Or, Why Experience Is Not Always What Is Claimed

Some Presidential candidates tout their “experience” as making them inherently better for the office than other contenders. It seems intuitive. After all, experience in our own lives suggests “experience” is helpful. However, while it is theoretically possible for “experience” to be valuable in a job, it is seldom actually available for this particular job. There are after all but a bare handful of living individuals who have ever worked even near the Oval Office (and that’s counting Vice Presidents which before Cheney actually was a quite diminished job, more of a coat holder function).

Fewer yet except maybe Jimmy Carter or Al Gore are eligible. Consequently, “experience” can only be one relatively small component in the overall determination of who should nominated. Moreover, those reciting the word as sort of a mantra to attack or shout down opponents need to recognize there are several unproven assumptions in the assertion.

For instance, none of the current candidates has ever been even president of a large company or chief executive officer of a significant bureaucracy. Fortunately or unfortunately, the executive-type experience (which none of them have) tends to be dramatically different from the legislative-type experience which all of them have. The latter experience usually is a series of forced cooperations, conciliations and compromises in order to accomplish anything as opposed to the former which gets the luxury of resorting to coercion more often than naught.

Even if any of the present three national office seekers had been quartered somewhere in the White House, the experience may have turned them into the worst possible later re-occupants. Cheney and Rumsfeld come to mind as prime examples of the genuinely dysfunctional value of such “experience.” We might be 3 Trillion dollars ahead in Iraq alone, not counted our dead and disabled, if we hadn’t relied on their alleged “experience.”

Moreover, other than having sat through state dinners which might grant a head start on protocol knowledge and adding a few extra business cards to the rolodex, there’s no conclusive evidence that being related to a President conveys any irreplaceable knowledge of the job of President itself. In fact, maybe the opposite is true. Look how badly we were served by various sons of Presidents gaining the office. Bush is merely the worst of the lot.

And, if experience was so useful, wouldn’t Castro or Kadafi be running perfect countries? Hardly any national leader has more experience than them. Or, is the history of kings and queens trained from birth to lead their countries demonstrative that “experience” is what is needed? If so, then maybe we should encourage Prince Charles to migrate here and seek office. Do anyone believe that his long tutorial will automatically lift Britain to new heights once his head hold the crown?

But, even if we ignored our history as to the purported value of experience, at least as to Presidents candidates, shouldn’t it matter more what type of experience it was? Whether the candidates appear to have truly learned from their experience? Were they in a position to actually learn something arguably useful that cannot be learned by other means or with minimal risk on the job? Better yet, did they learn the right things when they were gaining such experience? In other words, did they make costly mistakes? Most importantly of all, if they made mistakes and who doesn’t, are they adult enough to admit it and vow to change? If not, then such “experience” if any, might do us more harm then good.

Stump speeching and sound biting silly slogans is not enough. Sometimes, it’s better to select the cautious newbie than the arrogant oldie. In any event, tough questions ought to be asked and research done on all those who blithesomely insist experience automatically trumps everything else including facts and logic.

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