From Talking Points Memo:
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 experts 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.
This touches on a point that I’ve been mulling over. Hillary Clinton claims to be the candidate of experience. Why is she qualified to answer that hypothetical 3:00 a.m. phone call? Because of her experience, which is supposedly much greater than Obama’s experience.
Clinton’s critics have boggled at this for some while: do her eight years’ experience as wife of the President count? At most, she was a minor player in the Clinton Administration, other than her massive failure in the healthcare portfolio.
Nonetheless, the “experience” argument seems to play well among voters. The perception is, Clinton is way more experienced than Barack Obama (his experience in the Illinois legislature and the work he did as a Chicago street organizer isn’t included in the calculation for whatever reason).
I think this is the real “fairy tale” of the Democratic nomination process. The perception is based on the fact that Clinton has been in the public eye for decades.
But being in the public eye does not equal executive experience, does it? Otherwise, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears would be massively qualified for office. (Though I don’t mean to imply that Clinton’s candidacy is such a fairy tale as a Paris Hilton candidacy would be.)