World's most powerful job: Does experience matter?
Created on July 28, 2009
Are You Experienced, Mr.
President? Americans Reassess Job Performance
Two weeks before he officially became the Democrats' nominee for
president, some supporters of Barack Obama told a Pew survey they
were "most troubled" by the "personal abilities and
experience" of the freshman senator from Illinois.
Admirers pointed out that, with seven years in the state Senate
and four in the U.S. Senate, Obama stacked up pretty well against
another president from Illinois: Abraham Lincoln had logged eight
years in the state legislature but only two in the U.S. House of
Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt also
served fewer years in elective office than Obama before becoming
president, although each had held executive power as governor
(Wilson in New Jersey, both Roosevelts in New York).
Nearly a year after that Pew poll and six months since President
Obama moved into the White House, his relative lack of experience
on the big stage -- not just his politics -- again is on Americans' minds.
From Obama's comments on bulls on Wall Street to a front-porch encounter in Cambridge, Mass., overconfident missteps in the
world's biggest job became part of the story. Not to mention
heart-skipping spikes in unemployment and
government spending, "reforming" health
care and taxing energy to "stop" global warming.
On the international scene, Obama's thin portfolio continued to
draw criticism on everything from cutting
defense, downplaying radical
Islam and closing Gitmo to how the president views the Iranian threat, Russian
ambitions and the Latin
American dictators' club.
"After months of showing sky-high job approval ratings, polls
from major newspapers and from the Pew and Gallup organizations
gave Obama the lowest numbers of his presidency," Ben Smith blogs at Politico.com. "He is less
popular than either George W. Bush or George H.W. Bush at this
point in their presidencies, though more popular than Bill Clinton
was after seven months in office."
Pew reports: "Majorities now say they disapprove
of the way the president is handling ... two issues [the economy
and the federal budget]. The new poll also finds significant
declines over the last few months in the percentage of Americans
giving Obama high marks for dealing with health care, foreign
policy and tax policy."
When it bears on the soundness of public policy, Heritage's
analysts don't hesitate to note the relevant experience of a
president, his Cabinet and their advisers.
"I've spent the last 30 years trying to achieve affordable
health coverage for all Americans, so it's frustrating to see the
obsession with a 'public plan' making it impossible for reasonable
people from both parties to come together," writes Stuart
Butler, Heritage's vice president for domestic policy studies.
"At best the public plan is a distraction from this effort. At
worst, and more likely, it will kill the chances of successful
reform. It's time for President Obama to pull the plug on it."
Kim Holmes, Heritage's vice president for defense and foreign
policy studies, sees a danger in relying on rhetoric.
"In the past, when America chose to flex its diplomatic muscle
with the backing of its military might, the results were clear," Kim
says. "While his statements are correct, Barack Obama's actions
as president have done little to demonstrate actual commitment to
forging a policy that combines America's military power with its
About a third of voters (34 percent) now believe the United
States is heading in the right direction, a new Rasmussen poll finds, but nearly twice as many
(61 percent) say the country is moving down the wrong track.
"Mr. Obama was not ready for prime time when he was elected to
office and he's sadly little more ready to lead the nation at this
time," liberal blogger Bonnie Erbe writes on USNews.com. "He continues
to try to be all things to all people and he continues to lose the
support of his base as he does so."
constitutional scholar Matthew Spalding has urged, cannot fully
understand or respond to Obama's policies unless we re-embrace the
nation's founding principles -- including unchanging truths and
government based on the consent of the governed.
"Over the past century," Spalding says, "the federal government
has lost many of its moorings and today acts with little concern
for the limits in the Constitution, disregarded by many as an
This isn't about "returning to the 18th century, or the 1950s --
or the 1980s for that matter," Spalding stresses:
"It is about recalling the timeless principles that guide us in
making practical decisions in accord with those principles, to
regain our grounding so that we can think prudentially about the
great policy questions of our time."