Friday, March 07, 2008

What a President needs is temperament, maturity and judgment

Senator Hillary Clinton told reporters that she and John McCain have crossed the commander-in-chief threshold but that Senator Barack Obama has not. It’s odd for a Democrat to elevate the presumptive Republican nominee’s credentials over that of the likely Democratic nominee. It’s particularly odd if the definition of those credentials are service in the military and years inside the Washington beltway because if that is the threshold then she doesn’t meet it either unless she is equating Senator McCain’s two terms in the House of Representatives and four terms in the Senate with her just beginning her second term in the Senate (the only elective office she has ever held) or his five years as a P.O.W. with her eight years as the First Lady.

So what is she talking about? Josh Marshall is also puzzled:
I think Hillary Clinton is definitely qualified to be commander-in-chief of the US military. In fact, I think she'd make a strong one. She had a successful legal career. She participated in key decisions during the Clinton administration. And she's beginning her second term in the US senate. Her husband was qualified to be commander-in-chief too -- at 46 and having spent his whole political career in Little Rock.

But just what on earth is Hillary Clinton talking about when she says she's crossed the "commander in chief threshold" which John McCain has also crossed but Barack Obama hasn't?

There are two ways of looking at what's required for this aspect of the president's job. One school of thought has it that a potential president needn't be an expert on military affairs or foreign relations any more than he or she needs to be an expert in economics. They need to be informed and knowledgeable. But what's most needed is temperament, maturity and judgment. Detailed expertise can come from advisors.

Others think it's precisely the expertise that's needed. So someone like a Joe Biden is the kind of person you want -- someone who's deeply schooled in every aspect of foreign relations and has been at it for literally decades. John McCain has some of that and he was also career military which gives him, at least arguably, some special grasp of the military components of the job. Bill Richardson had at least some cred on that scale based on his time in the Congress, UN Ambassador and general ad hoc rogue regime diplomacy.

Hillary Clinton seems to think she's a strong contender in this latter category. But that's a joke. She's starting her second term in the US senate, where, yes, she serves on the Armed Services committee. Beside that she's never held elective office and she has little executive experience. I think she can argue that she'd make and would make a strong commander-in-chief. But she's pushing a metric by which she's little distinguishable from Barack Obama. I'm honestly surprised she's not drawing chuckles on this one.

A lot of people are seeing red that Hillary's so aggressively pushing the Republican nominee's credentials to be president. And I can see their point. But I'm more surprised that she's pushing an argument she doesn't need to make and frankly can't make credibly.
A cynical person might interpret her choice of words as an attempt to sow doubt in the minds of the electoral to tear down Obama’s chances not in the nomination process but for the November election leaving 2012 open for a Clinton challenge against an elderly President McCain.

But regardless, the bottom line is the threshold she cites is the wrong standard anyway. Time inside the Washington beltway is, by itself, not a qualification. What a President needs is temperament, maturity and judgment. She and Senator McCain both fall short of that threshold.

1 comment:

Comrade Kevin said...

I want this to be over soon. That's all. I just want to have a nominee and it's on the November and we'll win there.