Obama Experience Attack Two-Edged Sword

Hillary - Obama Boxing Matt Yglesias makes an excellent point:

If you genuinely believe in your heart that Obama is too green to be president, and that the person with more Beltway experience belongs in the White House, then by all means keep saying that stuff but if you would prefer Obama over McCain if Clinton can’t get the nomination then you do need to consider what the impact of having high-profile Democrats going on record claiming that the likely Democratic nominee can’t do the job is going to be. That’s a different kind of thing than hitting him on his health care plan, or pointing to his sometimes off-base environmental record in the Senate.

Essentially, Matt’s invoking a variant of Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.” He’d seen the attacks on Barry Goldwater’s “extremism” by Nelson Rockefeller come back to haunt the party in the 1964 general election and wanted to head that off during his own 1966 bid for governor.

Generally speaking, this caution holds true for any primary attack. Despite the mythos surrounding Lee Atwater, the fact of the matter is that the Willie Horton scandal was introduced into the 1988 election not by the Bush campaign but by Democratic opponent Al Gore. Then again, Bush did introduce the “Voodoo Economics” attack on Ronald Reagan in 1980 only to have to reverse course when he accepted the vice presidential slot on the ticket.

The experience issue here is a special case, reminiscent of the “extremism” charge against Goldwater. By constantly harping on how, unlike Obama, she is ready to assume the duties of commander-in-chief “on Day One,” the Clinton team is explicitly saying that Obama is not fit to take the office. John McCain will certainly make use of that in the fall if Obama is the nominee.

Not that Clinton much cares, of course. I suspect she’d just as soon have McCain win if she’s not the nominee, anyway, to punish Democrats for having the temerity not to nominate her.

Image via Drew McKissick

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    I suspect she’d just as soon have McCain win if she’s not the nominee, anyway, to punish Democrats for having the temerity not to nominate her.

    I doubt it. I think she’ll support the nominee of the party whoever it is, just as Mike Huckabee will.

    But I do think that for HRC there is no next year. If she fails to get the nomination, ever advantage she has now will be that much weaker next quadrennial.

    That’s why I think she’ll pull out all the stops to secure the nomination.

  2. James Joyner says:

    I doubt it. I think she’ll support the nominee of the party whoever it is, just as Mike Huckabee will.

    I’ve never had any doubt on Huckabee, especially now that McCain’s the guy. The two seem to genuinely like one another, although I still can’t figure out what Huckabee hopes to gain by hanging around.

    Hillary strikes me as a sore loser, though. I have no doubt she’ll go through the motions of endorsing, doing a convention speech, and so forth. I just don’t think she’ll be very enthusiastic.

  3. yetanotherjohn says:

    If Hillary doesn’t win the presidency this year, her life long dream is dead. She is burning to many bridges. So while I have no doubt she will make a concession speech about supporting Bush and stopping McCain, I really don’t see her pushing Obama.

    Further, for her to push Obama at this point would be to say that in a time of war, the US should elect someone she doesn’t think is ready to be commander and chief on day one.

  4. Triumph says:

    By constantly harping on how, unlike Obama, she is ready to assume the duties of commander-in-chief “on Day One,” the Clinton team is explicitly saying that Obama is not fit to take the office. John McCain will certainly make use of that in the fall if Obama is the nominee.

    Given the fact that it is an idiotic charge, I’m sure it will work just as well for McCain as it has for Hillzilla.

  5. James Joyner says:

    Given the fact that it is an idiotic charge, I’m sure it will work just as well for McCain as it has for Hillzilla.

    I don’t think it’s an idiotic charge at all. He’s got no executive experience to speak of and very little experience on the national scene.

    That said, I agree that it’s unlikely to be effective. People otherwise inclined to vote for Obama clearly aren’t worried about resume.

  6. RReddy says:

    This is ridiculous! He doesn’t have the bona fides to be president and if these silly democrats select him as their nominee and he is attacked by the Republicans for not being ready to be President, this is somehow Clinton’s fault and her supporter’s fault. This is why we lose…… This Obama worship gets more ridiculous every day!

  7. carpeicthus says:

    Well, it is prtty stupid on substance, since McCain has no more executive experience and his major legislative accomplishments are McCain-Feingold, which his supporters hate, and being a member of the Keating Five. But he’s old, so he must have accomplishments, so it may work on the surface.

    I could see Hillary not minding all that much if McCain wins. She LIKES McCain. She doesn’t like the guy kicking her ass.

  8. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    A Texas legislator was asked by Chris Mathews to name one legislative accomplishment of Barry O’s. He tried to change the subject, but Mathews, acting as a journalist, hemmed the Texan in. He finally admitted he could not think of one thing Barrack Hussein Obama had accomplished as a legislator. Hope and change are wonderful platitudes, but unless we know what is hoped for (like a full socialist agenda) or what changes are planned, like from a free society to a socialist one. I think the words though sounding good to those who listen but do not ask how and what. The concept in times like these of making someone with no foreign policy experience, Commander in Chief, who’s brother is a radical Muslim and who attends a church that teaches hatred of whites should ever be President of the United States.

  9. yetanotherjohn says:

    The more I think about it the more I think there may be a ray of hope for Clinton. She isn’t likely to get the nomination, but Obama is likely headed for a Mondale like thrashing. He is touting change, but every position he takes is the same old song. Social security – don’t touch current or future benefits. Iraq – Run away and don’t bother looking at what is really happening on security or political fronts. Once people realize that he is nothing more than a noun, a verb and the words change and/or hope, the voters are going to notice that the emperor has no clothes.

    So if he goes down to a huge defeat (losing 40+ states), then Hillary can run in 2012 on a “I told you so platform”.

  10. Triumph says:

    I don’t think it’s an idiotic charge at all. He’s got no executive experience to speak of and very little experience on the national scene.

    Neither Hillary nor McCain have executive experience either.

    Voters largely base their decisions on variables other than experience.

    Dan Quyale had more experience than any other candidate in 2000 and he couldn’t compete. Bill Richardson had more experience than anyone this year, and the guy could barely get a couple of thousand votes in Iowa.

    What is interesting is that we are going to have a senator as the next president–given the last ex-senator we had in the White House, we should all be a bit wary.

  11. James Joyner says:

    given the last ex-senator we had in the White House, we should all be a bit wary

    Depends who you mean, I guess. Richard Nixon was the last president who had a Senate seat on his resume but he’d been Veep in the meantime. Ditto LBJ. JFK was the last man to go directly from the Senate to the Oval Office.

  12. carpeicthus says:

    Once people realize that he is nothing more than a noun, a verb and the words change and/or hope

    PLAGIARISM! OMFG!

  13. Tad says:

    I suspect that McCain could use the same argument against Obama, but I hardly think it likely that he’d use Hillary quotes to make the case. Given that he’d be trying to mostly sway independents (assuming both D’s and R’s to be more or less decided), and given that independents in democratic primaries so far are going heavily for Obama it seems to me that independents don’t like her. I don’t see any Hillary quotes coming from McCain’s camp at all.

    Given the fact that it is an idiotic charge, I’m sure it will work just as well for McCain as it has for Hillzilla.

    I happen to agree that this was in idiotic charge on Hillary’s part. After all she really doesn’t have much actual government executive experience either. Sure she’s been a senator longer but not much longer, and no I don’t count being married to the president counts as executive experience. I think that’s why this charge has been so in effective for her camp. However, McCain does have extensive government experience and could very effectively list all of the accomplishments he’s made and compare them to Obama.

  14. John says:

    I fully realize how they can change, seemingly overnight, but the polls say Obama whacks McCain while McCain whacks Hillary. If I’m a Democrat…the choice is obvious. It doesn’t much matter, either way Billary is gone. I say “Good riddance.” Too bad she’ll get to hang around New York for a few more years.

  15. Bandit says:

    then Hillary can run in 2012 on a “I told you so platform”.

    Now there’s something to look forward to.

  16. bornonthefourth says:

    As GOES FLORIDA,GOES THE NATION. Where were the obamacans in the 2000 election? O, I forgot about Nadar. McCain should thank them not Clinton. HRC goes back to serving on the subcommittee for Watergate, she boasts an extensive resume. obama would have a hard time competing for a managers position at Fridays. Mccain not only holds the metal of honor but has operated the largest independent beer distribution company in the nation during the early 80s. His running mate will lock it up. obamacans will be a future Playboy article like Waco.

  17. John says:

    metal of honor

    At least he could probably spell Friday

  18. Triumph says:

    Depends who you mean, I guess.

    I meant Nixon.

  19. Prasad says:

    Want to compare Hillary’s senatorial experience with Obama’s? Read this!!

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/2/20/201332/807/36/458633