I've had some laughs seeing people criticise Sarah Palin for her alleged unpreparedness for high office. It amuses me because she's got more executive experience than Obama, McCain and Biden. She's a state governor, was a town mayor for six years and chaired the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for a year. It may not be much, but it's streets ahead of the rest of the field.
It's an unusual election, this one. For the first time since 1952, neither the incumbent President nor the incumbent Vice President is a candidate. What's more, there's isn't a state governor running for the top job. Americans tend to chose governors over senators. Most recent presidents were former governors: Clinton (Arkansas), Carter (Georgia), Reagan (California), Bush Jr. (Texas). That's a pretty mixed bag in terms of actual performance on the job.
So what's the ideal experience for being president? I don't have an answer to that and would like your opinion. Being president requires being commander-in-chief, so you'd think a military background would help. But Ulysses S. Grant won the Civil War for the Union side and yet is not considered one of America's better presidents. He couldn't or wouldn't stop financial corruption. A knowledge of the outside world seems important, but George Bush Sr was director of the CIA and got booted out after one term, partly because he reneged on a promise not to raise taxes. Governors are involved in their state's budget and thus have experience of financial matters, but can be naive or uninformed about the external threats to their nation (Palin only got a passport in 2007, so she could visit US troops in Germany and Kuwait).
What's the right career path? Ideally you should have served in the military, had an overseas posting that required learning about the world outside the US (Ambassador, CIA maybe) and then become a governor with budget responsibility. You should also know a lot about the lawmaking process, ideally through a training in law. But is this remotely possible?
I don't know, but I do know that 'experience' is a dirty word this time round. Watch how Obama tries hard to avoid using it in this hilarious clip (around thirty seconds in):
So where does that leave us? We're supposed to be impressed with Joe Biden's experience. This includes:
1) Defending the Nato bombing campaign in 1999 by declaring on television "Slobodan Milosevic is getting the living hell kicked out of him."
2) Telling a meeting of his staffers just after the 2001 terrorist attacks that to show the Arab (sic) world that the US is not aiming to destroy it: "Seems to me this would be a good time to send, no strings attached, a check for $200 million to Iran."
3) Proposing an unwanted and unrequested proposal for a partition of Iraq into three states, which was completely and utterly rejected by all parties in Iraq and which made him extremely unpopular in the country.
4) Recently informing a television interviewer that: "When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the princes of greed," ignoring the fact that the crash happened in 1929 when Herbert Hoover was president and that television was still in its experimental stages.
Words fail me that it's come to this.