November 21, 2007

Wife Or Child -- Which One Has The Best Foreign-Policy Experience?

And here I thought that the dumbest statements of this extended political season would come in the quiz shows presidential debates. The latest kerfuffle in the Democratic primary centers on whether living abroad as a child carries more weight on foreign policy than being First Lady. It's akin to watching two guys in a bar debate whether playing Pop Warner football gives more credibility than playing Madden 2007 when criticizing NFL head coaches:

Fog may have diverted Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s plane from her campaign stop here on Tuesday, but that did not prevent her from continuing her attacks on Senator Barack Obama’s experience.

It was an odd moment. Mrs. Clinton, her voice piped in over a sound system, apologized for missing the event, expressed concern about the safety of food and toys from overseas and, pivoting off the overseas topic, tweaked Mr. Obama for saying on Monday that living overseas as a child had increased his experience in foreign relations.

Mrs. Clinton, who this week in Iowa has been making an issue of Mr. Obama’s experience, said the next president would face two wars and fraying alliances. She said she had traveled broadly and had “met with countless world leaders” and knew many of them personally.

“Now voters will judge whether living in a foreign country at the age of 10 prepares one to face the big, complex international challenges that the next president will face,” Mrs. Clinton said. “I think we need a president with more experience than that.”

An odd moment, indeed. Who gives these people advice? On one hand, we have a candidate telling people with a straight face that his adventures as a 10-year-old and two whole years! on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee prepare him to run American foreign policy. Hillary Clinton rightly skewers this, but then claims that her role as First Lady -- when she presumably made none of the decisions and had none of the responsibility for foreign policy -- makes her supremely qualified for the role.

The only person this debate helps is Bill Richardson. Unlike either Barack or Hillary, Richardson actually worked in diplomatic service, and for several years. If both Barack and Hillary insist that foreign policy should be the biggest concern for voters when selecting a President -- and that's probably correct -- they're arguing for a Bill Richardson nomination. In fact, if they want to argue experience in almost any regard, Bill Richardson has more experience than both put together in legislative, executive, and diplomatic arenas.

If I ran Bill Richardson's campaign, I'd take the sound bites from both Hillary and Barack and make a series of television ads showing why they're arguing for his nomination. No one can take what the two frontrunners have to say about experience seriously in regards to their own candidacies, except perhaps the frontrunners themselves.

UPDATE AND BUMP: Maureen Dowd delivers a haymaker that she may want to forget when Hillary wins the nomination:

Her Democratic rivals had meekly gone along, accepting her self-portrait as a former co-president who gets to take credit for everything important Bill Clinton did in the ’90s. But she was not elected or appointed to a position that needed Senate confirmation. And the part of the Clinton administration that worked best — the economy, stupid — was run by Robert Rubin. Hillary did not show good judgment in her areas of influence — the legal fiefdom, health care and running oppo-campaigns against Bill’s galpals.

She went on some first lady jaunts and made a good speech at a U.N. women’s conference in Beijing. But she was certainly not, as her top Iowa supporter, former governor Tom Vilsack claimed yesterday on MSNBC, “the face of the administration in foreign affairs.”

She was a top adviser who had a Nixonian bent for secrecy and a knack for hard-core politicking. But if running a great war room qualified you for president, Carville and Stephanopoulos would be leading the pack.

Hillary's Democratic rivals have gone along because they know she'll win the nomination, and the Republicans will be making this point over and over again. In fact, they'll probably quote Dowd the entire campaign as she eventually backtracks and tries to explain why Hillary Clinton has more experience and qualifications than Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Fred Thompson, or Mike Huckabee.

Dowd goes even further She approvingly quotes Joan Di Cola, who wrote that Hillary "hasn’t accomplished anything on her own since getting admitted to Yale Law." Di Cola compared Hillary unfavorably to Dianne Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi, women who succeeded through their own efforts rather than riding the coattails of their husbands. "All Hillary is, is Mrs. Clinton," Dowd quotes Di Cola.

Is this the emperor-with-no-clothes moment? It might be -- if the Democrats had a credible alternative to Hillary, and if they had a machine to compete with the Clintons'.


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