Thursday, September 4, 2008

America's ridiculous obsession with qualifications

I am quite amused by the commentary in the media about Sarah Palin being unsuited for the job of Vice-President because she has no international experience (in the context that she might become President if McCain kicked the bucket mid-term).

Not to sound like a smug, know-it-all, knee-jerk anti-American bashing Canadian, but frankly, other than Ike Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and George Bush Senior, I would be hard put to name any President since Theodore Roosevelt who brought any international experience into the White House. By and large, they all learned on the job, notwithstanding Palin’s attempt to poke a hole in Obama’s campaign by suggesting that the Presidency is not a learning experience.

She would become the President of a country where 20% of the young people aged 18 to 24 cannot pick out the United States on a map of the world where the names of the countries are disguised; where only 13% of Americans know where Iran and Iraq are located, but 34% knew that on the first season of the TV reality show Survivor the contestants were on an island somewhere in the South Pacific (whether they knew where the South Pacific is located is not known.); where two-thirds of the people who were sent to administer the government of Iraq after the invasion applied for the first time for a passport.

One of the more effective U.S. Presidents was a guy that everybody thought was a big nobody, Harry S. Truman. He had approval ratings that rivaled those of the current President, George W. Bush. And he inherited the same world that George W. Bush has occupied – the United States really was unchallenged as a superpower in post-war period of 1945-48. But what he did with that is a very different story.

He had been a failed farmer (not his fault, the Depression) and a failed small retail businessman (not his fault, the Depression, plus changing fashion). He got elected to the U.S. Senate and basically laboured away for 10 years in obscurity. His only claim to fame was that he chaired a panel that looked at corruption in government war contracts and saved some money.

He was picked to be FDR’s VP running mate in FDR’s last hurrah specifically because he had not made a name for himself and had created fewer enemies than other more high profile picks. But strangely, when he was selected, everybody knew that it would be only a matter of months before he became the President (it turned out to be about 4 months).

He had virtually no international experience (other than as an artillery captain in the U.S. army in France in the closing months of WWI).

Yet Truman presided over some of the most crucial decisions of any President since Abraham Lincoln: ending the war in Europe and the Pacific, including dropping the first A-bomb; settling up the post-war world with the allied democracies and the Soviet Union; creating the United Nations; creating the new nation of Israel; committing America to the Korean War; firing the most popular general in American history; refusing to use the A-bomb on China; drafting the communist containment strategy that eventually led to the downfall of the Soviet Union.

Domestically, he was the first President to call for civil rights for blacks, which led to the disruption of the Democratic Party by alienating the southern Democrats.

He was re-elected against all predictions to the contrary by the MSM.

If Truman could do it with flying colours, I see no reason why Palin couldn’t step up to the mark.

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