Lack of Experience: The Perverse Argument of John McCain Against Barack Obama

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Political analysts everywhere, working on behalf of the Obama campaign and for the media, have been making the point that McCain’s adding Sarah Palin to his ticket robs him of his argument about Barack Obama’s inexperience.

According to some of those pundits, McCain has opted instead to focus on ideology to energize his conservative base, and on broadening the appeal of his campaign to middle and working class voters. Not incidentally, he’s also re-pitched himself as the real candidate for change by bringing in a Washington outsider – in stark contrast to Obama’s choice of Senator Biden, the consummate Washington insider – who (Sarah Palin) just happens to be a woman.

I disagree that John McCain has taken the experience argument off the table. Quite to the contrary, I think he’s upped the ante on precisely that point. Thanks to Sarah Palin, the Obama campaign cannot argue that she is inexperienced without pointing out, at the same time, the lack of experience of their own standard bearer. They’re making McCain’s point for him.

The fact is, in many important respects Governor Palin is actually more experienced than Senator Obama. More to the point, even if she is relatively inexperienced, she’s only running for Vice President. If Senator Obama would like to switch positions with Joe Biden, that is, let Senator Biden run for President and Senator Obama be his running mate, comparisons between Obama and Palin might make more sense. Unfortunately, Barack Obama is the head of his own ticket. He’s running for President. Governor Palin is only running for Vice President.

Look for the Obama campaign to suppress arguments attacking Palin’s inexperience, and to downplay his signature issue of being the agent of change. That leaves him with arguing that McCain is a Bush clone who “doesn’t get it” – and those are now significantly weaker arguments than they were before Sarah Palin – a working class woman and Washington outsider, that’s been a mayor and now governor — was added to the Republican ticket.

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