David Brooks on "Why Experience Matters"--the uncensored version

Yesterday my friend David Brooks wrote a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger op-ed for The New York Times explaining why, in his view, Sarah Palin is not qualified to be Vice-President. It comes down, he said, to “experience,” which he says she lacks.


As it happens, though, I chanced to stumble upon the uncensored version of David’s column. The beginning was garbled. But the ending was legible. This is what I found:

Barack Obama has many virtues. If you wanted someone to be a community organizer, he’d be your man. But the constructive act of governance is another matter. He has not been engaged in national issues, does not have a repertoire of historic patterns and, like President Bush, he seems to compensate for her lack of experience with brashness.

The idea that “the people” will take on and destroy “the establishment” is a utopian fantasy that corrupted the left before it corrupted the right. Surely the response to the current crisis of authority is not to throw away standards of experience and prudence, but to select leaders who have those qualities but not the smug condescension that has so marked the reaction to the Obama nomination in the first place.

I know that David’s copy got changed before it actually appeared in the Times. I have to say I prefer his original version. Why? Partly because I agree with him that experience matters–it’s not the only important thing, but it is one important thing. Leave aside for a moment the most serious questions about Obama: 1) the question of who he really and where his true allegiance lies, and 2) what he and his team would do to the country’s economy, civil liberties, and standing in the world–leave aside those momentous issues for a moment and just consider his stunning lack of experience. It’s not only that he is a first term Senator, it is also that he is a first-term Senator who has been ostentatiously hors de combat when it came to voting.


Joe Biden was correct when he said that the Presidency no place for “on-the-job training.” I for one am glad that John McCain brings a wealth of experience to the top of his ticket and that Sarah Palin brings her experience running a town and a state to her place on the ticket. Of course, character and talent are also important, and I am also glad that McCain and Palin exhibit such conspicuous probity and political talent. (Even Maureen Dowd, deep down, would have to admit that Sarah Palin is a talented politician: anyone who watched her convention speech would have to admit that.) Add to that the McCain platform on issues from taxes to foreign policy and you can see why David’s unexpurgated column was so skeptical about Barack Obama.

And people say that it is almost impossible for someone of conservative principles to work for the Times and emerge with his principle intact. Pshaw!



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