Who's Experienced?

Much of the mudslinging between Senators Obama and Clinton comes down to one issue, and it's not the war, it's not the economy or the price of oil. Experience. Who's got it, who doesn't, what counts and what doesn't, how do you add it up, and what do you subtract? It's fuzzy math to say the least, where the variables on either side of the equation are hard to quantify. Who can really speak with authority on Clinton's experiences as first lady... besides Clinton herself? And how does experience as a community organizer relate to the job of president? There's no way to make a strict one-to-one comparison, so what matters to you? And it may sound blasphemous... but is there a situation in which the most experienced candidate — for president, or for any job, really — isn't the best choice?



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After watching all these presidential elections and getting jobs myself, it has become brutally obvious the old adage "It's who you know, not what you know" is as alive today as it was when it was first coined.

Sent by David | 2:11 PM | 3-10-2008

Experience does not seem to matter in business - people are promoted based on the perceptions of management about that person, not necessarily on their experience. I don't understand what experience Sen. Clinton has other than developing policy.

Sent by Mike Rodriguez | 2:11 PM | 3-10-2008

I think experience is overrated. Maybe the fact that Obama has not spent so long in a calcified institution is actually appealing to voters. Nothing changes the fact that we basically have 3 Senators running whose legislative experience has in fact little relation to their executive branch prowess. I find it interesting that people do not connect Hillary's experience as first lady to that of VP's who run for president. We expect a former VP to run for president, whereas both the VP and (a very active) first lady both have largely symbolic roles.

Sent by Nadia | 2:12 PM | 3-10-2008

I find what my dad told me "It's not what you know, it's who you know", to be very true. It has helped me get every job I've had. Then WHAT you know becomes important. Personality got me everything I have.

Sent by Chad Hoefs | 2:13 PM | 3-10-2008

Wow...almost immediately today's program begins to show the immense bias towards Sen. Obama. Why doesn't NPR try to be "above the frey" and do some honest, unbiased reporting. Talk about the faults and strengths of BOTH candidates. That's the change I would like to see right now.

Sent by Colleen | 2:15 PM | 3-10-2008

Experience clearly depends on the job. Jobs of a technical or factual nature, experience may be very helpful - i.e. a doctor versus a graphic designer. Jobs that are creative or conceptual in nature probably experience isn't so important. I would assume being a president is the type of job where experience is more important rather then less. Of course there are exceptions to all of these rules.

Sent by Scott M | 2:16 PM | 3-10-2008

Their is an untold/unseen racial code lying underneath the "experience" talk. Obama has more experience than Bill Clinton had at the time of Bill's campaign. The "lack of experience" issue is a strategy that people can use to hide behind. No one ever challenges these parrots for the definition and depth of the experience that is being sought. Why, because not one of Hillary's people is capable of TRUTHFULLY distinguishing Barack's experience from Hillary's or Bill's pre-administration position(s).

Sent by G. Rice | 2:17 PM | 3-10-2008

All questions except those of the math of delegates seem irrelevant at this point. Whether Clinton is more experienced or not, she doesn't have the votes and the only way she can win, barring miracles, is to get the votes of super delegates. Why does the media continue to take this campaign seriously? I would think NPR would be focusing on the "story" that matters - the fact that the Clinton campaign, like Huckabee's until last week, continues to hope for a miracle. When it was clear Huckabee couldn't win, the media kept harping on that point. The only difference seems to be that because of the rules Clinton could get the nomination despite not winning the popular vote. The question is, why does the First Family of the Democratic party think that a candidate who loses the popular vote should be nominated? What, in their experience, suggests that this would be good for the country?

Sent by Frank Hill | 2:18 PM | 3-10-2008

What does the presidential scholar make of the comparison between Obama and Lincoln in terms of judgment and experience?

Sent by Jeff Lindon | 2:19 PM | 3-10-2008

No one mentions Barack Obama's admitted drug use--"blow" as he called it. Does that show a type of character or experience that we should be thinking about? If not, why not? George W Bush wouldn't even admit to marijuana use before his first election because he did'nt want kids to be able to say that "the president did it--it must be okay".

Sent by Paula | 2:27 PM | 3-10-2008

Most of the discourse about Experience in this context fails to take into account the negative capacity of Experience; the likelihood of those who dwell on Experience, on the Past, to project the past, its problems, solutions, dynamics, onto the present and future. But the present and future may just as well be significantly different than the past and so require creative, new and distinct solutions. This seems to be the real strength of Barack Obama; that he seems in touch with, and focused on, the essential problems of the Now and how they will develop into our future. He sees how things can be, and will be, different in the coming decade(s).

Sent by Tom | 2:29 PM | 3-10-2008

As a Democrat, I think we need someone who can hit the ground running and not take year or two to figure out how the system works. I'm not a presidential historian, just a middle-aged guy with failing memory...but it seems like BClinton and JCarter were both good, experienced outsiders wanting to change things. They both blundered around 'til they learned how DC govt works. There's too much broken now to allow for that learning curve. Both dems now are strong candidates, not that far apart on issues, but THAT's where HClinton's experience is superior to Obama's, her understanding of how to get things done in that DC arena.

Sent by Jon Shorr | 2:29 PM | 3-10-2008

For the people who are saying that experience doesn't matter. Ask them if they think that someone without any or limited experience could do their jobs.

Sent by Karen | 2:31 PM | 3-10-2008

I was debating whether to apply for an open position of directorship of a Legal Aid office where I used to work. I lacked the management experience, but have a serious passion for working with the poor. In discussing whether to apply with my family, my very wise fourteen year old daughter pointed out that I could do a great job representing my clients one at a time, but I had the opportunity to help a lot more people in that job by bringing my passion and optimism to that position. This is the reason that I support Barack Obama this election. I think the country needs his passion and optimism now more than the experience.

Sent by withheld please | 2:31 PM | 3-10-2008

Please note that the previous caller was incorrect about the Florida Democratic Primary. She said that Hillary Clinton supports the standing of the results of the Florida primary, even though she was the only one on the ballot and visited Florida, even though candidates took a pledge not to. In fact, the Florida Democratic Primary featured all the candidates (including Mr. Obama). He was not on the Michigan ballot. Also, Mrs. Clinton did not visit the Florida until after the polls closed on election day.

Sent by Brad | 2:32 PM | 3-10-2008

Your guest was talking about experience in regard to President Kennedy. If he had read Khruschev's memoirs he would know that the only reason Khruschev put those missiles in Cuba was because of Kennedy's inexperience. He said he never would have put them there if the President had been someone he respected.
The rest of the world will perceive our leaders as well!

Sent by Alice Weaver | 2:33 PM | 3-10-2008

When does poor judgement become criminal? If we had held the Johnson- then Kissinger-Nixon admin responsible for illegal bombing of Cambodia and other atrocities in Vietnam, perhaps then the Bush admin would not have invaded Iraq based on dubious intelligence and "poor judgement".

Sent by Kirk Anderson | 2:35 PM | 3-10-2008

Sen. Obama admitted he did not know how he would have voted had he been in Congress during Irag invasion discussion. He was aware that he did not have access to the confidential information which was presented to Congress. What is never mentioned when the war topic emerges is the post 9/11
atmosphere rampant throughout the nation. At that time, it was seen as political suicide to vote against the war. I was one of those marching in DC before the war started: I was and am disgusted with the spineless position of the Democratic Party.

Sent by Dorothy Hastings | 2:36 PM | 3-10-2008

Janet just called in using the thoroughbred trainer/buyer/breeder as anecdotal evidence of experience being key. However, they just retired the most expensive horse ever purchased and it simply could not run. It was terrible, yet he had cost $16,000,000.

Most expensive horses don't make back their purchase price, at least not on the track. Experience can be overrated and it can produce a tremendous amount of assumption. Just as Sen. Clinton did not anticipate that she would have to campaign beyond Super Tuesday.

Sent by Rick Lochner | 2:36 PM | 3-10-2008

The discussion on the radio seems to be missing how specific experience has to be in order to be truly useful. The historian mentioned LBJ's ability to get bills through Congress and inability to convince the nation that Vietnam was worth fighting. Setting aside the point that Vietnam would have been a hard sell by the best salesman, it has to be noted that LBJ's major life experience was in getting bills through Congress. He could take that and push through the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, but he had no good transferable experience in selling the entire nation on a project.

Sent by John Douglas | 2:42 PM | 3-10-2008

The "sound bytes" or "bumper sticker" slogans change vs. experience don't portray the intricacies of Hillary Clinton's experience. In the Senate and as First Lady promoting Universal health care, she sought alliances with unlikely republican supporters and was able to close bipartisan deals skillfully. This creative approach to getting the job done is not comparable to the "experienced nurse" example (a very interesting study, however.)

Sent by Karen J. | 2:42 PM | 3-10-2008

The Clinton campaign uses experience as a campaign issue. But if you use this as a campaign issue what is the point, when the decides you have made have been bad. etc. the war and health care. If we use her experience as a guide then were is the beef.

Sent by Gerald | 2:42 PM | 3-10-2008

For an analysis of "experience" in general and that of the presidential candidates in particular, too long to reproduce here, see "Hillary's Lack of Experience," http://fromdc2iowa.blogspot.com/

Sent by Nicholas Johnson | 2:46 PM | 3-10-2008

Character, good judgment and ethics trumps experience, in my estimation. This is particularly so in a position such as President, where so many unknowns can take place anywhere, at any time (yes, even at 3 am). An unethical individual is more dangerous, no matter what the experience (think Nixon, Cheney, Buchanan). The hijinks of this campaign have certainly revealed what types of candidates we have running. I'm seeing a candidate who will do whatever to get what they want (thinking Nixon) and one who exhibits statesmanlike wisdom, intellect and grace in the face of ridiculous attacks. The presidential one will get my vote.

Sent by V Williamson | 2:49 PM | 3-10-2008

I think intelligence is more important than experience, and especially, the type of intelligence. I'm referring to the work of Robert Sternberg, at Tufts. He believes that there are 3 kinds of intelligence--analytical, creative, and practical, Hillary Clinton clearly is high on the analytical scale--the book smarts kind of intelligence. Obama is no slouch in that department either, but I think that he has the other 2 kinds in abundance. Creative intelligence is the ability to successfully deal with new and unusual situations by drawing on existing skills and knowledge. Practical intelligence is the ability to adapt to everyday life by drawing on existing skills and knowledge. We use it to deal with everyday personal and practical problem. We use it to deal with new and unusual situations that come up in everyday life. One of your participants talked about the difference between intelligence and wisdom, and maybe that's what I'm talking about here. Creative and practical intelligence is what gives us wisdom--and that is what Obama seems to have in a way that Clinton does not.

Sent by Susan Shure | 2:51 PM | 3-10-2008

Years on the job translates for increase in pay and promotion at a factory but not so much in high management positions. Sure, experience is importance but the bottom line is that you also need specific leadership skills, which one may not get from experience alone.
Barack Obama may be younger but he does have significant political experience and he is skillful in conflict resolution, in clarifying goals, and in motivating people to join him. Most important of all are his conflict resolution and problem solving skills. Yes, Hillary has worked hard for many years but at this point in time, we need someone who will create a new, more functional atmosphere of cooperation, and the person who seems more able to do is Senator Obama.

He has knowledge coupled with a functional process style that can get things done.

Sent by Peggy | 3:03 PM | 3-10-2008

I was in Rwanda last month and people there have many questions for H. Clinton: Where was she back in 1994 when the parents and relatives of those millions of olphans of Tutsi and Hutu moderates were butchered by INTERAHAMWE during the Genocide??
They are asking why Cliton refused to send troops to help the UN stop the killings?
Many people including General French Canadian Romeo Dallaire who was in charge of the UN mission for peace keepping called Washington for help. Where was Hillary?What did she do? Did she pick up the phone at 3:00AM When they told them that the plane of the former Dictator was shot down and that they feared for their lives?One millioended up being killed)
Where is the judgement? Experience its self is not enough.

Sent by Tony P. | 3:04 PM | 3-10-2008

Listing to TOTN today: How could we compare being the President of any country with 'nursing' or "breeding plants or race horses'?

All of those things have a pattern that allows one to learn and shift then adapt so that next time that learning can be put to use. But how many things in the life of running a Nation in the 21st Century are predictable? Even if we learn how to deal with terrorists in one land it does not mean the same lessons can apply to the next.

Adaptation, thinking on your feet, cool headedness, working intellegence, an open heart and mind and many more attributes that others can add; these are what I would want my President to have.

Experience only counts if the circumstances you encounter are the same or close to the same ones you have encounter before. I do not think those kind of situations define the behavior of our world anymore.

I do not speak with anyone who wants to go back into the past, mostly because we cannot. We need change because almost everything around us has changed and will keep doing so and we as a Nation have to now turn on a dime and shift our behaviours or be washed under by the nations of the world who are changing and thinking of living life the planet in new ways.

Health Care, energy, elections, immigration, schooling, states rights, enviromental crisis, fragile economy, lower quality of life, one in 100 adults in prison, jobs out-sourced, Bio-technology running unchecked, terriorism, school shootings and teen deaths...which of these does not need to BE CHANGED and looked at with completly fresh ideas and minds to apply them.

We need to stop recycling our politicians from big businessmen to lobbists to politics and back again.

I fear very much experience will just give us a rearranging of old ideas. We need to be inspired by a New Cabinet and new Executive Branch and as many new Senators and Congressmen and women of a Purple Persuasion as possible to work together for the Unity and survival of our beautiful country.

Thanks for letting us express!

Sent by Tracy LHerisson | 3:49 PM | 3-10-2008

I'm glad that in this election we are asking what kinds of experience and judgement a president needs, instead of asking who would be more fun to drink beer with.

Sent by J K | 4:05 PM | 3-10-2008

Forget Obama and his "blow" - it's a non-issue. His long and repeated dealings with Tony Rezko are more than fair game and should be considered when determining his "good judgment."

When do we explode the erroneous idea that "change" and "experience" are opposites?

Ken rudin's crack that Hillary Clinton is claiming credit for the "League of Nations" after WWI was not only uncalled for and unprofessional, it uncovers any lie that might remain in place about his impartiality. He should hence force be introduced not as a "political junkie" but as a Barack Obama lapdog.

I'm glad someone else pointed out the caller who was permitted to spread misinformation without correction when she inaccurately claimed that Hillary Clinton was 1) calling for the Florida vote to "stand without re-do," 2) was the only one on the Florida ballot, and 3) was "the only one who went there" with the inference being that Hillary Clinton had broken her promise to campaign in Florida while Barack Obama had not. The caller used her assertions to tout Barack Obama's superior character and though her assertions were untrue, all went unchallenged.

Sent by FMM | 8:20 PM | 3-10-2008

I am Mahitt Mandeep Singh , a resident of Canada. Mr. Barack Obama's supporter for many reasons , for some which we try to ignore like his color, name and experience which Sen Clinton says she has the most experience in WHITE HOUSE but we have a saying

"one rotten apple distroys the basket".

in her case she stayed in TOO many rotten apples....am talking about washington politics .
Right now American people need to understand that the most important thing to be considered is their standing in the world, how poeple of other countries think about Americans and what kind of events had led to that thinking and is there any basis for that and who is the best to change that negativity about Americans.That is where color comes in...Mr. Obama has an appeal in his personality that works for him , an appealing down to earth personality, a posture of a hard working man who has seen what other common american public and what other people of world has seen...that is hard times...the way he presents himself displays hope and change...he does not even have to say those words....people of color all over the world relates to him or will relate to him as a peacekeeper if he is what he says he is.

Secondaly, if American people really want to break away from the ARISTOCRACTIC DEMOCRACY then again he is the kind of candidate we all should be looking for.

Third....he is missing out on one thing in his message of change...right now it seems to some voters that his change might bring an upheavel in the present state of the situations in such a way that it will have a net negative effect on the economy for a while ...economy is already bad , government is aristocratic(all for money) but by him bringing change there is going to be some real shakedown and the organization into stability will take some time. Change does not happen in a click...it happens overtime so voters must be ready for it.
But if he relays his change as Change in Aristocratic Democracy; that might bring him more credibility because that will bring the world's popular opinion to his side which America needs in these times....Always remember todays society is a very complex symbiotic society..we depend on each other more then ever and America being a pioneer in past times is portraying itself as an aggressor....
Only one policy can win the war on terrorism...making friends with common people......people who deal with it first hand...people who suffer first because of war......
We are one ......same blood ...different skin color but Americans must select a candidate who has the best appeal to the countries of world...same old washington politics has no place in todays world....



Sent by MAHITT MANDEEP SINGH | 2:42 AM | 3-11-2008

Why is there no test to become president?

Doctors have many qualification exams and have to renew their licenses.

Lawyers have the Bar exams.

The President can certainly get more people killed than any doctor or lawyer.

Basic knowledge of geography, American history and constitutional law seems like it would required for any decent presidential candidate.

Sent by Alex | 4:05 AM | 3-11-2008

Politics. It's junior high all over again! Innnuendo. Gossip. Snotty remarks. End runs. This isn't smart politics, it's total ego and ends up in nothing but divisiveness. We're all still human beings and we react to this nastiness with more nastiness or defensiveness. No one wins, especially not the country. It's tme for an ethical sea change.

Sent by Cheryl Long | 9:55 AM | 3-11-2008

this is dzekashu hans writing to from the forest grasslands of cameroon. i'm twenty years old

Sent by DZEKASHU HANS NGEHDZEYEM | 12:52 PM | 9-17-2008

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