During an interview with reporters today Barack Obama was asked about Republican claims that he is too naïve on foreign policy. “I think it’s my impression that John McCain has adopted not only George Bush’s policies but George Bush’s playbook. This is what was done in 2000; this is what was done in 2004,” Obama
“But we are now in 2008 and there will be a different outcome because I think the American people recognize that after years in Iraq, thousands of deaths, hundreds of billions, soon to be trillions of dollars that we’ve spent in Iraq, three, four, five ,military tours of duty for our military and their families. I think the American people are recognizing that this was not a good approach. Now they’re not interesting in reiterating what happened in the past,” he continued.
He also talked about putting more resources into Afghanistan, “They want to look forward and the plans that I’ve presented in terms of dealing with Iraq, having a responsible paced withdrawal, going in to Afghanistan and putting more resources behind that effort so that we can finally win against Al Qaeda, taking seriously the need to forge alliances, attacking Al Qaeda wherever it appears, restoring a sense of rule of law in ways that are consonant with what the Supreme Court talked about.”
Obama is correct in pointing out that McCain’s tactics are straight out of the George W. Bush playbook, but I would also add that there have been other times in modern political history where the election came down to the experience argument. In 1992, George H.W. made the experience argument against Bill Clinton and lost. In 1976, Republicans said that Jimmy Carter was too inexperienced, and they lost, and in 1960 the knock on John F. Kennedy was that he was too inexperienced to be president, yet he went on to defeat then Vice President Nixon.
The experience argument only works when it is made by a popular incumbent candidate. Neither Bush nor Ford was popular at the time of their elections. When things are going poorly, especially economically, voters tend to turn to change candidates. For these reasons, it is extremely unlikely that the inexperience argument will persuade enough voters away from Obama to allow McCain to win. Because most voters are smart enough to understand that good judgment is a more important quality for a president to possess than experience.