years of work on foreign policy matters and a strong track record on domestic issues including agriculture, drugs and crime.

But those same Democrats will try to tell you that presidential candidate Barack Obama has the needed experience to lead the nation. They will tell you that he wouldn’t be the least experienced president and that it is not important that Obama is a junior senator with only two years in the U.S. Senate and seven in Illinois Senate. Maybe they are right. And maybe they aren’t.

If you’re looking for an endorsement here for either candidate you won’t find one. I just wonder if both sides are focusing too deeply at experience and losing focus on other qualities.

After all, sometimes years of experience don’t mean much when the results are only so-so. Experience can sometimes translate to a “that’s the way we have always done it” mentality that can stunt progress.

When it comes to experience more can equal better. Or it can equal stagnation.

I’ll take quality over quantity any day. Now it is left to voters to find out which candidate’s experience — or maybe even lack thereof — adds up to success for our nation.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.