THE PLANK DECEMBER 20, 2007
If you haven't yet read Sean Wilentz's anti-Obama brief on our site, you should. I take Wilentz's point that the political press (myself included) is probably too enamored of Obama's biography--and the insight and instincts that we presume he's acquired from his life experiences. But, that said, I'm not really clear how Wilentz himself doesn't fall into that trap when assessing his own preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton.
Here's Wilentz making "a dynamic historical case" for Hillary to Newsweek:
I think Hillary is important because the
election really is the culmination of what's been a 40 year struggle
for the Democrats to rediscover who they are. A 40-year struggle
against what we'll call Nixon-slash-Reaganism. And, simply put, she's
in the best position to be a president. Which is to say, she
understands how American politics works. She understands the trajectory
of American political history for the last 40 years because she's lived
it in a way that the others haven't, really. She's seen it at all
levels, from Arkansas to Capitol Hill. The country needs someone who
can take us beyond this struggle--this long, long fight we've been
having. [Emphasis added.]
I suppose that Wilentz's support for Hillary is based on, as he puts it in his TNR piece, "prosaic credentials such as knowledge, experience, and sound policy proposals"--or at least the first two out of those three, as he doesn't mention any of Hillary's policy proposals in his interview with Newsweek. But Obama's supporters can make the same claim. Indeed, if you want to argue, as Wilentz does, that Hillary
"understands how American politics works," then the fact that Obama has
spent 10 years as an elected official--having
served for 8 years in the Illinois State Senate before he came to the U.S. Senate in 2005--and that Hillary has spent only 6 years in elected office is pretty relevant.
But Hillary's knowledge and experience that Wilentz finds so impressive is, as he says, derived from the life she's led for the past 40 years. And if Hillary supporters like Wilentz believe that her time as the spouse of a governor and a president arm her with relevant knowledge and experience, then I don't think Obama's supporters are out of line in thinking that his time as a child in Indonesia and as a community organizer in Chicago imbue him with relevant knowledge and experience, as well.
In other words, I think that to a certain degree we're all guilty of projecting.