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A modest proposal

Friday, Jul 11, 2008

* Yeah, it’s tongue in cheek, but it makes a couple of points that needed saying. Here’s my latest Sun-Times column

One of the biggest knocks on Barack Obama is that he lacks experience.

It’s a standard political attack. Obama’s Republican opponent, John McCain, has more Senate experience, but he has no experience running a government or solving problems on his own. But McCain’s many years in the U.S. Senate, his extensive foreign travels and his military service allow him to claim that he’s more “experienced” than his much younger opponent.

All of that is a red herring, of course. The only people with the sort of experience that truly qualifies them to be president are former presidents. The job is so unique and unusual that everybody starts out like a babe in the woods.

Instead, we judge presidential hopefuls based on how they campaign. How do they operate under stress? Do they have what it takes to succeed in a super-tough environment? Can they bring enough groups together to obtain a majority? All those questions and more are supposedly answered during campaigns, yet candidates often turn out to be much different presidents than we were led to believe.

George W. Bush said eight years ago that he was a compassionate conservative and a uniter, not a divider.

Didn’t exactly work out that way, did it?

So, I have a different solution. One that would almost assuredly tell us whether Obama can survive the presidency’s unimaginably hostile environment.

Let’s make him come back to Springfield and solve the gridlock.

Sen. Dick Durbin said months ago that he’d rather go to Iraq and work on that mess than stick his nose into the unending war between Gov. Blagojevich and House Speaker Michael Madigan. I can relate.

“Toxic gridlock” doesn’t even begin to describe our state’s embarrassing political battle, which has held up just about all progress for more than a year. Unemployment is rising, yet a jobs-producing capital construction bill for our roads, bridges, schools and mass transit is stuck in limbo. People are going without health insurance, but solutions can’t be reached because one side doesn’t want to work with the other. Nothing — literally nothing — is being accomplished because the governor and the speaker want to crush each other.

The Israelis talk to the Palestinians more often and with more sensitivity than Madigan speaks with Blagojevich.

Nobody is getting killed at the Statehouse, at least not yet. There are no bullets and bombs in this fight, no mass slaughter like the Darfur catastrophe, no Iraq-style religious war.

But that makes it the perfect training exercise. If Obama fails, we’ll just muddle on like always and hope that somebody comes to his senses.

The consequences of failure in Illinois are not nearly as great as they would be in the Middle East. So, he can’t screw things up too much.

Obama knows all the players because he was a state senator for several years. His political mentor, Senate President Emil Jones, is also part of the problem. Those relationships give him an advantage he won’t have when he tries to solve the rest of the world’s problems and deal with the Congress. But if he can work out a solution to our intractable morass, he’ll prove himself worthy of the presidency, at least in my mind.

I am fully aware that there is not a chance in the world that Obama will take up this challenge. No candidate ever wants to deliberately set himself up to fail.

Our only alternative, however, is to rely on soundbites, gotcha games, TV ads and our woefully inadequate national media to inform our votes.

My idea is better.

Come home, Barack.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


32 Comments
  1. - wordslinger - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 9:55 am:

    Let’s give Barack credit for having the good judgement not to get anywhere near Springfield.

    As far as preparation for the presidency, I’d say in the Post WWII Era, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon and Bush I were ready to sit in the big chair on Day One. Reagan seemed ready for his role of a lifetime, too.

    JFK, Carter, Clinton and W were scarily unprepared.


  2. - North of I-80 - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 9:56 am:

    Agree with your idea. If that idea is too tough, how about ‘come back home and solve the serious crime issue tearing apart the very neighborhoods & congressional district that he represented, represents and hails from’ ? Obama wants to run this entire country, how about demonstrating that he can run, can fix a community 1st? Or showing he can solve state-sized problems like the Springfield mess 1st?


  3. - Ghost - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 9:59 am:

    Rich your idea optimisticaly presupposes that some kind of solution can be found. I am not sure you can ever obtain a resolution with a sociopathic Gov. The solution is clear, its not another failed round of meetings or pointless negotiations with a Gov who does not compormise; Since we have missed the opportunity to consume Blago as an irish child we are left with impeachment. Removal of the Gov is the only recourse left to us that is an actual solution.


  4. - K to the 3 - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 10:03 am:

    Rich, I think you may have come up with the magical solution for the mess in Springfield. There would be enormous pressure on the big three to compromise and reach a consensus because if Obama failed, it would hurt his presidential bid. And if he didn’t win the presidency, perhaps he would run for governor, which two of the men at the table wouldn’t want to see. Come back, Barack, and spare us the destruction of another “battle of the egos” summer.


  5. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 10:04 am:

    ===Rich your idea optimisticaly presupposes that some kind of solution can be found.===

    Couldn’t the same be said of Israel vs. Palestine?


  6. - Fan of the Game - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 10:20 am:

    Come back, Barack? He would have to come back because it feels like ages since he was actually here, serving the state as its junior senator.


  7. - Ghost - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 10:24 am:

    Yes, but the West Bank has developed Mahmoud Abbas as its new leader. Under Abbas Isreal and palestine have managed to reach agreements and move closer to peace. Abbas has brough about Isreali support for fatah in the West Bank. So there is a solution to Palestine and Israel that has come about because of the change in leadership. Similiarily in Gaza the current Hamas leaders are the impediment to a solution.

    SOlutions are possible with the correct leaders, Israel and palestine/Abbas are heading towards a solution. Illinois with Blago is not. Illinios with Blaggo is more like Gaza under Hamas. No solution can be reached with Blago leading in Illinois.


  8. - 47th Ward - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 10:25 am:

    At least Obama could use the promise of a presidential pardon for the Governor if the Governor went along with a more sensible tax increase plan. Maybe that would end the gridlock?


  9. - lifer - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 10:25 am:

    Perhaps they need a mediator or an intervention at least.


  10. - fed up - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 10:35 am:

    He would just do what Emil tells him like when he was a state sen.


  11. - Ultra50k - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 10:54 am:

    I think what we need is a strong-willed mediator who knows absolutely nothing about Illinois politics and politicians. Obama is not that person.


  12. - VanillaMan - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 11:01 am:

    Rich,

    You and I have gone around on this before.

    One of the very few measurable objective criteria when evaluating presidential candidates is what they have done in office before running for president. It allows us to objectively evaluate their accomplishments, how well they build teams, how well they were supported for re-election by voters, their governing methods and style.

    Instead of hype and speculation, media gamesmanship and fund-raising abilities, an objective evaluation is the best way to go beyond partisanship, gut-feelings, and ad buys. We’ve seen too many great men and women not win elections and too many failures succeed to use electoral success as objective criteria as you portend in this article.

    Those of us who study political administration, management and history know this. We use these criteria and have discovered that experience in elected office, experience in executive decision making, and experience in political elections results in a successful presidential administration. This is an excellent unbiased co relationship.

    Are there exceptions? Of course. Do world events overwhelm a president? Yes. Do we always hear how one candidate disqualifies another due to a lack of experience? Yes we do because experience is that important. An architect with no building experience cannot succeed. A chef with a cook book but no experience cooking cannot succeed.

    So expecting the least experienced presidential candidate since 1940’s Wendell Willkie to be successful is a high risk we should at least recognize. While it is true that history can’t always guide us, not using history at all is an act of blind faith. As an Obama for Senate supporter, I cannot support him for president in 2008. He is not yet qualified, his policy positions too fluid, and he is unvetted. I could never support a candidate so lacking in experience for this office, regardless of their political party affiliation.

    However, Obama does have some experience in his half-term we can measure. He said that he wouldn’t run in 2008 because he wouldn’t have any experience, so even Obama recognizes his shortcoming. Yet instead of gaining experience, he has missed nearly every major vote in the Senate over the past two years. He has no major senatorial accomplishments. He hasn’t chaired the committees he has been assigned, even important ones that would have burnished his credibility. So although he admitted he wasn’t experienced to be a candidate by 2008, he wasted four years becoming a candidate instead of getting that experience. You are right in your assumption that Obama most likely would not come to our rescue, even as our senator. What did you base that on? You based that partly on the experience we’ve been witnessing, haven’t you? Most of us do too.

    If Barack Obama decides to do the job he was elected to do in 2004 as Senator, I will be very happy since I helped vote him in office. If Barack Obama shows up in Springfield and is able to resolve the stalemate we have been suffering under for the past couple of years, I would be absolutely delighted and take that success and add it to his vapid curriculum vitae.

    You and I have gone around on this “experience” issue and you know where I stand. You seem to understand our position since it is a proven old chestnut used in every race you’ve covered. But before you dismiss what has been proven, you need to give us a better reason to base our votes upon.

    Respectfully,
    VM


  13. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 11:04 am:

    ===Those of us who study political administration, management and history know this. We use these criteria and have discovered that experience in elected office, experience in executive decision making, and experience in political elections results in a successful presidential administration. This is an excellent unbiased co relationship.===

    Absolute bull. One example: GHWB. One of the most “experienced” people to ever run for president.

    George Ryan was another very experienced politician with management chops.

    Politics is an art, not a science.


  14. - Ghost - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 11:17 am:

    Abraham Lincoln, one of the most “inexperienced” people to run for office.


  15. - PhilCollins - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 11:41 am:

    Obama took 20 years to decide that he that he wanted to leave Rev. Wright’s church. If Obama becomes president, he would probably make other important decisions very slowly.


  16. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 11:45 am:

    Oh, please, PhilCollins. Give the Wright thing a rest already.


  17. - How Ironic - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 11:46 am:

    Phil-

    What a red herring. No more a measure of the man (Obama) than say…McCain leaving his wife (who stood by her man when he was a POW), when she suffered horrific injuries in an accident. Subsequently shacking up with a much younger woman, later marrying her after his divorce. Classy move there.

    I think that there are other issues more relevant to the discussion.


  18. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 11:49 am:

    ===later marrying her after his divorce.===

    Actually, he got the marriage license before his divorce was finalized, but whatever. These stories are all pretty goofy. The national political media is broken, and those who take it seriously deserve what they get.


  19. - How Ironic - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 11:53 am:

    Point being, neither story forwards a legitimate discussion of either the candidates or their policies.

    But I doubt it will get any better in the coming months.


  20. - VanillaMan - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 12:01 pm:

    ==Politics is an art, not a science.==

    The history of art demonstrates that successful artists are not only those with remarkable creative skills, but also those who have gained experience through art schools, shows and introductions. One-hit wonders are usually not hanging in our museums. The artist recognized with a masterpiece has an established record of artistic development evolving into that masterpiece. That is why it is referred to as a “master” piece of that artist’s abilities. We usually do not christen paintings as such without an established record of experience.

    So if politics is recognized as an art, experience is still a vital part of it.

    ==Abraham Lincoln, one of the most “inexperienced” people to run for office.== Yes, he was. But Barack Obama is no Lincoln, try as he may to portrait himself as such. Obama was a part-time state senator who lived and worked in Chicago, taking day trips to Springfield like most state senators from Chicago. But when he announced his run for the presidency, he decided to make that announcement in Springfield.

    Why? We know why, don’t we Mr. Lincoln? So not only does Senator Obama recognize and vocalized his lack as a presidential candidate in 2008 back in 2005, he also recognized that he could show up in Springfield and tie himself to Mr. Lincoln’s legacy and lack of experience.

    Senator Obama is not stupid.


  21. - How Ironic - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 12:09 pm:

    -Senator Obama is not stupid.-

    Looks like he already has one qualification our current President doesn’t have.

    Baddaaboom! Don’t forget to tip your waitress, and try the veal.


  22. - VanillaMan - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 12:24 pm:

    I agree with the 20 year rule proposed several years ago by Professor Larry J. Sabato at the University of Virginia.

    Private personal events that had occurred 20 years ago should not be considered campaign fodder by either candidate or press.

    So divorces, affairs, deaths, arrests, etc that had occurred 20 years earlier in a candidate’s life shouldn’t be abused during a campaign in Dr. Sabato’s opinion.

    It is a good rule.

    According to Barack Obama, Dr. Wright is a valid election issue. So to dismiss those of us willing to wade into that messy confusing relationship need to be careful, not avoid it.

    Trinity is one of Obama’s political bases, and has served as one of his political roots. He was a part of this organization for 20 years. He based numerous comments, a book, and a major speech on race based on his relationship with Dr. Wright. Barack Obama during this campaign, disagrees with you Rich.

    In Obama’s state senate district the largest local organizations in which to build a political base are the huge churches. Obama has a relationship with them, just as other politicians in that region of Chicago have. Reverend James Meeks is important. Louis Farakan is important. Dr. Wright is important. Policians from this part of Chicago need to serve their constituencies and these mega churches are vital to these voters. Naturally Obama has a relationship to them. It is not out of the question to ask what those relationships are.

    Obama, like everyone else, doesn’t get to craft this issue and have it only one way. When a presidential candidate says something is an issue, makes repeated statements on it, and attempts to politically benefit from it, you don’t just let them close the door on that issue just because it no longer serves them.


  23. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 12:25 pm:

    Your comment is why I hate posting national stuff on this blog. Ridiculous twisting and over the top goofiness.


  24. - 47th Ward - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 12:26 pm:

    Is the 20 year rule for politicians like the five second rule for dropped food?

    Utterly. Ridiculous.


  25. - Ghost - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 12:42 pm:

    == Abraham Lincoln, one of the most “inexperienced” people to run for office.Yes, he was. ===

    that pretty much lays to rest this idea then that the ability of a president can be determined from their “experience” in other areas. it is interesting that you go on to explain why Obama should not be considered on par with lincoln in a conclusiory fashion, but compltyl miss the point. If Voters when Lincol was runn9ing for office used your experience argument Lincoln would never have been elected. McCain has no applicapble exp making president like decisions. I guess we can extroploate about McCain from actual recent examples of his leadership. On the iran missle test McCain attacked obama, stateing McCain voted to condemn the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, but Obama had not. Now we would expect McCain, before launching an attack , as the possible future leader, to at least recall his own recent votes! the only intel McCain had to rely upon for this attack was his own memory of his own conduct. But alas Mr. McCain intel, that is his own memory, failed him. McCain did not in fact vote in this manner because he was not present. Meanwhile Obama had in fact voted on a previous bill to procliam the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a teroorist grp.

    So McCain chose to laucnh and attack in which he had 100% of the situation wrong. I guess as a leader he will shoot first and let the truth sort itself out later. But then again, should we not excuse him for finding that doing a tiny bit of research before hand on Obamas record and for knowing his own record before decisevly making the wrong decision. After all, who wants a leader making informed decisions, it never stood in the way of Bush, no reason to expect different from Bush lite mcCain.


  26. - VanillaMan - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 2:13 pm:

    You are copying portions of my posting, then arguing it when the posting already acknowledges exceptions to the experience rule.

    Additionally your argument is completely subjective when I am discussing using experience as objective. Subjective issues are endlessly debateable as you so prove. Objective ones are not. Measuring a candidate’s record is a valuable practice that even you do. Whether you justify Obama’s lack of experience regarding national issues or international issues is completely subjective. You want to claim that Obama is a new Lincoln, go ahead, but you can’t objectively make that claim, can you? You want to claim that experience isn’t important and use a decision made by Mr. Bush, Mr. Clinton, or Mr. McCain, go ahead, but that doesn’t disqualify my point.

    Experience is measurable, and Senator Obama doesn’t measure up. Find another excuse to support him, but don’t claim it is objective.


  27. - 47th Ward - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 2:24 pm:

    Experience is in no way measureable. It is inherently subjective. Move on please.


  28. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 2:31 pm:

    47th Ward said it all. There is no magic formula. If there was, we wouldn’t need elections.


  29. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 2:38 pm:

    Rich, your idea might work, but I’m concerned that the desired result may be delayed for years by study, and process, and conversation, and engagement, and all those quirky inaction action steps the left wing is so fond of.

    I can see it now: “Obama and Collins call for Blagojevich and Jones to divest pay raises.”


  30. - Ultra50k - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 4:27 pm:

    ==I agree with the 20 year rule proposed several years ago by Professor Larry J. Sabato at the University of Virginia.

    Who cares what Dr. Sabato said, and I don’t care if he said it twenty minutes ago.

    Everything we have done is part of us. It may be a part we have fixed but it is still part of who we are.


  31. - Levois - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 4:44 pm:

    I wish Obama would take that bet. Let’s see what his new style of politics can do in Illinois. The state could really use it.


  32. - Jack - Friday, Jul 11, 08 @ 10:37 pm:

    I would be happy if the UNION candidate, would just come to Springfield to settle the state/AFSCME contract. He gave a flowery speach at the protest 4 years ago, but is very much absent from the current process.


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