Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Where are Governors Supposed to Get Foreign Policy Experience?

Just to reiterate, I'm heavily leaning toward Obama/Biden this November, and I'll be voting for that ticket unless something very strange happens between now and then.

But I also feel compelled to criticize candidates for things they should actually be criticized for, rather than silly pseudo-arguments against them. And one of those is Sarah Palin's lack of foreign policy experience. I've heard jokingly that Cindy McCain and/or Laura Bush has noted the fact that she can see Russia from Alaska is foreign policy experience, though I'm not sure how serious this was, and I definitely haven't heard it from her.

The point is, how in the hell was she supposed to get foreign policy experience as Governor of Alaska? If we used that as a yardstick for being elected to either the Presidency or Vice Presidency, then we would never elect Governors. But we seem to like electing Governors...Reagan was Governor of California, Clinton of Arkansas, and Bush of Texas. Exactly what foreign policy experience did they build up while serving as Governor of their respective states? You could possibly argue that Reagan and Bush had to deal closely with Mexico, for trade and immigration issues, but that's pretty weak gruel. And if that's the case, then Bill Clinton's foreign policy experience was even thinner.

By all means, criticize her for flipping on her support of pork-barrel spending in her state, her lack of knowledge about particular issues, and her medieval stances on social issues. But criticizing her for lack of foreign policy experience is lame and hypocritical.


Rob said...

I will take your argument one step forward. What real foreign policy experience does any candidate have to prepare them for the job of president? How do you define "experience"? Should we gauge it by the number of heads of state they know or have met or by some kind of geography test that requires naming at least 100 countries on the world map? As a member of the Senate for the past 47 years and serving on the foreign relations committee for much of it you would think Joe Biden "experienced" in foreign policy. But has he negotiated with a head of state regarding anything or served as the primary representative of our country on the international scene? I doubt it because these are things presidents and the executive branch of the government do, not the legislative branch. I would hope he would know more about international relationships than any of the other candidates which could serve him well but knowing and doing are separate matters.

The important issue is not how many Third World dictators the candidate can name but whether they will represent the best interest of our country. I believe all four candidates will do whatever it takes to do so, including boning up on world geography if necessary.

Philip said...

You're omitting the origin of all this. The McCain camp spent months accusing Obama of having too little experience, particularly in the realm of foreign affairs, and THEN chose Palin as a VP candidate.

I agree with you that, while experience should be a consideration, its much less important than how well the candidate is able to articulate and defend his or her platform. And I think Palin barely knows what her platform is.

byronfrombyron said...

Another note, Sarah Palin did negotiate a multibillion dollar pipeline treat with Canada, which is more relevant foreign policy experience than the rest of them together have.
As far as experience, Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt both only had 2 years experience as governor before becoming President and Vice President, respectively. The fact is that Obama has spent most of his two years as a Senator campaigning, while Palin's been governor the whole time.

Kenny Wyland said...

Byron, please do not compare Palin with Roosevelt or Wilson. Roosevelt had served as the Assistant Secretary to the Navy for several years before being a Governor and had been involved in national politics for years before that. Wilson was a PhD in history and political science! They weren't hockey dads. These were people who were well-versed in their subjects, all Palin can do is repeat the same stump speech over and over.

So, where are Governor's supposed to get foreign policy experience? They really don't. I believe that we tend to like Governors because Congresscritters have so many votes on record which are twisted and lied about. It's harder to screw up as a Governor, but you can take totally innocent and well-meaning votes in Congress and turn it into an ad that says, "Billy Joe wants to grind your children into glue and give it to immigrants!"

byronfrombyron said...

Kenny, I'm not comparing Palin to those Presidents, merely citing precedent. Executive experience, even as short as two years at the state level, has historically accepted as relevant.

As far as governors screwing up, you haven't been watching Illinois lately, have you? Rob Blagojevich has all but killed his career in politics by putting the axe to about 2 dozen state parks and historical sites. I'm not short sighted enough to blame him solely, but nearly all downstate IL does, despite the fact that he doesn't vote on budgets, he just signs them.

Kenny Wyland said...


Go read the wikipedia entry about Joe Biden's work as a member and Chairperson of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and all of the work that he's done which has influenced Presidential policy... and then try to tell me with a straight face that Sarah Palin has more foreign relations experience.