The Democrats did what everyone knew they had to do: nominate Barack Obama by acclamation on the first ballot of their convention in Denver. But Hillary Clinton made everyone wait until nearly halfway through the balloting before making that inevitable motion, and in so doing underlined the chief lesson of the convention. The delegates were almost evenly split between her and Obama, and the deep division in the party was painfully evident.
The reservation so many delegates had about Obama had one clear cause, and it had nothing to do with the fact that he is black. On the contrary, the fact that he is an African-American counted heavily in his favor, and may have been the decisive factor in his victory. The reservation has to do with his lack of experience. Obama became an attorney, served as a member of the Illinois State Senate for eight years, and was then elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. He has served in that capacity for fewer than four years -- his only experience in a federal office. And now, as intractable problems beset the U.S. economy and the Middle East is wracked by turmoil, he offers himself as a candidate for the presidency of the United States.
One doesn't have to be an excessively partisan Republican, or indeed a Republican at all, to wonder whether a man with a record that anemic is ready to shoulder the somber burdens of the presidency. How broad and deep is his understanding of the American economy -- or indeed, of economic principles in general? Even more important, perhaps, is how ready is such a man to take on the leadership of the world's most powerful nation in its dealings with other countries?
These are fair questions, and they worry a great many people who are far from being Republicans. John McCain, the likely Republican nominee, has 22 years' experience in the U.S. Senate, serving on the Judiciary Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee. No one can gainsay the expertise he has acquired in these capacities.
Despite the wide disparity in these two records, Obama is probably the front-runner in their looming contest. According to the conventional wisdom, 2008 should be a "Democratic year." The Republicans have controlled the White House for the past eight years, and Congress for six of those eight. In a two-party political system like ours, it is more or less "time" for the GOP to step aside and give the Democrats a chance. Nor has the Republican record been all that stellar. The Iraq war (though now going better at last) is far from popular, and public apprehensions about the economy are all too obvious. Conventional wisdom tells us that, in such a situation, it's "time for a change."
William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .
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