December 22, 2007

Why Inexperience Matters

The AP takes a look at the political development of Barack Obama, and it's hard not to look at it as an apprenticeship. His position changes don't count as flip-flops in the same sense that a teenager's infatuation with radical politics changes with some maturity. In this case, the significant changes in such a short period of time suggests that Obama hasn't reached his political maturity:

If he wanted, the Barack Obama of today could have a pretty good debate with the Barack Obama of yesterday. They could argue about whether the death penalty is ever appropriate. Whether it makes sense to ban handguns. They might explore their differences on the Patriot Act or parental notification of abortion.

And they could debate whether Obama has flip-flopped, changed some of his views as he learned more over the years or is simply answering questions with more detail and nuance now that he is running for president.

The Democratic senator from Illinois hasn't made any fundamental policy shifts, such as changing his view on whether abortion should be legal. But his decade in public office and an Associated Press review of his answers to a questionnaire show positions changing in smaller ways.

Christopher Wills looks at a questionnaire Obama completed as he conducted his first run at public office, a mere eleven years ago, as a state legislator. Obama at the time opposed the death penalty in practice and demanded a moratorium on executions. He also supported a ban on handguns in Illinois and a federal single-payer health-care system.

He has adjusted all of these positions over the last eleven years. Obama now says that a handgun ban would not be practical, but instead favors restrictions. He also supports the death penalty for mass murder and child rape and has dropped demands for a moratorium on its use, although a de facto moratorium exists at the moment. Obama has actually campaigned agains the single-payer plan offered by John Edwards.

Are these flip-flops? Not really; a flip-flop is John Kerry being for the $87 billion before he was against it, or Hillary Clinton's double-flip-flop with a full twist on drivers licenses for illegal aliens, one for which even the East German judge had to give a full 10 points. Obama's record shows that growth that comes with experience in public office. Obama's positions have shifted as he has had to deal with real-life applications of political philosophy on actual governance.

Obama has only had a short period of time gaining that experience. Look how far he has evolved with just seven years in a state legislature and barely three years in the Senate. Imagine what Obama may believe after having to actually run a government as Governor, or at the very least with another ten years in the Senate. He may at some point make a good President, but he needs a lot more seasoning than he has at this early stage in his development.


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