Experience has been the most trumpeted credential of the Climpton campaign in their quest to win the Democratic nomination over fierce rival Barack Obama, who has been tagged as having a lean resume ill-suited for the most powerful office of one, if not the, most powerful nation in the land. The recent red telephone ad of Clinton perhaps best illustrates this claim, portraying her as the candidate able to assume responsibility as commander-in-chief from day one. So we ask, how important really is experience?
But we could actually just look at our own fence for the most telling example. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo could be accused of anything other than being politically inexperienced. She sat as assistant secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry in 1987, after being invited by then President Corazon Aquino, and promoted as undersecretary two years later. Then in 1992, she squeaked a 13th place finish in the senatorial race earning her a three-year term. She then ran again in 1995 and this time topped the senatorial elections with about 16 million votes, which according to her official bio at the government website, is “the highest number of votes in Philippine history at that time”. Arroyo then ran as vice-president of then House Speaker Jose de Venecia and won by an overwhelming margin (“the largest mandate in the history of presidential or vice presidential elections”) over fierce rival Senator Edgardo Angara, who was Joseph Estrada’s running mate.
Arroyo’s academic background and political pedigree is of course another chapter in her bio. When she was 14 years old, her father, Diosdado Macapagal Arroyo, became president of the country.
She was valedictorian of her high school class at Assumption Convent, was consistently on the Dean’s List in Georgetown University in Washington DC, and graduated magna cum laude at Assumption College in Makati. She obtained a Master’s degree in Economics from the Ateneo de Manila University and a doctorate degree in Economics from the University of the Philippines.
But of course, we know the rest of the story, the one full of regrets, hate, and spite. Thanks to Arroyo, our country has been an argument in itself against democracy. We have been a textbook case of what democracy shouldn’t be. Our democratic terrain has been so ravaged all we got are but apparitions of freedom. And the person who has the highest responsibility for all of these-massive corruption, desecration of the ballot, the culture of impunity that has claimed the lives of countless many-is someone who has experience written all over her resume. And Arroyo did not just have ordinary experience, she had the experience necessary at that time-a sound understanding of economic principles at a time when we were still reeling off from the effects of the Asian financial crisis. Instead, it all went to waste. The only kind of economic framework we could perceive over the present situation is one where monetary interests and survival instincts prevail over any type of consideration, even human rights.
But then, Arroyo is just one of the many examples against experience, and there are also as much examples for it. The oft cited example in arguments for experience is the Bay of Bigs debacle of then President John F Kennedy. But as the Time articles point out, experience is never a quantifiable element that we could put a finger on.
If knowing the system is so useful, then second-term presidencies should be more successful than first-term. Instead, many Presidents lose effectiveness as they go along.
Just recently, Barack Obama gave what could be considered the most astute, and dare I say presidential, speech in his campaign, (click here for CJR’s post in anticipation of his speech and here for their entry after it) which is about racism and made in response to the hornet’s nest stirred by the sermon of his pastor Rev Jeremiah Wright. (Obama wrote a blog entry in the Huffington Post in response to the controversy.). If and only in itself, the speech, which is certainly one for the books, aptly portrays the message and spirit of his campaign, and all the more gained my respect. Right at bat, pundits lauded the speech, but outrightly questioned what collateral effects it may have in his campaign, considering that racism is still a very touchy issue in the US. Considering how crucial the current stretch is in the race, it would have been only politically convenient for Obama to toss the issue aside, with an obligatory apology and explanation thrown for good measure. But what he did was otherwise, allotting a sprawling speech on an issue which, he said, “this nation can not afford to ignore right now.”
But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.
The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.
Coming at the heels of various missteps like off-tangent parries by advisers Austan Golsbee regarding NAFTA and Samantha Powers regarding Hillary (calling her a “monster”), plus his being associated with indicted real estate developer Tony Rezko in his fundraising and real estate acquisition, it would have been unsurprising if he just dodged the issue, yet he remained consistent.
I hope for Obama to win the presidenct for I find myself giving much premium on motivation and leadership as primary factors, as I believe there lies much power in encouraging people. Clinton is undoubtedly intelligent, but Obama, aside from being intelligent himself, moves people, moves to act, to believe, to hope-and that is clearly something for a nation and world in perpetual distress. (Important to note however that though Hillary boasts of having a much nuanced perspective of foreign policy affairs, Obama’s grasp is not at all empty or elementary as he has opposed the Iraq invasion in 2004 with no insignificant amount of reasonable arguments. And though Clinton’s health-care proposal was considered by pundits as the most detailed, Obama’s was deemed anything but simplistic.)
America is stuck in a rut right now, thanks to the sweeping disenchantment caused by the unnecessary and fraudulent Iraq war, and clearly evidenced by the weakening value of the dollar (see a commentary in the financial times by former Fed chair Alan Greenspan on the present US crisis). It is a time most opportune for someone in America to rouse public sentiment, matching acts with rhetoric, for democracy for the world (in light of the successes of Russia, China, etc.) and execute sound foreign policies, if only to compensate for the disaster that is the Iraq war. I see no reason to hold doubt on Obama’s ability to carry out such tasks. It would be to America’s and the world’s benefit to hand the oval office to Barack Obama.
Recent reports about Clinton’s travel schedules as first lady puts to question her “experience” claim.
March 20 marked the Iraq invasion’s fifth year. Bush still stands by his decision and says it was well worth it.
Nobel prize winning economis Joseph Stiglitz along with Harvard’s Linda Bilmes estimates the cost of the war to be going at three trillion dollars.
Don recently made an article about the Prince Harry issue, which pertains his deployment in Afghanistan and the arrangement with the British press to not cover it. Comments would be very welcome.
I love this.
The National – Slow Show
You know I dreamed about you
for twenty-nine years before I saw you
You know I dreamed about you
I missed you for
for twenty-nine years