April 11, 2008


Inspiration Vs. Experience (DAVID SHRIBMAN, April 11, 2008, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Here's a news flash from the front lines of political Pennsylvania: It is becoming increasingly clear that the central elements of both Hillary Clinton's and Barack Obama's campaign pitches are deeply flawed.

One is arguing that experience will lead to excellence in the presidency. The other is arguing that hope and eloquence are the elixir of democracy. [...]

I have argued before that well-prepared candidates such as William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, and Nixon — with remarkable pre-White House experience — are prone to perform unremarkably, or worse, in the White House. [...]

Now to the inspiration side of this spring's tarnished coin. Barack Obama can give a good speech, but so could William Jennings Bryan, who had only two terms in the House before he ran for president in 1896. Bryan was a mesmerizing orator, with the wind of the prairie and the waters of the Platte in his voice. He was also the last major American politician to be home-schooled, though a new generation may be on its way. But he would have been a lousy president.

Mr. Obama has arrived on the national scene much the way Wendell Willkie did in 1940. Here's how Time characterized the Willkie phenomenon in the magazine's political obituary for the Wall Street lawyer in 1944: "Nothing in their lives, nothing in American political history could have prepared (the nation) … for the almost religious passion that forced the Willkie candidacy over every barrier that political tricks could devise, overwhelming all precedents under the mighty chant … 'We Want Willkie!'"

Sound like someone who's been wandering Pennsylvania over the past few weeks?

...Hoover and Nixon are the only two men elected in open elections president in the 20th century who were considered brighter than their opponents and the American people never entrusted Bryan nor Willkie with the presidency. The stupider candidate usually wins and the stupidest --Taft, Coolidge, Ike, Reagan, W--make the best presidents.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 11, 2008 8:17 AM
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