Jesus. Is he kidding?
Last night at a fundraiser in San Francisco, Barack Obama took a question on what he’s looking for in a running mate. “I would like somebody who knows about a bunch of stuff that I’m not as expert on,” he said, and then he was off and running. “I think a lot of people assume that might be some sort of military thing to make me look more Commander-in-Chief-like. Ironically, this is an area–foreign policy is the area where I am probably most confident that I know more and understand the world better than Senator Clinton or Senator McCain.”
“It’s ironic because this is supposedly the place where experience is most needed to be Commander-in-Chief. Experience in Washington is not knowledge of the world. This I know. When Senator Clinton brags ‘I’ve met leaders from eighty countries’–I know what those trips are like! I’ve been on them. You go from the airport to the embassy. There’s a group of children who do native dance. You meet with the CIA station chief and the embassy and they give you a briefing. You go take a tour of a plant that [with] the assistance of USAID has started something. And then–you go.”
“You do that in eighty countries–you don’t know those eighty countries. So when I speak about having lived in Indonesia for four years, having family that is impoverished in small villages in Africa–knowing the leaders is not important–what I know is the people. . . .”
“I traveled to Pakistan when I was in college–I knew what Sunni and Shia was [sic] before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. . . .”
There are two major problems with this statement. Okay, three: 1) He lived in Indonesia from the ages of 6 to 10, 40 years ago. I lived in New Jersey from birth to age 13. Can I be governor when Corzine leaves office? 2) As I discussed in comments to this post, dismissing the diplomacy that Clinton did as “having tea” or being “just a wife” or doing no more than watching “children do native dance” is sexist, because it diminishes the role of women in diplomacy and it ignores the fact that a lot of diplomacy is, in fact, simple schmoozing:
However, dismissing her experience as “having tea” or reducing it to being just some guy’s wife on pleasure trips *is* misogynist.
But it is worthwhile to ask ourselves why many people don’t consider Clinton’s experience as first lady to be “real” foreign policy experience. A lot of diplomacy is, in fact, done via personal relationships and cocktail parties and receptions. Is it less worthy of consideration if you’re the spouse of the president than if you’re in the foreign service?
Now we come to 3) WHAT THE HELL IS HE THINKING? Great, so he lived in Indonesia for four years as a small child, he took a couple of trips with his college buddy to Pakistan and India, and he’s got impoverished relatives in Africa whom he’s visited. By the standards he just set out, however, he still comes off with less relevant experience than Navy brat John McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone, traveled extensively as a child, and spent more time hanging by his thumbs in the Hanoi Hilton than Obama did in Indonesia.
And that’s leaving aside the fact that Obama hasn’t done a damn thing with his Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee, while both of his opponents have done a great deal with theirs.
So how does that help, at all, in the general election?
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