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McCain, Clinton, Obama: On Selecting a Commander-in-Chief

03/13/2008 04:22 pm 16:22:48 | Updated May 25, 2011

The undefined "lifetime of experience" that allows a candidate to pass Hillary Clinton's "Commander-in-Chief threshold" is overrated. How many of baseball's front office geniuses looking for new managers stick to those with "managerial experience," even though they also have losing records? Experience is less important if you are unable to learn from it (i.e., Cheney, Rumsfeld).

Some experience and information are important, of course; we know that now by some bitter experience of our own. Gerald Ford, running for his own full term, was surprised to hear that the Soviet Union dominated Poland. That disqualified him. George W. Bush didn't know the name of the leader of Pakistan (or much else): somehow that didn't disqualify him, to our eternal shame and sorrow.

But there are surely two things more important than experience: judgment and character. (Bush is sublimely deficient in all three.)

JUDGMENT

What do you know about John McCain's judgment? War in Iraq for a hundred years, "bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb Iran." That's a start.

What do you know about Hillary Clinton's judgment? She didn't read the National Intelligence Estimate before she voted to authorize the war on Iraq. She also voted against the Levin amendment, which authorized war only if the UN Security Council voted for it; if not, Bush was required to return to Congress for another authorization vote. (Clinton's "explanations" of her vote against the Levin amendment always include mischaracterizations of the amendment.) Her opposition to the Iraq war has, perhaps not surprisingly, focused on how badly it has been managed, "too little, too late," etc. She also voted for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, giving Bush a similar boost for war in Iran. That's a start.

What do you know about Barack Obama's judgment? Anything bad?

CHARACTER

What do you know about John McCain's character? He served his country with courage and integrity forty years ago, but his lifetime of experience includes other relevant data. For example: he expressed a very strong and principled opinion about Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy in a time of war, and another very strong and principled opinion about torture, which he condemned. But he changed those opinions and principles with truly Romney-esque agility, because his party likes tax cuts and torture and he decided that gaining his party's nomination was more important than his principles.

What do you know about Hillary Clinton's character? She endorsed McCain's experience and qualifications to be Commander-in-Chief while rejecting the experience and qualifications of her rival Obama, her party's likely nominee, who opposed the war from Day One and voted against torture. And she is entirely responsible for her appalling campaign: not only for what she herself says and doesn't say and grudgingly says and slyly hints at, but what she allows her staff and surrogates to say and do on her behalf, without timely (or often any) denunciation or rejection.

What do you know about Obama's character? Anything bad?

Judgment, character, experience.

Every time you vote, your own is on the line.