Experience This! Should Senator Clinton Join Senator Obama at the Kids' Table?

| Tue Jan. 15, 2008 11:11 AM EST

Tim Noah, a pal, makes an excellent point at Slate: where does Clinton get off pulling rank on Obama? As I pointed out yesterday, if she's going to invoke (as she certainly does) her vast experience over Obama, she needs to show us the goods. Those goods do not hold up to inspection. If sleeping with Bill Clinton qualifies you for president, [fill in joke here]. Obama has more time as an elected official, so Clinton is invoking her role as First Lady. But let's look at that role. Noah writes:

...a Dec. 26 New York Times story revealed that during her husband's two terms in office, Hillary Clinton did not hold a security clearance, did not attend meetings of the National Security Council, and was not given a copy of the president's daily intelligence briefing. During trips to Bosnia and Kosovo, she "acted as a spokeswoman for American interests rather than as a negotiator." On military affairs, most of her experience derives not from her White House years but from serving on the Senate armed services committee. In this capacity, William Kristol notes gleefully in the Jan. 14 New York Times, Clinton told Gen. David Petraeus this past September that his reports of military progress in Iraq—since shown to be undeniable—required "the willing suspension of disbelief."

The whole piece deserves a thorough read, but Noah's right in his ultimate point. If she wins the nomination with this gambit, she could cost Dems the White House:

Clinton's claim to superior experience isn't merely dishonest. It's also potentially dangerous should she become the nominee. If Clinton continues to build her campaign on the dubious foundation of government experience, it shouldn't be very difficult for her GOP opponent to pull that edifice down. That's especially true if a certain white-haired senator now serving his 25th year in Congress (four in the House and 21 in the Senate) wins the nomination. McCain could easily make Hillary look like an absolute fraud who is no more truthful about her depth of government experience than she is about why her mother named her "Hillary." Dennis Kucinich has more government experience than Clinton. (He also has a better health-care plan, but we'll save that for another day.) If Clinton doesn't find a new theme soon, she won't just be cutting Obama's throat. She'll also be cutting her own.

Finally, a reminder that race and gender only cloud the real issue.

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