An Open Letter to Barack Obama
Dear Senator Obama,
Please shut up about Sarah Palin’s experience, particularly foreign policy experience.
Your campaign has spent the better part of the last two years arguing that judgment is more important than experience. This is a good argument because it is true. Voters apparently do not care about foreign policy ‘experience’ and experience appears to have no bearing on whether a candidate will use that experience wisely.
George W. Bush, hick governor, had no foreign policy experience. He beat a two-term VP with over a decade in Congress. Bill Clinton, hick governor, had no foreign policy experience. He beat George H.W. Bush, a sitting president, two-term VP, Congressman and head of the CIA. Bush? He beat Dukakis, proving nothing. Reagan? None. Beat a sitting president who negotiated a peace treaty in the Middle East. Carter? None. He beat a sitting president and veteran of Congress.
Does experience look like it matters?
So, having staked your campaign on your judgment, you chose Biden as VP, sort of admitting that maybe experience counts a little. This was kind of bad, and not only because you were already getting Delaware’s 3 electoral votes. I don’t even hate the Biden pick because I think he should be able to overcome the terrible atmospherics of his selection by being a decent attack dog - but you have to admit that the atmospherics suck.
Then you had the balls to go after Palin’s experience when what you should have been going after was her judgment. When McCain selected Palin as VP he didn’t choose someone who had no foreign policy experience; he chose someone who had apparently never spent a day of her life thinking about anything beyond the border of Alaska. Alaska’s proximity to Canada is, according to the GOP talking heads, supposed to mean something about her foreign policy bona fides. After 9/11 you needed a passport to get into Canada. She got a passport in 2007. As far as the world knows, Sarah Palin has never thought about the world at large. She has no record on foreign policy and so she is now a blank slate to be filled in however the McCain campaign deems politically expedient. Not only would you be able to attack Palin’s judgment - a mid-40’s governor with no public statements on foreign policy should not be considered a serious candidate for the Vice Presidency - you would be able to attack McCain’s judgment for making such a dimwitted choice.
This is how you should have gone after her selection. It would not only have been consistent with your own talking points, it would have kept the GOP from exploiting ‘experience’ - what most polls show is your biggest vulnerability.
And in doing so you opened up a line of attack on your own judgment.
P.S. The right answer to “admit that the surge is working” wasn’t It’s working, but who knew it would! when you are running against a candidate that staked his campaign on the surge. The right answer was Working? By what standard? If the U.S. pulled its troops out tomorrow we would be exactly where we were before the surge started. If Iraq can’t survive without the surge troops in place, we have established a permanent occupation. I’d call that a failure.
Posted by Charles Star on 09/09/2008 | Permalink
After 3 months of silence, this is what you come up with?
Posted by: jane | Sep 9, 2008 4:46:50 PM
It is. I hope you haven't been hitting refresh this whole time.
Posted by: Charles Star | Sep 9, 2008 5:07:45 PM
Don't listen to Jane. It's a good letter. Especially the PS.
Posted by: John | Sep 9, 2008 7:04:20 PM
I loved it. I agree on all fronts. Ever since Palin came into the picture Obama's message seems to have lost momentum. I'd like to see it get back on track.
And yes, the PS was awesome.
Posted by: Carissa | Sep 14, 2008 2:21:49 PM
Glad to see you're back, and you're spot on about the judgment issue.
Congratulations for the new Star!
Posted by: Ted | Sep 16, 2008 2:24:27 PM
A permanant present in the Middle East is a victory.
Posted by: Minh | Oct 22, 2008 3:21:30 PM
Although I agree with a lot of what you had to say, I don't think it's productive to yell at Obama. Yes, mistakes have been made, on all sides. I've even made mistakes, we all have. Maybe "admitting the surge is working" proved to some that Obama knows when he's wrong and isn't afraid to admit it (even though I agree with you :) Let's let the election come to a close before we make judgments on which campaign tactics worked best.
Posted by: Karl Peterson | Oct 27, 2008 8:54:34 PM
Yo Charles, you deleted my last comment and now Barack Obama is president elect and trounced McCain/Palin. Look in a mirror and deal with it.
Posted by: Charles Petty Star | Nov 5, 2008 1:47:49 AM
finally! something that isn't sitting there like a sheep calling obama a saint. i dont hate the man, he hasnt given me much reason to. but its so dangerous right now the way he's got nothing but good media. granted you didn't hit the subjects i was concerned about, i'm so relieved to see something from a member of the media saying obama is human.
Posted by: mehmeh | Jan 5, 2009 2:29:18 AM
It's funny re-reading this "open letter."
Last night, during the President's speech, my wife said "Thank God John McCain didn't win."
I have to agree with her.
Posted by: Rich | Mar 25, 2009 7:35:37 PM
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