* 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.