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The Experience Argument

Ah, the blame game continues. Today’s episode of ‘Blame Sarah Palin’ is brought to you by Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Krauthammer is a fantastic writer and has put together some brilliant columns. But he couldn’t be more wrong in accepting this belief, as written in his column today:

“Palin was a mistake (” near suicidal,” I wrote on the day of her selection) because she completely undercut McCain’s principal case against Obama: his inexperience and unreadiness to lead. And her nomination not only intellectually undermined the readiness argument. It also changed the election dynamic by shifting attention, for days on end, to Palin’s preparedness, fitness and experience — and away from Obama’s.”

Now let’s look back at what Krauthammer had to say back on Sept. 4th, right after Palin was nominated:

“Obama was sagging because of missteps that reflected the fundamental weakness of his candidacy. Which suggested McCain’s strategy: Make this a referendum on Obama, surely the least experienced, least qualified, least prepared presidential nominee in living memory.

Palin fatally undermines this entire line of attack. This is through no fault of her own. It is simply a function of her rookie status. The vice president’s only constitutional duty of any significance is to become president at a moment’s notice. Palin is not ready. Nor is Obama. But with Palin, the case against Obama evaporates.”

Chuck, I love ya, man…but you are completely missing a huge point. You missed it in September and you’re missing it again now by refusing to evolve your message.

The problem with Palin wasn’t her experience, it was how the McCain campaign sold her to the press and to the public. They focused on her being a reformer, a Governor…a Mavericky Maverick. But they never effectively communicated a vital asset, comparing her experience with Obama’s.

It’s understood that the amount of time Palin has spent in office is comparable to Obama’s. But there is one key difference: Palin accomplished something.

The Governor’s time in office is full of measurable successes that can be directly linked to her leadership. In comparison, Obama had nothing of substance to point to on his resume to prove he was capable of being bipartisan and accomplishing anything.

So let’s imagine a situation where John McCain is being interviewed by a reporter who asks him to contrast the experience of Sarah Palin and Barack Obama. How should he have answered? And how should the campaign have answered everytime this question was brought up? How about this:

“You ask about experience? Let’s look at their records. Barack Obama’s experience includes time as a community organizer for ACORN, as a State legislator as recently as 2005, and not even one full term in the US Senate. A term where he hasn’t even held one hearing on Afghanistan in the only committee he was given a chance to lead.

Now, what has Sarah Palin done in comparable time? She’s been an executive. A leader. A Mayor. And she’s been a Governor with the highest approval rating of any Governor in the country. Her accomplishments? She’s managed a state budget larger than anything Bill Clinton ever had to work with when he was down in Arkansas. She proved herself as a fiscal conservative who used her line-item veto to slash hundreds of millions of dollars in wasteful spending from the state budget. She led the effort to reform ethics laws to make sure American’s trust wasn’t abused in Alaska. She negotiated trade deals with Canada. She broke a multi-year stalemate over the financing and construction of a $40 billion cross-state gas pipeline that will deliver cleaner, cheaper natural gas to Alaska’s own population centers while also delivering gas to the energy-hungry Lower 48.

That, my friend, is experience. That is accomplishment. That is a leader. You worry about having someone inexperienced in the White House? Compare the records and you tell me which person is inexperienced. It isn’t Governor Palin.”

This theme should have been pounded into the very conscience of the American public from Day 1. McCain’s campaign knew, or at least they should have known, that nominating Palin would bring questions about her experience. But, if they had managed it correctly they would have been able to use this renewed focus on experience to highlight Obama’s lack thereof, in turn focusing the debate right into their hands and highlighting it better than they ever did over the course of the entire campaign.

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Third Base Politics is an Ohio-centric conservative blog that has been featured at Hot Air, National Review, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and others.


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