On Palin's "experience"

I was intrigued by Governor Palin’s hint in her ABC interview that her experience was comparable to other VPs across history. I was surprised by how incorrect she was.

Here’s a mp4 version.

Here’s the version at blip.tv.

Here’s a version at the Internet Archives.

This entry was posted in presidential politics. Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to On Palin's "experience"

  1. Guy Yedwab says:

    A few thoughts:

    1) It might be helpful to actually look at how many years these candidates served. Some of the lists of experience (there was at least one who only served in the House of Representatives) were less than impressive, but my hunch is that in terms of length of service they far outstrip Palin.

    2) 9/46 Vice Presidents have /become/ the Vice President, correct? That means there’s at the very least a 20% chance of Palin /becoming/ VP. But hasn’t almost every VP been /temporarily/ President for certain lengths of time? And aren’t many of the powers of the President delegated to the VP? Especially in the Post-Dick Cheney Naval Observatory, isn’t the VP a much more powerful office? I think the Palin nomination is even more troubling in the light of that.

  2. Vikram Shah says:

    Considering the serious nature of the video I just saw (comparing Sarah Palin’s experience – or lack thereof), this might be a daft question:

    What is the font you have used in the presentation?



  3. Sneeje Guy says:

    Larry, please tell me you didn’t eliminate the two comments I and another individual made yesterday in response to this post… shame on you! Please tell me it was a glitch!

    I say again, while I am an Obama supporter, I am getting a little tired of the experience discussion. It is way too hypocritical for either side to push. I think this article says it pretty well, and here is an excerpt.

    “Let’s get this straight: Your party has just nominated for president a fellow who has been elected exactly once to the United States Senate, in an uncompetitive race, following a garden-variety stint in a state legislature. And your response to the GOP nominee’s choice for vice president–someone who has been elected once as governor following a stint as a small town mayor–is to decry the lack of experience? Nobody ever said Barack Obama was unqualified for the No. 2 spot on the ticket. ” – The Weekly Standard

    Can we please find something better on which to debate?

  4. Vikram Shah says:

    Sneeje. I think most people who bring in the issue of Sarah Palin’s lack of experience are just rebutting the Republic Party’s stance on Barack Obama’s experience. And so it is a legitimate issue for debate.

    What else is there to debate, in any case?

  5. Paul Kamp says:


    Excellent video that provides historical context for Sarah Pailin’s candidacy. Like you I am quite troubled by the binary nature of our political discussion. The news media clearly has their own opinions, i.e. Keith Olberman and Bill O’Reilly. It is the reason that registered independent are growing significantly and also why McCain and Obama are openly running toward the middle and courting them.

    In this spirit it would be great if you could put together 3 more of these videos, one for each of the candidates, Obama, McCain and Biden. I suspect it would be similarly enlightening.

  6. Steve Baba says:


    I realize you delete a spam post, which is appreciated, but unless you are deleting real comments you don’t like, your site, assuming my memory is correct is dropping comments – usually the LAST comments in a thread. There were 15 comments here, then 1 then this is 9. This happened two or three times this week, and it did happen a few months ago

    It could be because you are using an unreliable host that reboots loosing the last comments. Or there is a software error that loses count of how many posts in each thread, which is less likely.

  7. Steve Baba says:

    Your site is also often slow with posts, as my above too 15 seconds. Which is why some people post twice.

  8. fran says:


    Saying that a person that has a 20% chance at being president, is a bigger risk than someone with 100% chance at being president.

    Where’s the video comparing Obama’s experience with that of past presidents?

  9. Nancy says:

    That’s Nelson Rockefeller, not Jay. Jay is a current U.S. senator from West Virginia (and Nelson’s nephew). Otherwise, excellent presentation. I second the concern of Nikki Massaro Kauffman regarding the role of the vice president as the tiebreaking vote in the Senate.

  10. Cody says:

    Larry – what program do you use to produce video podcasts such as these?

  11. maggiesboy says:

    Experience isn’t the question, intelligence is what we should be questioning. Sarah Palin said if the words “under God” were OK for the founding fathers in the Pledge of Allegiance, then she’s was down with it too. She didn’t know the Pledge was written in the late 1800’s and “under God” not inserted until the 1950’s.

    She belonged to, and still participates in a church that promotes “cell phone anointing”, not to mention the Christian takeover of the U.S. She’s a creationist for cryin’ out loud! She has 0 intellectual curiosity other than to promote her perverted form of fascism.

    Governing with blind certainty is how we got into this mess in the first plac.

  12. bnb says:

    A much more experienced VP candidate must be Biden.

    “When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, ‘Look, here’s what happened.” – Joe Biden

    Well, for starters Republican Herbert Hoover was president when the stock market crashed in October 1929. Second, Roosevelt didn’t take office until four years later. And, not to be picky, but there were also no televisions in use at the time.

    He also said he against clean coal, which is in direct opposition to a Obama/Biden position. He said Hillary would have been a better VP pick than him. He said that the Obama campaign ad questioning McCain on email useage was a disgrace, then defended it.

    Obama supported an AIG bailout, Biden said he didn’t support it, then flipped to the Obama position. The guy is out to lunch and a ready made gaffe.

    I think Obama will win but Biden can’t play 2nd fiddle. He will give them headaches all 4 years.

  13. dc says:

    Thanks for the presentation. I enjoyed the history lesson very much. So many VPs have faded entirely from memory — other than becoming president, shooting someone in a duel, or getting indicted, it’s hard to be noticed in that office.

    I’d love for the broader “debate” to move beyond the experience question, but that would require both sides to engage.

    If you have some perspective on the unique, almost backwards role of energy in Alaska’s economy — and how we can think about that as a basis of “experience” on that particular issue and on climate issues — I’d love to hear it. I’m not sure how being governor of Alaska is a better foundation for national energy policy than, say, being chairman of Halliburton (an oil-field services company), and that didn’t really result in an improved energy policy. Is Alaska really just Iran with polar bears? Or is it even more oil-bound than that? (Is it as oil-bound as, say, Saudi Arabia?) Some perspective on that would be helpful as people are told that generic “experience” with “energy” will translate into an improvement in their lives.

  14. Aaron Swartz says:

    Odd, I would have thought that saying someone did a “great” job in their first interview after being named VP carried the implication that you thought the person would be good at the observable aspects of the job. It’s not like you’re saying she did a great song-and-dance routine or something else irrelevant to the position.

  15. ick.. didn’t Chester A. Arthur become president? I don’t like where this is going.

  16. Jens says:

    IMO, the presentation of the former vice presidents was much too fast, and I don’t really know what to do with that information. OK, they fulfilled one or both of the given criteria, but if there is more info in it, I didn’t get it.

  17. Curtis says:

    Wow. I guess Larry doesn’t like being called out. I thought you were a little more open minded.

    Well, it’s your blog. If you want to delete comments because you don’t like them, that’s certainly your prerogative.

    For those who didn’t see them, my two comments boiled down to:

    1) Larry’s video attacks a straw man. Palin never said she had equivalent experience as most former vice presidents. She stated that she had never met a foreign head of state, and that she believes most former VPs probably haven’t either.

    2) @ another poster (I forget which at this point) who listed a litany of legislation, I simply said that not all legislation is good experience.

    Anyway, I don’t believe Larry will let my post here remain, but in the off chance a few people see it, I hope you consider what I have to say.

    I won’t bother posting here any more.

  18. Kevin says:

    This is an interesting use of history, with some flaws (Mondale served as Amb. to Japan after VP); there may have been others, but it moved quickly.
    1) in the very early republic, Adams and Jefferson had significant contact with foreign leaders. That diminished after 1815 for quite awhile. This was not again a primary consideration until recently, and so since the initial question involved interaction with foreign leaders, most of this history lesson is irrelevant to THAT question

    2) experience does not = quality. Several of the individuals on that list were highly unqualified on other grounds–Richard Mentor Johnson, Andrew Johnson jump out, but there were others.

    3) there have been few avenues for women to gain experience at high levels of government, though that has changed in the last 30 years. It would now be possible to choose for VP a woman who has served 1+ terms in US Senate, or as governor for more than 2 years, etc. Most of those choices, though not all, would be Democrats.

    4) This is a very risky argument for anyone to make when one considers the lack of experience at the top of the (D) ticket. The only President I can think of off the top of my head ( I would need to do a rigorous check) with less experience as either a governor or in Congress is Abraham Lincoln. That worked out well, of course, just as the experienced A.Johnson did not. Obama has been in the Senate for 4 years, and has been running for President for 2 of those years. I believe that McCain realized that the American people didn’t care about experience, but rather wanted dynamism, and so he chose dynamism and lost his experience argument, which wasn’t going to win for him anyway. (It didn’t work for Carter in ’80 or Bush in ’92 against obviously less qualified (at least at the time) opponents).

    Please note–I am not dismissing Obama’s pre-2004 career. I am merely using the criteria mentioned here. Thus no disparaging or laudatory remarks about “community organizers” are intended. And yes, he did serve in the Illinois State Senate, but state legislative service was used here as a criterion for the VP office. I am comparing Obama to other Presidential major-party nominees. I am willing to be corrected if there are others with less experience at the federal level or state executive level, of course, but there will be very few.

    5) Now, the argument that she is too risky to choose may be well-founded on other issues, some of which are mentioned in the conclusion. But then it really is about disagreement with her on the issues, not about experience, and so we are back where we started. We certainly can disagree with candidates about the issues, but for either side to call out the other based on inexperience is rank hypocrisy now that McCain has understood that inexperience is not a disqualifier for the Presidency and that argument was not going to win him the election. Of course I understand that Obama supporters are going to emphasize how his other qualities are far superior to Palin’s. But that is not the point here. The point here is that (in)experience is not a differentiating criterion between the two tickets as a whole. Thank you for your patience.

  19. In case anyone has missed it, even early prominent conservative supporters of Palin are suggesting it’s time she steps down for the good of the party, citing her interviews with Couric, Gibson, and Hannity as proof she is simply our of her league: http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/09/26/palin-should-step-down-conservative-commentator-says/

  20. Wes says:

    The experiences Obama has that impress me most are having lived in Indonesia and having taught constitutional law (but those experiences might not win a US election). I’m not aware of any of Palin’s experiences that impress me.

  21. Scott Ellington says:

    I believe the past half-century offers sufficient indication that this nation, and the office of the chief executive, has outgrown the scope of a single, unilateral president.

    The toxic binary has become the currency of political conversation, because we constantly wobble, drunkenly, from one set of values to the opposite.

    To insure continuing translucency, if not transparency, and continued bipartisan cooperation and vibil debate, I offer the suggestion that (at least) two clearly adversarial candidates for the presidency should hold that office jointly; married to the principles, if not the letter of Article Two, which abhors autocracy.

  22. Steve Baba says:

    “The only President I can think of off the top of my head ( I would need to do a rigorous check) with less experience as either a governor or in Congress is Abraham Lincoln. That worked out well, of course, just as the experienced A.Johnson did not.”

    It must be the selective memory of liberal war protesters or Obama supporters (everything Hillary said must be wrong) who think that experienced LBJ was a terrible president (although times were not great). All serious polls of scholars rank LBJ in the top half to top quarter of all US presidents:


  23. Steve Baba says:

    I have to stop multitasking, watching debate and reading/writing online, but I missed the “A.” for Andrew in Johnson and misapplied others’ anti-LBJ arguments to Andrew Johnson, who became president after Abe Lincoln and was almost impeached.

  24. George says:

    Lessig pretends to be objective with this video, but as an advisor for Obama, we all know he’s not – at all.

    As someone else has mentioned, the entire premise for the video is false. Palin never said she had comparable experience to other vice presidents. She said that it was not common for previous vice presidential candidates to have met with foreign heads of state – which most certainly is true. Faced with a historically accurate statement from Palin, Lessig constructs a strawman and knocks it down to smear Palin for her relative inexperience.

    Why? Just look at Obama.

    Lessig, in the interests of being objective, could have made another video featuring Obama and former presidents, leading to the exact same conclusion as was the case for Palin. However, Lessig is obviously just being a partisan hack here, so of course Obama’s inexperience is never an issue to talk about, while Palin’s is.

    What’s most interesting is how Obama supporters pull out virtually every little thing Obama has done in his life as relevant experience for the presidency. Community organizer? Law professor? Lawyer? Give me a break. The most relevant experience there is for the presidency is executive experience.

    Unfortunately, and this is ironic, the only person with a real record of executive experience is… Sarah Palin. Lessig, and the hordes of Obama fans, cannot deal with this simple truth, so they have to go about redefining experience, what it means, and who has how much.

    One of the reasons McCain chose Palin is precisely so that simpleminded partisans would be baited into comparing her to Obama, because obviously Obama is no match for McCain when it comes to their type of experience. They justify this with McCain’s age, and trot out the prospect of him dying every chance they get. Again, I think McCain knew this would happen, and also knows that betting your opponent is going to die isn’t exactly the type of argument that wins elections.

    Lessig made an error in saying that McCain would be the oldest elected president – Reagan was elected for his 2nd term at the age of 73, one year older than McCain. If health problems were supposed to be an argument, then JFK would have never been elected president. Yet he is the one Obama is commonly compared to…

    (By the way, when is Obama going to release his medical records? Or is that yet another inconvenient truth?)

    Let’s not pretend that you’re something other than an Obama partisan, Lessig. To steal a phrase from Clinton, you’re asking us to willingly suspend disbelief.

  25. George says:

    Lessig also misrepresents Palin’s view on global warming. She does not believe that it’s been caused primarily by humans, but that humans may have played a role. That’s always been her stance.

    Then Lessig goes into the usual global warming alarmist claptrap:
    “Decades of proof available to anybody who cared”

    Proof? Decades? I’m an atheist, I voted for Gore in 2000, but I do not believe there is any “proof” that global warming was caused by humans. There is some evidence that suggests this, but I do not believe this evidence is strong enough to actually conclude that humans are the main cause of what is now known as “climate change”.

    Exaggeration by the likes og Lessig and Gore is exactly the type of thing which pushes me farther away from believing it. If it really was such as Gore and Lessig claim, climatologists would be rioting in the streets to get people to stop pumping CO2 into the air. In reality, the Gores and Lessigs fly around in jets and pay “carbon credits” to make themselves feel better, money that mystically goes right back into projects and companies that people like themselves have created. Odd how that works.

  26. Wes says:

    You don’t want a president who makes good decisions, per se; because that’s impossible. You don’t want a president who decides whether Iraq has WMD based on his gut; because making good decisions with one’s gut is impossible. What you want is a president who can preside over the various government agencies so that the government agencies make good decisions. You don’t want a president deciding, based on his gut, that Iraq has WMD and then pressuring the intelligence agencies to go along with that decision. You want a president who is capable of accepting good decisions as the good decisions percolate up from the depths of the relevant government agencies.

    Obama has broad theoretical training in how the federal government is supposed to work (having taught constitutional law), he has a broad range of life experiences to draw on so he’ll be able to do basic sanity checking on the decisions percolating up from the depths of the relevant government agencies and he comes across as fairly levelheaded. While McCain has a lot of practical experience with the federal government, McCain tends to be quite erratic (taking risks and making mistakes) and it’s not really clear that McCain learns from his mistakes. While Palin has “executive” experience, that executive experience is extremely narrow. It’s unlikely that knowing how the Alaska state government functions is going to give her much insight into how the federal government functions. More generally, the range of Palin’s experiences on all aspects of life are quite narrow: she will not be able to sanity check the decisions percolating up from the relevant government agencies against her own life experiences.

  27. IG REPORT says:

    Good history lesson and must agree with several others on this inexperience stuff. We must move on to better issues than this. George, good on the climate stuff. It does make you wonder who is banking on this. This goes both Obama and Palin, if just making a trip and/or meeting with heads of state give you experience, well hell, there are a lot of experienced people to chose from. The simple fact is that there are few who actually deal with world leaders. To you who want to run for office, make sure you get a passport and travel somewhere because that is now considered experience.


  28. Steve Baba says:

    In addition to the obvious counterargument that if Palin in too inexperienced then Obama is also…., it appears that Democrats (mostly online extremists) have so lowered expectations that Palin is bound to rebound

    From LA Times (blog only?)

    How Democrats set Sarah Palin up to “win” Thursday’s VP Debate.

    The upcoming downside for the Obama-Biden campaign is that its supporters became so flustered over Palin’s surprisingly explosive popularity coming out of the GOP convention. They have so successfully mocked, derided and lowered expectations for Palin in Thursday night’s VP debate that if she doesn’t drool or speak in tongues, many millions still open to persuasion will be impressed.

  29. mudlock says:

    Interesting, but I don’t find it convincing. Okay, so 44 of the previous 46 vice presidents had more experience (at the federal level or as state executives) than she did. As you say, so what? But then you go through some tangent on how the VP role isn’t an issue but McCain might die; that’s not convincing.

    Abraham Lincoln had less experience, on both counts, than all the previous presidents except Zachary Taylor (and Obama has only slightly more than Lincoln). And yet, Lincoln is very highly regarded. Overall, experience doesn’t seem to have tracked presidential performance [ref.]. Obviously, lack of experience is a point of concern, but it’s not insurmountable, assuming there is some other compelling attribute. Therefore, I think it would be best to keep the focus more on her performance (limited as it is, but what’s there is unsettling), her viewpoints (which should be more than a little horrifying to most moderates, to say nothing of liberals), and how well informed she is (which is to say “abysmally poorly”).

    We’ll see how the debate goes tonight.

  30. Johnny M says:

    What executive experience does John McCain have? Crashing planes?

    The answer is, NONE!

    Clearly there is only one experienced candidate for president this year, and that is Sarah Palin!

  31. I think that this is the most obsured video and pointless act of politics anyone could have came up with. I mean come on- saying that Sarah Palin is inexperienced like the one (eventhough looney for this decision) Obama supporter below me, HYPOCRTICAL is all this is. May I suggest that Barack Hussein Obama served 143 days in the Senate before being elected? Sarah Palin served on a state level for two years plus in a political standpoint.

    Not to mention, just because John McCain is old, does NOT mean he will certainly die while in office. I think the Obama supporters who want to run this in the ground about him being too old need to step back and look- John McCain’s mother is 98 and still alive. Longevity in some cases runs genetically. Therefore, the death of McCain no longer poses an eminate threat to the US citizens, as Sarah Palin would be elected to Vice President only and would not be shifted to a presidency.

    Now before you start to make another attacking, elementary, and most certainly party destorying little character of play as this seemingly high tech shot at Governor Palin explains, KNOW YOUR FACTS, USE YOUR BRAIN, AND GET REAL- MCCAIN-PALIN 2008 IS THE BEST CHOICE.

  32. D man says:

    Mrs. Palin only looks good,. she has shit for brains and you obviously are a fool. Everyone has been knowing Alaska has oil. She’s not an Engineer of sorts that came up with some great plan, in fact I think she gave tax breaks to the companys for the money they receive up there. But I’m just a simple Blackman, but 1 daughter has her Masters for a few years and the younger is working toward her Doctorate. Both way smater thanh Ms. Palin. I voted Republican for many years, yet I question the judgement of Mc Cain at this point. He;s very unstable and she as far as I’m concerned is IDIOT !!! She is dangerous with half a brain and her husband the
    PIMP will try to run things just as he does in Alaska !!! FOOL’s that;s exactly what you are !!!

  33. billy says:

    Brief correction on ages: You state that Al Gore was 4 years Palin’s junior, but they were both 44 at the time of their campaign for VP. Gore was born in 1948 + 44 = 1992 campaign. Palin was born in 1964 + 44 = 2008 campaign.

  34. Scott says:

    Chester Arthur was generally seen as a good President. And what did Agnew’s corruption charges have to do with his experience or lack thereof? These two points make this argument very weak as well as the lack of comparison between Obama and all of the Presidents (I would say that only Lincoln had as little experience as Obama, unless of course you discount Arthur’s brief Vice Presidency; And Lincoln’s success makes this the overall point weak as well.) Oh, well, it doesn’t matter now anyway.

  35. Jude says:

    It’s interesting to compare Obama’s current experience with Palin’s; only she had a 20% chance of obtaining the same office. Not entirely sure it is fair but I happen to agree since we aren’t talking about “winning the lottery” odds here.

    So when folks answer the question of Palin’s experience with “what about Obama’s experience?”; I have to ask why you think Palin is just as qualified as Obama?

    Those posts must have been deleted too…

Leave a Reply