Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday Question for Conservatives

Possible new running item...I'll see how it goes. 

So, I've noticed a lot of conservatives -- in blog posts, comments, and presumably on talk shows -- are still surprisingly focused on Obama's lack of experience as a major explanation of all the things they don't like about this administration.  My question is: what exactly, and how, do you think would have been different with a more seasoned but equally liberal president? 

This is not meant to be either a rhetorical or a sarcastic question; I'm also not talking here about "experience" as an issue to use against him in 2012 (which, as I've already said, is a foolish idea even if lack of experience has hurt him as president.  No; it's a sincere question.  I'm really interested in how people think his lack of experience has mattered to him in the White House.  (Liberals are welcome to comment, too!).  Not conservative (or for that matter liberal) screeds about how anyone with any practical experience would have junked all those socialist ideas and enlisted in the Church of Reagan, but real examples in which you suspect that a more or less equally liberal president would have acted differently, or had different outcomes, had he or she spent six years in a governor's mansion, or three terms in the Senate.  

I guess I'll see what if anything comes in, and perhaps do a post in which I think about it a little. 


  1. Can't say I'm a conservative, but one fault that may stem from a lack of executive experience is his failure to push through his appointments. A past governor might better know how important it is to have someone at the head of all the bureaucracies. Can't manage them all yourself.

    That's all I can think of so far.

  2. Not conservative or even sure if it's a lack of experience, but it doesn't seem like he has been able to take controlnof the party even when he had both houses. Maybe it comes down to personality, but I can't see Johnson squandering such an opportunity.

  3. Mark,

    Isn't that (LBJ) a pretty high bar? How does he compare with, say, the last five presidents -- and do you think it's personality, or experience, that's really responsible for what you see as a shortcoming?

  4. Sure, but it seems worth mentioning that Johnson's legacy also left the Democratic party impotent for a quarter century.

    As for the question at hand - and not speaking from any party prospective of my own - I do think that the first months of the new administration could have potentially been very different had we a President Hilary. Would she (or any other Dem) have renominated Big Ben? How would her bailout/stimulus have looked? Would she have been successful in pursuit of health care reform, let alone even attempt it?

    It's an interesting hypothetical, and I can't wait to see what people smarter than me have to say.

  5. Remember it wasn't just conservatives who attacked Obama as inexperienced, it was also the Hillary campaign (and even Joe Biden!). And I always found that a bit strange. I mean, I understand the arguments: Hillary had a big role in the Clinton Administration, and even before she got into politics she was a more accomplished lawyer than Obama. But the simple fact is that he held political office longer than she did, her Senate career was longer than his but not substantially, and they both had entirely legislative, not executive, backgrounds.

  6. Kylopod,

    True enough, but I haven't heard any Dems complain about experience since, oh, 7/08. Dems (when they complain; of course, he's still wildly popular among Dems) tend to complain that he's sold them out, not that he's incompetent. No?

  7. I honestly think that a more seasoned, but equally centrist Democratic president would probably not have been so naive about the idea of being able to forge any compromise with the GOP.

    Anyone with a pulse who has watched Washington for the past 20 years would have known the idea was folly. And so he wasted a lot of time and capital in trying to bring non-existent Republicans of good will aboard.

    Secondly, a more experienced pol would perhaps have had a better staff of advisers to bring aboard. A more professional communications shop, for example, and better people on the economy than the political hacks that he listens to now.

    So yeah, he's been incompetent in those areas. Hopefully, not terminally so.

  8. I think that if Obama had spent more time in the Senate, say a full term or more, he wouldn't wouldn't have given Congress as much leeway in drafting bills, and rather would have sent more concrete ideas for the health care reform bill, and other bills.

  9. On the 'compromise' point offered by James and Ian: I think that, for better or worse, that is just Obama's personal style/character. He believes in reaching across the aisle and trying to build consensus. Also, his deference to Congress shares the same origin. He works through channels, respects the players and their roles. He doesn't make waves.

    The fact that the GOP has shown no interest in compromise orworking to actually address the nation's problems, that doesn't change his character. I'm not sure expeience is that important a factor in that. (Assuming that one's basic character doesn't change after 45 y.o.)

    Given GOP intransigence, I doubt that any more experienced candidate, had one actually existed, would have achieved any different results. So far, the key decisions in Obama's presidency have been (1) the size of the stimulus (too small), and (2) the decision to push on healthcare after the Scott Brown election, when some counseled less ambitious plans ("KiddieCare"!). Would a more experienced pol have known (1) to make the stimulus bigger or (2) that healthcare might actually be doable? Don't know how experience helps in either case. (1) was debated by the economists and was largey based on economic predictions (which have all turned out terribly incorrect), and (2) was a gamble that could easily have gone the other way.

    So I'm not feeling it.

  10. The easy answer (for the liberals- and shame on you all for cross dressing! Though I'm doing it, too) is that he (He= a Barack Obama elected to the Senate in 1996, maybe? Governor in 1998?) wouldn't have spent so much time trying to work with the Republicans. But I think that gets more difficult if you remember how much he ran on bridging the partisan divide, the "new" kind of politics, etc. And yes, every President does that to an extent, but hell, every President spends his first year or so trying to get the other side on board, too. Assuming that that would've been OlderObama's campaign theme, too, I think he would've been boxed in to at least TRY, especially as he only had a fillibuster-proof Senate for a few months.

    I also doubt that an Obama who'd spent more time in the Senate (Elected in 1998?) would've given Congress LESS leeway. Look at the Senators who've been there the longest. Now look at the Senators who do the most to defend Congress' purview, including all of the inanities of the Senate. But I repeat myself.

    Finally, to add on to Number Three, I'd point out that many of the "experienced" politicians- Frank, Biden, Emmanuel- were advising the "kiddie care" route. So it's really hard to say that that would change things.

    However, I do want to echo that more executive experience would probably mean a greater desire to protect executive purview, so the things GovernorObama could do on his own- appointments, agency organization, etc.- would probably be done already.

  11. Much has been made of Obama's lack of executive experience prior to the White House. For me, this inexperience shows up in his apparent undeverdeveloped instinct for 'appearing' to win when he is successful. His has been a near-transformational Presidency, as noted recently to grudging approval by Krauthammer, but does it appear that way?

    Perhaps he is too intellectual, perhaps he is too conciliatory, perhaps he doesn't like to drive the stake of success into his opponents' hearts for fear of gloating. But he doesn't 'seem' like as successful a President as he is. Its a subjective thing, but I trust that most folks happening to read this would know to what I am referring.

  12. CSH,

    James would say a better communications dept in the WH, but I don't agree -- I think this is entirely driven by the economy. If you look back at the Reagan coverage in 1982, it's basically the same: conservatives are upset that he sold out, and everyone else thinks he's in dire trouble. Yeah, they say, he passed a couple of major things but there's no sense that he changed things in any major way.

    (Of course, I think that the conventional wisdom now about how much he changed things is overdone, but the point is that contemporary impressions don't match what people thought later).

  13. Jonathan,

    Thanks for responding to my post. Your point about the economy is well-taken; its always a problem for an incumbent when its bad, goodness knows its very bad.

    I think I'd side with James though, I think on top of the economy the WH communication has been rather amateurish. I'm not an expert, but if one of the key criteria of leadership is looking like you're winning, this WH has been quite awful.

    To wit (or lack thereof):

    The economy Obama said that the unemployment rate would never exceed 7.5% with the stimulus. Regrettable.

    Blame The administration has a tone-deaf tendency to "blame Obama's predecessor". In my experience, Bush 43 gets blamed generically, as if we nod our heads and understand it was Bush. It would be one thing to blame specific policies, (e.g. the tax cut providing economic growth based on laughable misapplication of the laughable Laffer Curve). The generic "blame Bush" routine is a club the WH hands the Republicans that makes the administration look incompetent.

    Spin The McCrystal piece in Rolling Stone is unbelievable; but can't this administration keep anyone silent? When even Richard Holbrooke can write op eds in the Post saying how everything we're doing is Afghanistan is dumb, and there's this obvious alternative that is obviously superior, one wonders if this administration is running anything at all.

    Enemies Who knows if HRC has designs on a Ted Kennedy run at the WH in 2012. But that recent interview on CBS where she complained about Obama's poor effort on the economy, which compromised her efforts with world leaders - really? The administration can't keep that silent?

    You surely know much more than me. But the above is just a sample; I could come up with a half-dozen other examples if there were time. All to affirm James' argument; these guys seem really bad at PR.


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