AP Debunks McCain’s Attacks on Obama’s Experience

John McCain has been trying to hide how inexperienced his vice presidential pick is by making incorrect claims about Barack Obama. Obama has had far more experience dealing with national issues in both the Illinois legislature and the U.S. Senate than Palin has had in less than two years as Governor of a state with as small a population as Alaska.

Prior to being Governor, Palin had no meaningful experience, being mayor of a tiny town where most functions were performed at a county level. In contrast, Obama worked as a community organizer and taught Constitutional law prior to entering the state legislature. The significance of Obama’s years in the state legislature of Illinois should not be discounted. While members of the U.S. Senate are able to have staffers handle much of the work on issues, members of state legislatures are forced to have a much more hands on approach.

AP has disputed some of the recent claims made by John McCain regarding Obama’s experience and the attacks based upon voting present in the Illinois legislature.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain says his vice presidential pick, Sarah Palin, was already an experienced government official while his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, was working as a community organizer.

She wasn’t. Palin was finishing college, getting married and working as a TV sportscaster when Obama was directing a church-based community group on Chicago’s South Side in 1985-88.

McCain sought to make the comparison in an appearance on Fox News Sunday, criticizing Obama as too inexperienced to be in the White House despite his choice of a running mate who’s also being called too unseasoned for that role.

Challenged about his vice presidential choice, McCain said as governor of Alaska for the last two years, Palin “has had enormous responsibilities, none of which Senator Obama had.” Later, McCain elaborated that “as a governor, she has had executive experience. She didn’t sit in the state legislature.”

The same contrast could be made with McCain himself, whose entire 26-year political career has been spent in Congress.

It’s true that in recent years, more presidents have come from governorships than from legislative bodies. But it’s a stretch to argue that running the statehouse in a small state is ideal preparation for the issues that will confront the next president, from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to coping with a half-trillion-dollar budget deficit and serious energy and health-care problems.

In the same interview, McCain continued the theme, noting that “when she was in government, he was a community organizer.”

That’s incorrect. When Palin was first elected to the town council in Wasilla, Alaska, in the fall of 1992, Obama was wrapping up work in Chicago on a voter-registration drive. When that job ended, he joined a Chicago law firm and became a lecturer at the University of Chicago law school, and the Chicago Tribune picked him as one of “25 Chicagoans on the road to making a difference.”

Obama’s community organizing career had come years earlier, in 1985-88.

McCain also highlighted what he termed Palin’s independent streak, praising her for often bucking her own party leaders.

“When she was taking tough positions against her own party, Senator Obama was voting ‘present’ 130 times in the state legislature, on every tough issue, whatever it was,” McCain said.

That charge was reminiscent of attacks waged on Obama by his fellow Democrats during this year’s primary campaign, including Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

It’s true that Obama voted “present” dozens of times, part of the thousands of votes he cast in an eight-year span in Springfield. Illinois lawmakers commonly vote that way on a variety of issues, and he has countered that many of those votes were cast because of technical or legal considerations about the underlying legislation.

Often, Obama voted “present” with large groups of other Democrats to protest what they saw as Republican trickery or abuse of power. Other times, voting that way sends a message that a lawmaker supports a bill’s intent, but has concerns about how the legislation is drafted. Voting this way also can be a way to duck a difficult issue, as McCain charged, although that’s difficult to prove.

There are also cases where legislators vote “present” as part of a strategy. Obama did this on some abortion measures, voting “present” to encourage some wavering legislators to do the same instead of voting “yes”. Their “present” votes had the same effect as “no” votes, so getting them to vote present helped defeat the bills.

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    Jerry says:

    In a side note, it’s being reported that Gov. Palin used her line-item veto power to cut funds for a teen mother halfway house. Other ironies to come…

  2. 2
    Jerry says:

    What is so sad about McCain is his inability to stop himself. The man is self-destructing right in front of everyone. I just want to take him aside and say: “It’s all right, John. You’ve done your best, now take it easy. We’ll take it from here.”
    Either that or yell at him for being such a peddler of lies and deceit. I go back and forth…

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