Wednesday, July 18, 2007

How Important Is Experience in the Primary?

I have been wondering how I should evaluate the credentials of the top three Democratic contenders for the nomination in 2008. Here are two options:

1) Taken together, Senators Clinton, Edwards, and Obama have 0 years worth of experience as chief executives of any substantial political entity.

2) Taken together, Senators Clinton, Edwards, and Obama have 15 years worth of experience in the Senate.

I think this race should be more wide open than it appears to be. In particular, on #1, Governor (or Representative or Ambassador or Secretary) Richardson should be doing much better. On #2, Senator Biden, who has served over 24 years, should be doing much better.

So why doesn't experience--where they should have it or where they happen to have it--count for more in the race so far?


Anonymous said...

Andrew, you should stick to the economic topics where you have expertise, because this post isn't just incredible ignorant, it's also incredibly sexist.

To say Hillary Clinton has no experience of any political substance is one of the most bizarre statements I've ever heard. It shows that you don't know anything about the way the Clintons have worked or their political machine.

Hillary Clinton has more direct experience at the seat of power than any non-President alive. She also has the best advice and machinery at her fingertips. What are you talking about??

It's all about 1) the ability to get elected; and 2) the ability to lead. George Bush Jr. had #1 but not #2.

Several fine Presidents came forth after having only served in the U.S. Senate. I know you're youing, but can you maybe remember John Kennedy? Hillary has the same Senate experience and eight years more experience in the White House than Kennedy had when he was elected.

Andrew Samwick said...

If you had heard (or read) the statement that "Hillary Clinton has no experience of any political substance," then that would have been bizarre. But you would not be able to attribute it to me.

You will notice, if you bother to read the post, that I grouped her with two others who have no experience "as chief executives of any substantial political entity." You cannot possibly believe that the words "chief executives" are incidental to the meaning of the statement.

Since she is a candidate for a position that is the chief executive of the most imporant political entity in the country, I think it is reasonable to wonder why she, like the other two, is ahead of other candidates with more experience as chief executives of other political entities.

I cannot figure out how this post rates as "incredibly sexist." Please explain.

eightnine2718281828mu5 said...

Resumes aren't that critical; there's some minimum threshold that you must meet to be considered 'serious', but beyond that the marginal benefit is pretty slim in the eyes of the voting public.

Sorta like being a sales guy; employers probably expect a college degree, but there ain't many doctorates in the field. Resumes get you an interview; after that, the resume fades in significance to more ephemeral qualities such as the (in)famous 'beer test' and policy mix.

Anonymous said...

Andrew, the term "chief executive" is meaningless. What are you talking about? Is a mayor a chief executive??

I can prove to you that your statement is sexist.

Would you have made the same claim about Al Gore 8 years ago that you made about Hillary's lack of experience today? Answer honestly, yes or no.

Eight years ago, Al Gore also had experience as a U.S. senator, although from a smaller and far less influential state than Hillary's.

Eight years ago, Al Gore also had eight years of experience in the Clinton administration. But anybody who knows anything about that administration says that Al's access to knowledge and his policy-making influence over eight years was far, far less than Hillary's.

You see? SEXIST

Andrew Samwick said...

I would encourage you to consult a dictionary before asserting that a term has no meaning. I used the term "chief executive" as it is conventionally used.

In the post, I contrasted Senator Clinton's lack of experience as a chief executive to Governor Richardson's experience. I made the exact same contrast for Senators Obama and Edwards, without regard to whether the Senators were male or female. It should be obvious that the four people's sexes played no role in these comparisons.

If I had made a comparison to Vice President Gore, and if I had done so in a way that elevated his status because he is male and devalued Senator Clinton's because she is female, then you could claim that the post was sexist. It should be obvious that I did not do that either.

Anonymous said...

Then why did you throw Joe Biden into the mix? What "Chief Executive experience" does he have?

Look, Andrew, let's stop splitting hairs. Your post indicated that you think Joe Biden has as much or more "experience qualification" to be president as Hillary. Do you honestly believe that, all hair-splitting aside?

I believe that any Vice President of the U.S. who has ever served four years has more Chief Executive qualification than Joe Biden. And I believe Hillary has more Chief Executive qualification than any VP. She was effectively a "Super VP" of the Clinton White House.

By the way, it's sexist to totally dismiss the Chief Executive experience officially obtained by an eight-year First Lady. It's not zero, as you claim.

Andrew Samwick said...

The reference to Senator Biden is clearly in regard to the second point in the post, not the first. I noted that he has more experience in the Senate than Senators Clinton, Edwards, and Obama combined.

The post poses a question in the title about the relevance of experience to the primaries. The comparisons I make in the post suggest that experience as chief executives or in the Senate doesn't count for much. If it did, I would expect better standing of Governor Richardson and Senator Biden compared to the three frontrunners.

I don't regard Senator Clinton's experience as First Lady as experience in being the chief executive of a substantial political entity. An essential feature of being a chief executive, rather than a high ranking advisor or the like, is taking responsibility for the conduct and policies of the entire entity. I don't believe that she took responsibility in this way during her time as First Lady, even if the experience was valuable to her in that she learned a lot by being involved in policy discussion or advising.

Goose n Gander said...

Anonymous -- While Andrew might put less stock on Hillary Clinton's experience from being "Super VP" of her husband's administration than you, I'm not sure what to make of the credentials. For example, I look forward to the press holding her accountable for the Marc Rich pardon. I expect that she will deny any involvement in such decisions. And that, to me, is the distinction between actual chief executive experience and the experience gained as an advisor.

eightnine2718281828mu5 said...

experience gained

Bush certainly has gained experience on the job; wisdom escapes him, but if raw experience be the metric of choice, well, yes, by all means, give us another Bush. Eight years of experience and nothing to show for it.

And re the comments contrasting advisors with executives; where in your analysis do you allow for Bill's presence in a Hillary administration?

Perhaps we could evaluate the executive experience of the spouses? After all, spouses have a huge impact on the executive; surely their cv's get baked into the experience cake as well?

Mr. Clinton vs Mrs. Thompson? Mr. Clinton vs Mrs. Romney? Comments anyone...? Beuler? Beuler?

Anonymous said...

Andrew, you began this post stating Hillary's lack of "Chief Executive" experience as a fact.

In your last post addressed to me, you admitted that it was just your opinion that a First Lady's experience does not qualify under your personal definition.

Bloggers have the right to write whatever they want. But it helps your readers if you will separate facts from opinions. I'll bet you ask the same of your students in their writing.

Your opinion on Hillary's lack of experience not in the mainstream. And truly, you don't know much about how the White House works.

There are two issues involved in the Marc Rich pardon: 1) whether Hlllary had input; and 2) whether she will admit it. I can assure you that she did have input and that she won't admit it. That's politics, not experience.

There is no person running for office or any viable candidate for President with more direct White House experience than Hillary has, in all aspects of how the show goes on. She knows it in-depth from the inside, and knowledge is what you really want in a President.

Knock her down for other reasons, if you want. But at least be fair.

Lord said...

It seems rather clear from her standing that her experience in the White House does, in fact, account for much, though it may be more a matter of fame and prominence than decisionmaking. Then again, we only have to look back on Bush and Carter for examples where experience was grossly overrated. Meanwhile we have some examples about how not to run campaigns on the Republican side that may say much more about the value of that experience.

Andrew Samwick said...


The post claims that Senators Clinton, Edwards, and Obama have no experience as chief executives.

My reply to your first comment reminded you that the words "chief executive" are not incidental to the statement I made in the post.

My reply to your second comment provided you with a link to a definition of "chief executive," so it would be clear what the words mean.

My reply to your third comment explained my reasoning for why being First Lady does not meet the definition of a "chief executive." You have now labeled that as opinion, but you have not shown it to be false.

You have two rational options for making your next comment.

First, you could provide a real counterargument for why the experience as First Lady should be deemed experience as a chief executive of a substantial political entity.

Second, you could accept my claim that Senator Clinton, like Senators Edwards and Obama, has no experience as a chief executive of a substantial political entity. You could then answer the question posed in the title of the post with some combination of arguments like: a) Governor Richardson's experience as a chief executive doesn't impress likely voters in the Democratic primary, b) Senator Biden's vastly larger experience in the Senate also doesn't impress likely voters in the Democratic primary, and c) the unique experiences of the three front runners, though not in the Senate or as chief executives, are what likely Democratic voters desire in their next nominee.

You have been making arguments like the second option above, and I have not argued that you are wrong in that respect. I wrote the post to get feedback of this nature.

The reason we are in this seemingly endless dialogue is that you mistakenly believe that you have also succeeded in the first option, to say nothing of your specious claims that I have been "ignorant," "sexist," and not "fair," which a reasonable person would long ago have disavowed.