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Posted by on May 5, 2015 in 2012 Elections, 2016 Elections, 2016 Presidential Election, Budget, Business, Disasters, Economy, Education, Environment, Featured, Finance, Government, Health, International, Military, Politics, Russia, Society, USA Presidential Election 2012, War | 13 comments

Experience Counts

President_Official_Portrait_HiResIn politics, as in every other field, experience counts, and in fact may be the most important quality a candidate for an important post possesses. This is even more true for the presidency than any other position. Certainly, there are some things one can learn on the job, but a certain level of sophistication and experience are necessary in a president for his or her administration to be successful. Wisdom only comes with age, and a short stint as a senator, governor, or community organizer is not enough to produce an outstanding president. (This is not to say that experience alone makes a good president.)

Would you want a high school player to manage a professional sports team, making the personnel moves and controlling the strategy and tactics? Would you hire a person with no managerial or administrative experience to be the CEO of a large corporation? Would you want an inductee into the Army to be placed in charge of a division, directing its moves and plan of attack when confronting the enemy?

The answer to all the above questions is obviously no. You would desire someone with experience for these jobs, someone who knew how to interact with people, motivate them properly, and get them to function the way he or she wanted, so that the team or company or division would work well together.

The same is true in politics and particularly for the presidency. The president doesn’t have to be knowledgeable in every field, as he or she hires the cabinet and presidential staff to take care of running the various departments and agencies of the government, coming to the president when important decisions have to be made.

But the president has to be sophisticated enough and have adequate experience to choose the right people for his or her cabinet and staff. And he or she has to be able to manage them and make sure all the departments and agencies are running well. For anyone thrust into this position, the tasks can be overwhelming, and almost impossible for someone with no managerial or administrative experience.

To get his or her agenda passed, the president also must interact with important members of the Senate and House, including the heads of the opposition party. This means being able to “schmooze” with them, dine with them and their wives, and enjoy relaxing time together. If there is comity and friendship between the president and the members of Congress and the Senate, it is possible to get more important legislation passed, as an aura of trust is built up and the ability to negotiate options in various bills. This is part of a leader’s experience, being able to deal well with customers and the competition, convincing them of your vision and how it might benefit them.

Lecturing people, or trying to teach them from a higher plane is not the answer, as that merely antagonizes them and makes it less likely your ideas will be accepted. Friendship, or at least a common respect has to be engendered among people at all levels to instill a willingness to work with a leader in any field.

Reluctantly, I must admit that my wife and I voted for Obama both in 2008 and 2012, expecting that he would be able to change the atmosphere in Washington, bringing Republicans and Democrats together to get the nation’s work done. There is no question that the Republicans have gone out of their way to stymie Obama during his years in office, to guarantee that his presidency would not be considered a success. But Obama did not challenge them aggressively enough in an attempt to get things done in a bipartisan manner. He did not reach out to their leadership to establish relationships with them, to schmooze, or have dinners, or pick up the phone and shoot the sh-t for a while, so that he or they could easily talk whenever necessary to try and work out problems.

Obama also concentrated on passing the Affordable Care Act when he took office, instead of attacking unemployment and a tepid economy. Those were the areas concerning most Americans and Obama dropped the ball perhaps due to a lack of experience. Health care reform was needed but shouldn’t have been at the top of his to-do list.

Obama has also not been able to develop close relationships with any foreign leaders. The problems have been the same as his inability to bond with Senators or members of Congress. He has also projected a belief that America was weak, being unable to reach an agreement with Iraq to leave American troops in place, which might have stopped ISIS from forming. He also let Syria cross the “red line” he had set up, saying the US would not let Assad get away with using poison gas as a weapon. These and other actions may have emboldened Russia’s Putin to grab Crimea and more of the Ukraine, knowing the US would not react in any significant way.

A leader with more experience may have run into the same problems as Obama, but there was a better chance of that person being more successful because he or she had been “around the block once or twice before.” Experience does count.

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  • The Republican leadership was not interested in Obama reaching out to them, as described by several souces, including this Frontline documentary:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/government-elections-politics/inside-obamas-presidency/the-republicans-plan-for-the-new-president/

    They had a specific plan which would not accept any compromise with Obama and attempting to block everything he did.
    Obama did concentrate on the economy first–such as the stimulus and saving the auto industry. He could walk and chew gum and the same time. He worked on both economic recovery and on health care reform in his first term. Plus enabling more people to get health care coverage relieved a major problem many faced due to the poor economy.

  • JSpencer

    Lack of experience wasn’t Obama’s major problem. His major problem was a republican congress that despised him and refused to work with him, even when they surely knew it meant hurting the country they were entrusted to serve. It’s hard to imagine how any amount of experience would have caused such congress to act any differently. What sort of schmoozing works on a congress like that? Perhaps if he’d had less pigment in his skin he could have schmoozed better, or perhaps if he’d been more willing to compromise principles. His greatest political sin was probably in believing his political foes had better natures that could be appealed to, after all, decency and reason are at the heart of any good man or woman right? I’m glad I voted for Obama twice and have no regrets about it. I never expected him to be perfect and I certainly don’t blame him for the deliberately created dysfunctional climate he’s had to work in. As for his foreign policy decisions, he isn’t the one who created the monumental mess that has continued to dictate the situation. Mostly I think he’s done well, and while I’m not happy with all his decisions, I’m not going to pretend they were easy or clear-cut just because I now have the benefit of hind-sight.

    • SteveK

      Lack of experience wasn’t Obama’s major problem. His major problem was a republican congress that despised him and refused to work with him, even when they surely knew it meant hurting the country they were entrusted to serve…

      Yes, yes, yes, yes… Yet somehow there are those who will go through all sorts of contortions in an attempt to ignore this FACT.

      The Republicans would rather see the United States of America destroyed than to work that ‘black man’ in the ‘white house.’

      Edit to add: In re-reading this article I’m struck by how much is sounds like the talking point segment on the Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh Show.

    • yoopermoose

      Exactly. The republicans proved again and again its party over country.

  • dduck12

    Wow, RAL, thanks for not seeing the Emperor’s clothes.

  • tidbits

    Well, I agree with the author, though I have defended Obama many times. Yes, the R’s have gone off the rails of late, but don’t forget that Obama had a filibuster proof D majority with control of both houses his first two years and didn’t face full R control of congress until the 2014 election (just took office in January of this year).

    Unlike the author, I did not vote for Obama either time. Didn’t vote for the Republican nominees either, btw. Some balance could be added by reference to some of the President’s accomplishments, but the critique of his shortcomings in this piece is largely accurate.

    Just my view.

    • Obama had a filibuster proof D majority with control of both houses his first two years

      Easy to say, but it was actually much more complicated than that, what with the various Blue Dogs, Al Franken, Arlen Specter, Scott Brown, etc. The filibuster-proof majority lasted just nine months, not two years. Most of that was taken up with the PPACA debate.

      • tidbits

        I agree that everything is “more complicated”. There isn’t time to cover every nuance in a comment. But, I grant you your point. I also agree that most of the energy was taken up with the ACA debate and passage…which R’s used in 2010 to trounce the D’s, including taking over the House and enough state houses and legislatures to gerrymander away the entire next decade.

        Yes, it’s also true that I am not a fan of the ACA and thought the so-called “Stimulus Package” read more like a love letter to AFSCME than anything designed to spur long term growth. Yes, I also believed that Obama left too much to Pelosi and Reid and failed to lead from the White House despite having the wind at his back from his election victory.

        And, sure, it’s more complicated than that too, but there are some basic facts that still count and some opinions that may still be worth hearing.

        • There isn’t time to cover every nuance in a comment.

          Typing “for nine months” instead of “his first two years” would have been both shorter and closer to the truth.

          gerrymander away the entire next decade.

          I’m less worried about gerrymandering than I used to be. I’ve seen studies claiming it doesn’t have a major effect, but more to the point, the GOP is clearly demonstrating on both the state and federal level that they’re almost completely ineffective at accomplishing anything when they’re nominally in control. Look at the US Congress and the Florida legislature, for example. Sure, they can inadvertently do real harm now and again, but it’s really just random; they’re as likely to shoot themselves in the foot as they are to hit someone else. All that the ability to gerrymander in 2010 did for them was increase their expected survival time slightly.

          the so-called “Stimulus Package” read more like a love letter to AFSCME

          You mean the 2009 ARRA? That was passed by Congress just 24 days after Obama took office.

          despite having the wind at his back from his election victory.

          Analogies like that are based on the mistaken assumption that political situations have inertia or hysteresis like mass and electromagnetic fields have.

    • He did not have a filibuster proof Congress his first two years. Due to issues such as delays in seating Franken, Kennedy being out, and Byrd’s illness, Obama had 60 Senate votes for four months–not two years. Plus those sixty votes were not guaranteed votes. They included people like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman who were significantly more conservative than the rest of the Democrats and their votes could not be counted on.

  • SteveK

    … a filibuster proof D majority with control of both houses his first two years and didn’t face full R control of congress until the 2014 election (just took office in January of this year).

    Right.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f6/US_Senate_cloture_since_1917.png/550px-US_Senate_cloture_since_1917.png

    • SteveK

      Edit to add:

      It’s absurd to actually try to perpetuate the idea that you’re the party that’s trying to work with the president when you actually shut down our government for no other reason than a political stunt meant to appease your far-right voters. Democrats didn’t care for George W. Bush, but they didn’t oppose everything he supported like Republicans do with President Obama.

      If you have 7 minutes… http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/1z1e32/band-of-blockers

      • tidbits

        Posting a reply to yourself is an interesting device, SteveK. I think I like it and will give you an up vote for the creativity. 🙂

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