Experience, or lack thereof, has been bandied about during this campaign to the extent it is seen as a bridge to the presidency without much in the way of supporting trestles and beams. Sen. Barack Obama has been portrayed as woefully inexperienced by his own party candidates at least as persistently as by the opposition. To ameliorate this perceived deficiency, he added an elder statesman, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, as his running mate to shore up his foreign policy credentials.
The experience gap apparently secured, the Obama/Biden campaign and its adoring minions subsequently believed they were awarded a gift that would keep on giving in Sen. John McCain's selection of a virtual unknown as his vice presidential pick. The media feeding frenzy over Sarah Palin, first term governor of Alaska, in demeaning the senator's judgment in opting for a "rookie" without portfolio as his campaign partner is reminiscent of former Vice President Spiro Agnew's descriptive "nattering nabobs of negativity."
In reality, the portrayal of Palin as comparatively short on experience is a dog that just won't hunt. As a mayor and as a governor, her executive and leadership credentials trump those of Obama, Biden and even McCain. She has had to hire and fire, meet a payroll, manage a budget and, more importantly, make decisions for which she and only she is solely responsible for the success or failure thereof.
It is not my intent to minimize the role of legislators; however, the function of a U. S. senator is far different from that of a chief executive in government, business or the military. The Senate is a deliberative body, one where the primary duties involve hearing, advising, consenting and acting in concert with the House of Representatives in passing legislation — all too often with verbosity and self aggrandizement as opposed to timely and forthright action.
Evaluation of the Senate as an aggregate governing entity reveals it to be "government by committee." In lieu of decisive action, the advisement or legislation is passed to the executive who assumes total responsibility. The Senate, whether collectively or individually, is self absolved of any blame for lack of accomplishment but is quick to claim credit for any success. Prima facie evidence of this characteristic is seen following the Iraq War resolution — those who weighed the evidence and voted in favor are only too happy now to blame the president while eschewing individual responsibility.
That the electorate prefers executive experience in its commander in chief is conspicuous in that in the 20th century only two sitting senators have been elected president, John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Warren G. Harding in 1920. Conversely, foreign policy credentials have generally not been a major factor — recent Presidents Carter, Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush were all relative neophytes in this arena, unless one considers lasting peace with South Carolina, Oklahoma and Nevada to be germane.
Objectively, experience is no automatic guarantee of success, nor is absence of credentials a recipe for failure. The proof of this came to pass in 1945 with the death of President Franklin Roosevelt, who thought so little of his vice president as to assiduously avoid including him in the "need to know" circle. Even the most partisan among us agree that Harry Truman, an obscure senator from Missouri, rose to this monumental challenge, negotiating the end of World War II, orchestrating the Marshal Plan and the Berlin Airlift and having the personal courage to conduct a war that was unpopular but one that he believed necessary.
The most disturbing aspect of the inclusion of Palin on the ticket and, if I may add, the absolute silliest, is the tabloid journalism erupting from the mainstream media as well as from bloggers. Ranging from deriding her lack of credibility in either foreign or domestic affairs, to personal attacks on her and her family, to accusing McCain of playing the "gender" card and of sloppy vetting in her selection, we have seen a week of media circus.
Give it a rest. Palin's qualifications will be decided by the electorate, she is not the first woman to combine career and family (although she is the first to be criticized for it) and I doubt that McCain is losing any sleep over the likes of the New York Times, the Kansas City Star, and syndicated and local columnists of left-leaning persuasion finding fault with his vetting process.
Finally, I find Palin refreshingly human and normal — change with which many of us can identify.
J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.