THE PLANK SEPTEMBER 6, 2007
Via email, a couple of interesting reactions to my post about Hillary and experience. Here's one from someone on Capitol Hill who supports Obama:
You touch on an issue that most folks have ignored to date. Hillary is billing herself as the candidate of experience, yet she has served in public office for only six months more than John Edwards and four years more than Barack Obama (less when you count his time in the IL legislature). Quite clearly, when she talks about her seasoned experience, she is referencing her time in the White House as First Lady.
Yet the reason she can't get into the particulars, I suspect, is that most Americans, of whatever partisan stripe, are discomforted by the fact that a First Lady, who is neither an elected official nor an appointed official subject to some accountability, should be excessively involved in policymaking. After all, this fueled so much discontent over her leading role in the health care fiasco.
Obama is starting to flirt with this line of attack, which in its crudest form could be stated, "Just because you spent eight years living in the White House and sharing a bed with the President of the United States does not give you foreign policy chops or leadership experience."
As I noted yesterday, from what I can tell, the substance of that last point is wrong: Hillary seems to have been more engaged and influential than most people realize--or than she and Bill want them to realize. Yet no one is pressing Hillary on the specifics of her influence. For now "visited 82 countries" seems to be enough. I think the reader is quite right when he flags the likely concern that Americans would have mixed feelings about a First Lady saying she was something like a co-president.
Adds another Obama-boosting reader:
[T]he (potential) problem for Obama [in pressing her for specifics on her White House "experience"] is that Hillary will suddenly be able to claim partial credit for various, popular (Bill) Clinton initiatives we didn't even know she had anything to do with: "Balanced budget"? Oh sure, I pushed Bill hard on that." "EITC? Best poverty program ever invented-I made sure that Bill advocated for that."
Instead, why doesn't Obama just stick to a very simple message: "Experience? Senator, you're a smart, valued colleague, but on the biggest domestic issue of recent years, the need for universal, affordable health insurance, you screwed it up so badly you set back the possibilities for almost a generation--we're only just now beginning to get back to the point that we were at when you mismanaged that program in 1993. And on the biggest foreign policy issue in recent years, you just plain got it wrong--you voted to give this president the authority to start a war in Iraq, a war that is surely the biggest foreign policy debacle since Vietnam, and indeed will probably have graver consequences than even that catastrophe. That's 0 for 2 on the most important questions facing our country. With all due respect, we could stand a bit less of your experience."
But he doesn't have the balls, frankly--he just doesn't want to win quite enough. Really--it's that simple--I can't believe they haven't figured this line out yet-they just don't have the guts to use it.
Update: Obama to ABC News today:
"I've been in elected office longer than John Edwards or Hillary Clinton," said Obama. "I've passed more bills I'm sure than either of them --certainly in the state legislative level."