Judgment We Might Believe In

Does anyone really think that it would have been better to have Richard Nixon rather than John Kennedy managing the Cuban Missile Crisis; or Stephen Douglas rather than Lincoln confronting the crisis of secession? Yet if the American people had made their choices for president in 1960 and 1860 based on which candidate had the most experience for the job, than an unstable Nixon might have had his finger on the button in those perilous thirteen days and a President Douglas would have invaded Mexico to keep the slave-holding south in the union. Senator Clinton keeps trumpeting her experience, that she is "ready on day one" to make decisions. But the real question is: who has demonstrated the kind of sound judgment required to make those decisions well? The Obama campaign claims that Clinton has shown poor judgment in everything from whether to go to war in Iraq to how much to spend on pizza for her under funded campaign. That charge may or may not be true or fair, but at least it addresses the right question. Most former presidents will tell you that there is no experience that adequately prepares you for the presidency, an utterly unique position in its power and scope. Obama may not be another Lincoln in terms of his statesmanship or even his judgment, but he has roughly the same experience: a few years in the Illinois Legislature and a short tenure in Congress. Lincoln’s leadership demonstrates that while experience does matter, judgment matters more. One could argue that Clinton has demonstrated better judgment than Obama admits or even better judgment than Obama himself and that therefore Clinton is the better choice. But Senator Clinton has not been fighting the battle on that field. It should, however, be familiar topography: the candidate with the best experience in the 1992 election was obviously George H.W. Bush. Surely Mrs. Clinton doesn’t think anyone should have voted for him. Matt Malone

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