Charlie Reese on Experience and Obama’s Foreign Policy Statements

Charlie Reese argues that experience is not always a virtue:

Would you really prefer an experienced killer? An experienced crook? An experienced con artist? An experienced whore? An experienced grifter? An experienced politician? An experienced liar?

I doubt it. For one thing, you can’t expect a fresh look at old problems from experience. Experience often means that the person has developed fixed opinions and fixed ideas. Experienced people tend to be the kind who “know” the situation long before they hear any evidence. Most of the time, they are the kind of people who don’t want to hear any evidence that contradicts their own ideas. I would even say that choosing a president with a lot of experience is a guarantee of maintaining the status quo, and, as I hope you know, the present status quo stinks.

Reese is not endorsing Obama, but he also defends Obama against many of the attacks and distortions of his positions:

I was just incensed at the cheap attempt to distort what the man said. He said he would talk to our so-called enemies. Those are exactly the people a president should talk to. The Cold War ended because American presidents talked to Soviet leaders, who were certainly our enemies at the time. There are only two ways to resolve a conflict – by negotiation or by force. I hope none of you is looking forward to a new century of war.

He also said that if we developed definitive information on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and the Pakistan government refused to act, he would. Isn’t that what a normal person would want in a commander in chief? Someone who would act decisively in pursuing America’s goals? He didn’t say he would declare war on Pakistan. He simply said he’d go after our chief enemy, who has eluded the Bush administration for six years now.

Deliberate distortion of an opponent’s statements is a standard tactic among dishonorable politicians. That seems to be the majority of politicians these days. However, the American people deserve the right to choose their candidates based on what they actually say and do and not on the basis of lies and distortions spread abroad by their opponents and their hired truth-twisters.

Secondly, you should realize that today there are no Lone Rangers running for president. They all are surrounded by advisers, and the winner will enter the White House with an entourage. Presidents not only get bombarded with advice, they have at their disposal the world’s largest, if not the most effective, intelligence apparatus.

Thirdly, keep in the mind that the worst members of the Bush administration are the most experienced. That includes Vice President Dick Cheney, who often has had no doubt about things that weren’t so, and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who boasted that “we know where the weapons are.” Their collective experience amounted to disaster.

Finally, what you want in a president is intelligence, an open mind, energy, curiosity, courage, honesty and sound judgment. None of those is a product of experience. A modern president can collect data up the yazoo. That’s not the problem. The problem is in analyzing the data and deciding what, if anything, to do about a situation.

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  1. 1
    Brett says:

    I agree with Reese with all of these statements–any inexperienced president will have an extensive group of advisors to rely on as well as the United States’s large intelligence network, so experience is not necessarily required, as well as his highlighting of Cheney’s horrid missteps despite his supposed experience–but to say that experience is bad (dishonestly equating it with murder and deceit) is frankly a poor overture to an otherwise decent argument.

    So, according to Reese, just because I have years of experience learning about history under my belt, I shouldn’t be a history teacher because I have “fixed opinions and fixed ideas” and that I should instead allow Paris Hilton to teach my classes because she has very little knowledge of the subject, and would be open to “new ideas” and “new opinions” from her students–her “entourage.”

    Experience is not the problem. Experience in and of itself does not lead to a disregard for other opinions, nor does it entail “fixed opinions and fixed ideas.” Such a concept is very basic to the human condition. Since childhood, we as human beings develop “fixed opinions” on many subjects. Is being “fixed” on the opinion that serial killers are evil people a bad thing? What about believing that all people are equal under the law and deserve universal human rights?

    Experience is not the cause of a blickered view of the world. It is rather a lack an openness to new opinions that causes such a narrow-mindedness. We see this with John Kerry, who has decades of experience, yet is able to change his mind based on new and developing circumstances, and has been attacked for such fluctuation. Contrast that with Dick Cheney. He has many more years of experience, but it is rather his agenda that controls his judgement and his actions, not the facts that are available to him.

    In a president, experience does not really matter and is not an accurate measure of success, as we see with Lincoln and Kennedy, but it is still wrong to assert that experience is somehow bad. It is not. When it comes to experience, what ultimately matters is whether or not that experienced person has a good heart. Experience is not the end result of a person, rather, it is but a tool for humane people to use to achieve great things.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Reese’s article makes points pertinent to Obama as opposed to Clinton, but otherwise there are many potential counter arguments related to experience.

    Ultimately I’d say that experience is of value, but could also have some drawbacks. All other things being equal I’d prefer a candidate with more experience than Obama, but we also must consider other characteristics and the choices we have.

    Regarding experience, I’m also watching to see how Richardson does. He has the experience and I believe he’d make a good president. Unfortunatley I’m not sure he’d make a good general election candidate. Besides, regardless of what I think of him, he remains a long shot for the nomination. This forces me to consider Obama who can win the nomination, who I believe would make a good candidate in the general election, and who I currently prefer over most of the other candidates.

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