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About.com's Election Blog: Talking Change

By About.com's Election '08 Bloggers

By Andrew Collins

I'd like to address some concerns raised lately about Obama's relative political rawness. Lahle notes that, "at some point this lack of experience could cause him to either make a bad decision, or hesitate before acting on a good one." Steve suspects that Obama is simply well-intentioned but ineffectual. And Susan points out, regarding the Georgia-Russia debacle, that "by many accounts, it took Mr. Obama two days to figure out what was going on - hardly inspiring to my convictions about his readiness to lead."

These do sound to me like reasonable concerns - after all, shouldn't we be worried that Obama didn't immediately demonstrate a clear and decisive understanding of how to handle the Georgia-Russia situation as soon as it happened? All things being equal, I'd prefer a president who has an inside-out grasp of every conceivable geopolitical threat, every potential wrench in the economy, and every complicated social and moral quandary shaping America's fertile - and fervent - cultural wars.

But all things aren't equal. We have two frontrunner candidates, one representing the Democratic party's political platform, and the other representing the GOP's. That's it. There's no mix-and-match option on the ballot - you can't choose the most desirable traits of Obama and McCain, or a president who cherry-picks the best political ideas from either party. (It might be nice if it worked this way, but it doesn't.)

Moreover, we're electing not merely a single head of state but rather a phalanx of influential advisors, staffers, cabinet members, and potentially meddling relatives, college buddies, lobbyists, hacks, hangers-on, and sordid skeletons in the closet. We're deciding which party ideology we'd like responsible for nominating the next supreme court justices, for approving or vetoing legislation, for preparing the national budget, and so on. Whereas presidential primaries are chiefly about the candidates and their personal strengths and shortcomings, presidential elections are more about the political parties to which these candidates belong.

I grant that storylines about Obama's occasional deer-in-headlights greenness and McCain's occasional deer-in-headlights grayness make for often amusing and sometimes horrific fodder in the stinky trough that nourishes our unimaginative media. I would, for example, feel a little better about McCain if he stopped referring to the Czech Republic as Czechoslovakia, or he nailed down that niggling distinction between Shiites and Sunnis. But I'm with LaToya on this: Whomever is elected will rely heavily on advisors throughout their term. And that's a good thing.

The first time the shit hits the proverbial fan in 2009, the new president isn't going to race breathlessly through an empty, cavernous White House to answer some mythical red phone all by his inexperienced (or senile) lonesome. There will be meetings…and consultations…and briefings. Both Obama and McCain will have vast legions of advisors at their disposal. Here's my problem with John McCain: He's going to choose advisors ideologically similar to the ones our current president has had at his disposal for the past eight years, and just look where they got us.

This week's previous posts: Obama Chooses Biden, Read to Lead - Not, Finish What You Start, Good Will Voting, Wishful Thinking, Cold War, Great Power, Say Anything, Georgia, Looking Abroad.


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