You can’t praise what isn’t there

Unlike Hillary’s speech, Bill’s attempts to focus on Obama, rather than on generic Democratic goals.  Bill has a problem, though — the object of his praise has no record on which to run.  The best that Bill can do is create what amounts to a report card for a good student:  he’s a nice guy with a firm grasp of his subject at a purely academic level:

He [Obama] has a remarkable ability to inspire people, to raise our hopes and rally us to high purpose. He has the intelligence and curiosity every successful President needs. His policies on the economy, taxes, health care and energy are far superior to the Republican alternatives. He has shown a clear grasp of our foreign policy and national security challenges, and a firm commitment to repair our badly strained military. His family heritage and life experiences have given him a unique capacity to lead our increasingly diverse nation and to restore our leadership in an ever more interdependent world. The long, hard primary tested and strengthened him. And in his first presidential decision, the selection of a running mate, he hit it out of the park.

We’ve all attended school with kids who were academically bright, but who just never quite grasped the functional realities of the world outside of school.  To date, Obama’s greatest skill has been advancing himself.  Other than that, he’s

  1. written two self-congratulatory books;
  2. done a stint on a law review without any writing of his own (and you don’t know how bizarre that is);
  3. done a stint as a law professor without leaving any written record or clear ideas;
  4. done a stint as a community organizer and local politician that saw him (a) funnel money to his friends; (b) bollux up a major grant program; and (c) do nothing; and
  5. spent three years in the US Senate, most of them campaigning for the job of President.

Obama’s Ivy League degrees notwithstanding, that’s a mighty thin resume for a night watchman, let alone the President of the most powerful nation in the world.  Shouldn’t he be tested in the real world a bit more before he uses the US Presidency as his first job experience?

And it’s not just me being snarky.  Go back and read Bill’s words.  He couldn’t find a single substantive point to make about the guy — and he still went one better than his wife, who didn’t even try.

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  • Allen

    This has been quite interesting to me, say, just from a hiring standpoint. The applicant has a good education with no obvious usage of that education, as well as other things.

    Law degree, with no outstanding legal action.
    Community organizer, with no outstanding community improvements.
    State legislature, with no outstanding accomplishments.
    US Senator, with no outstanding legislation.

    It would seem his sole accomplishment has been his meteoric rise in politics.

    “Vote for me because I have been elevated.”

  • nathan

    One slight correction to your always brilliant posts: Obama did write a single law review comment that was recently uncovered. Here is the link

  • Bookworm

    Thank you, Nathan. Given it’s content, it’s unsurprising that it hasn’t been something he boasted about. It does disprove the statement that he produced nothing during his law review tenure, but it’s a fairly pathetic body of work.

  • dg

    Not to stir the pot again…and I am successfully (sort of) resisting the logical fallacy of tu coque by wondering where the thin-resume critics were eight years ago. But I did want to highlight a great little article on the potential insignificance of the experience debate. Note the final two paragraphs of the following article:

    Love the graphs. Not sure what they mean. Fun stuff.

  • Zhombre

    OK,dg, I’ll respond. An ardent liberal friend of mine advance this same Obama and Lincoln comparison. It’s delusional. It is also rather stupid and ahistorical. But then, much of what I witness in current politics appears delusional to me. Obama is not Lincoln. Urban Chicago is not the frontier Illinois of Lincoln’s time. Obama is not visionary. America in the 21st century is not 19th century America, provincial, a minor player on the world stage, and on the verge of secession and civil war. Got it?

  • zabrina

    You forgot another one of Barack’s accomplishments: Some say he seems to have helped his wife get a cushy $317,000-a-year job as vice president of the University of Chicago Medical Center. He has also funneled big money to his Chicago friends:


  • Bookworm

    Bush’s thin resume? While, the MSM was all over it eight years ago, and maybe it was considered thin then. It certainly shows a bit more oomph when ranked against Obama, though, if we’re talking low standards. He was a trained fighter pilot. What’s funny about that is that the liberals criticized him solidly for the fact that he never used those skills in battle, while now criticizing McCain solidly for the fact that he did! He was the successful, liked governor of one of the largest states, which is a hint at some executive, managerial experience. He’d worked in the business world, both succeeding and failing.

    So, as I said, he had some more chops than Obama. More to the point, it was a different world then. Bush was selected into a pre 9/11 time when we could arguably afford to hold our new leaders to slightly lower standards. Post-9/11, I don’t think we can or should entrust the White House to a self-absorbed, inexperienced neophyte.

  • Gringo

    dg directs our attention to a comparison of Obama and Lincoln.

    There are at least three differences between Lincoln and Obama.First, consider the issue of taking a stand. Lincoln took a definitive stand on slavery, the most controversial issue of the day. Voters knew where he stood. The only definitive stance that Obama has taken is “Vote for me.” Obama makes JFKerry, the poster child for flip-flop, look like the Rock of Gibraltar. Second, consider their oratorical skills. Lincoln was able to articulate his positions without prepared speeches, as shown in the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Without the teleprompter, without the prepared speech, Obama comes across as incoherent -“” – and ignorant. Air in tires as a substitute for drilling for oil and gas, anyone?A third difference is real-world accomplishments. A third difference between Lincoln and Obama is that Obama’s main talent has thus far been getting elected, with minimal accomplishment in the real world. His “community organizing” and time as chair of the Annenberg Challenge produced minimal results. Lincoln, by contrast, was a highly regarded trial attorney in a wide variety of cases, including working as an attorney for the Illinois Central railway. Note also that Obama’s legislative record is nothing to write home about.

    Anyone who compares Lincoln to Obama is not looking at the facts. The contrasts between Lincoln and Obama are much more striking.

  • David Foster

    In business, one sometimes meets people who are so obsessed with their next promotion that they don’t bother to do their current job. Whether they’re supposed to be running a factory, a sales region, or a marketing department, their real focus is exclusively on gaining the attention and support of those who hand out the promotions. Sometimes they get away with it, if they keep moving fast enough that their departments can run on pure momentum and if top management is not particuarly astute.

    You might look at the resume of a person like this and see what looks like great experience, but on closer analysis find out that they really don’t know very much about manufacturing, or selling, or much of anything else except self-promotion.

    I think Obama has some of these characteristics.

  • Tiresias

    I think there might be more commonality between Lincoln and Obama – should Obama get the job – than some of us might suppose.

    We’re all raised with this extraordinary romantic view of Lincoln, we (the masses) consider him our greatest President, and it just doesn’t square with the facts. America doesn’t like to hear it, most of the non-scholars (i.e.: most people) don’t believe it; but when looked at dispassionately, and leaving rhetoric aside, Abraham Lincoln was at best mediocre in the White House; at worst: a disaster.

    Obama certainly has the potential to be that!

    Obama works very hard – and will really take it to the limit tonight, I predict he’ll wear a purple toga for his speech in the temple of himself – to project himself in the same kind of light.

    Asserting that being the successful governor of the second-most populous state in the union; able to fly a variety of jet fighters; and a mostly successful player in high stakes business constitutes a thin resume is the statement of a moron. Pinch Sulzberger springs immediately to mind. You really don’t want to be on a list that features him, dg.

    Obama’s big schtick is his judgment, but the only sample of it on the national stage we’ve seen he got wrong: his vote against the surge in Iraq. As he pointed out himself in the primaries: “a person’s past vote tells you something about his or her judgment.” On the matter of the surge, he failed his own standard. When he voted against it he claimed, more than once, that it would lead to increased casualties and increased sectarian violence. Wrong-o: it didn’t.

    He’s been mistaken about nearly everything about Iraq since. He claimed the “Anbar awakening” was a result of the 2006 US elections – which, regrettably, took place in November: the awakening took place in September. He opposed not only the surge, but the change of strategy that went along with it: wrong again. He said – and still says – the American military had nothing to do with the Anbar awakening or the retreat of the Sadr militia – which the Iraqi Sunnis themselves say is wrong. As long as we’re there – he said – the Iraqis wouldn’t make hard decisions: they have.

    Poof goes his claim to superior judgment. Reality betrays us all.

  • dg

    Gringo, I didn’t compare Obama with Lincoln. That was Zhombre. I merely asked (implicitly) the questions: what relevance the resume? what specifically on the resume?

    I don’t know enough on the history of Lincoln to know whether anyone thought he had the vision, gumption, fortitude etc. that he showed during his presidency BEFORE he was elected. But if we could go back then, we might very different characteristics about Lincoln and Obama. I don’t know what they are, though.

    David Foster brings up a great point and definite risk about Obama not sticking to a position long enough, but instead may be showing some job-hopping tendencies.

    I happen to think that the LINCOLN-HOOVER comparison (the real one I was making) is irrelevant. 43 Presidents over 200+ years hardly is a large enough sample size to determine the importance of a resume, so the Lincoln-Hoover comparison could be the exception that proves the still-to-be established rule, that experience does matter. I mean, most other really important positions require a thick resume.

    Bookworm, I agree that the resume of Obama today is lighter Bush of ’00, but Bush of ’00 was light relative to Gore of ’00. That, I believe is the relevant comparison. Bush was indeed a fighter pilot, but why that makes you a good President I don’t understand. That some liberals said he should have used that skill was either irrelevant or perhaps actually related to claims that Bush was the bigger war hero than Kerry (e.g., Coulter’s quip that flying a plane over Texas was more dangerous than Kerry sunning himself on a river boat). That entire discussion was unfortunate, because it distracted from a substantive debate over the war…in Iraq, not Vietnam. But with respect to McCain, how does flying (and crashing multiple times) fighter jets make you qualified to be President (and I don’t ask this to belittle the experience, as some Democrats may have perceived to have done)? Seriously, should that experience be more valued than Giuliani’s experience in NYC after 9/11 or Richardson’s longtime experience managing social and economic challenges within a very poor state (NM)? My view is that, while it sounds sexy and macho (which guy doesn’t want to fly F-15’s?), it matters less in reality. For example, Bob Lutz, the CEO of GM, flies flighter jets, and I’ve never heard a securities analyst with a recommendation on that stock even mention his pilot training as a key factor in the success or failure of his tenure as that automaker’s chief. And GM owns SAAB, which makes jets.

  • David Foster

    NONE of this year’s finalists–Obama, McCain, Hillary–have had serious executive experience. McCain comes closest, having run a large training squadron, but there are probably 100,000 people in the country with more management experience than any of them.

    I think it’s worrisome, and may reflect as excessive reverence for words vs actions in our society.

  • dg

    It might mean that the electorate is stupid and doesn’t know what’s important anymore–if it ever did. The members of any executive selection committee on a Fortune 500 Board of Directors would be sued over allegations that they based their decision on whether the newly-hired CEO looked good in a flight jumpsuit or avoided having dinner with a leftist radical. Yet the discussion over this important issue rolls on…

  • Gringo

    Gringo, I didn’t compare Obama with Lincoln. That was Zhombre.

    Contrary to what you claimed, I never said that “dg compares Lincoln and Obama” or some such equivalent statement.

    Here is what I said: “dg directs our attention to a comparison of Obama and Lincoln.”

    In comment 2, you linked to an article, about which you said: “Note the final two paragraphs of the following article.” The final two paragraphs of that article included a comparison of Lincoln and Obama, with respect to lack of experience. My statement that “dg directs our attention to a comparison of Lincoln and Obama” is accurate. That is precisely what you did.

    I simply expanded the comparison of Lincoln and Obama that the article made, discussing relevant experience and also other factors. Zhombre also expanded the comparison of Lincoln and Obama from that article, the article to which you had directed our attention, specifically to paragraphs which included a comparison of Lincoln and Obama. Neither Zhombre nor I would have compared Lincoln and Obama if you had not directed our attention to an article which made that very comparison.

    It’s that simple. You directed our attention to the final two paragraphs of an article which included an comparison of Lincoln and Obama. You did not make the comparison. The article did.
    Would it have been better had I written “dg directs our attention to an article that makes a comparison of Obama and Lincoln?”

    This is stupid nitpicking pettifoggery, as is your statement.

  • Tiresias

    David brings up the most interesting thing about this election – and I have to say: it baffles me how we got to this point.

    In this country we like people who have proven they can run something. Of our Presidents thus far: 4 were commanding generals; 3 ran departments (2 Sec. of State, 1 Sec. of Commerce); 11 were Vice-President (and six of ’em were also governors); and 19 of them were governors (six VP).

    Only five had no executive experience. They were arguably among the worst Presidents. Part of the reason for the Civil War was because you had a nothing from the senate, (Franklin Pierce), followed by another nothing from the senate, (James Buchanan), followed by a nothing from congress: (Abraham Lincoln). Zero executive experience between them, and what a disaster for the country that they came three in a row at that precise tim

    This year we actually had, on the Republican side, some accomplished people. Mitt Romney was a successful governor and hugely successful businessman; Giuliani was a successful mayor – but of a city bigger than all but a few states; Huckabee was a well-regarded governor. Three very accomplished guys, and we end up with John McCain? A man who’s never run anything but a fighter squadron and a senate office. In other words: pretty damn close to zero executive experience.

    On the Democrat side it’s worse: Hillary and Barry between ’em have never run so much as a corner store, and one of them’s been in the senate for one actual term, the other’s been there for 143 days. This is BEYOND zero experience! Obama wins, and to help him out he chooses Joe Biden, who in 36 years of political hackery in the senate has never run anything in his life, either.

    Given the nation’s demonstrated liking for people who’ve proven they can run something, this is a genuinely odd year.

  • Danny Lemieux

    “But with respect to McCain, how does flying (and crashing multiple times) fighter jets make you qualified to be President (and I don’t ask this to belittle the experience, as some Democrats may have perceived to have done)?”

    Let me try to explain, dg, because this is a crucially important quality for Presidents that people don’t talk about.

    When it’s crunch time, you face disaster and you hold the lives of millions of people in your hands, you don’t want to blink. You need someone who’s ability to make quick judgments will hold up under assault and incredible pressure.

    I recognize that this is very difficult for people to appreciate unless they have been through such situations themselves.

  • dg

    Danny Lemieux, I think I’ve got it. And I appreciate that kind of ability. But here’s a question: when has a president in our history faced such a leadership situation–a need to make quick decisions without crumbling under pressure? Presidents have face monumental decisions, but they have usually had time to research, plan and be thoughtful (e.g., dropping atomic bombs on Japan, declaring Gulf War I, responding to Katrina–all of which had days of notice for planning). It sounds really great, but Presidents are not fighter pilots. They do not make split-second decisions, nor should they. The single time I can remember involved our current President, a fighter pilot, who waited several minutes before leaving the classroom to respond to the news of planes crashing into the Twin Towers. If that is the kind of example you are describing, then why did the President with the very background you advocate apparently fail at that moment requiring a split second decision (and if you’ve watched Flight 93 or read the accounts that the documentary is based upon, you know that that belated reaction from the President was detrimental to the military and FAA responses. I’m not blaming Bush for failing to stop those planes. I’m questioning: 1) the likelihood of such a scenario, and 2) that a fighter pilot necessarily has those powers of judgment. Explain why/where I am wrong.

  • dg

    Take it easy, Gringo. Take a deep breath. And then tell me where in the last two paragraphs of that article Obama’s name even appears. (His name appears in the article less frequently than Edwards, actually.) The comparison I was drawing attention to is not between Lincoln and Obama, but between Lincoln and Hoover/Adams/Nixon.

  • dg

    Tiresias, I hope it’s just an odd year. If you look at the depth of management experience out there, however, the greatest talents seem to avoid the job altogether. I wonder why.

  • Helen Losse
  • Danny Lemieux

    DG – a seven minute hiatus for GW to absorb the news, analyze the consequences and respond appropriately (which he did – he was in a class room of little kids) is actually very fast. Michael Moore didn’t think so…but what does he know? With regard to Flight 93 and the rest, I don’t have a clue as to what you are suggesting.

    For the examples that you require, you may want to consider Chamberlain and Churchill on the invasion of Poland, Kennedy at Bay of Pigs and the Missile Crisis, Bush I on the invasion of Kuwait, and so on. The question is, is Barack Obama ready to be President? It seems to me that his first and immediate instincts are to meet our enemies half-way or more (appease, in other words). He’s afraid of having to defend his position in town hall meetings, for God’s sake!

  • Earl

    I only heard the last few minutes of Bill’s speech – but it did impress me once again that there has probably been no finer retail politician in my lifetime, and I’m not excluding my man, Ronald Reagan.

    After hearing predictions that the speech would be “all about Bill”, and that he wasn’t going to make the case for Obama, etc., I thought he pulled it off — he sounded like he really meant it, he said the words he needed to say…..what I heard was just terrific!

    And this is coming from a guy who has detested every “BMOC” that Bill Clinton exemplifies since I first encountered one on the Ukiah Dolphin Swim Team in 1955 (when I was 7).

  • dg

    Bill Maher noted, and I guess i agree with him and Earl, that Bill Clinton is still the only Democratic politician that can crystalize the arguments in a way that hurts the GOP case. His speech was very effective, but its impact will be short-lived.

  • dg

    Danny, I like your examples more than my Bush-in-the-classroom one, but they are not examples that required near-split-second decisions. I have two friends that are ex-military pilots (one AF and one MC) that both agree with Obama’s negotiate first proclivities and are both voting for him. I don’t think you’d be happy with their foreign policy if they became President, even though they have ice cubes in their blood, nerves of steel and can make extremely quick decisions. Those skills appear better suited for day-trading or surgery than being President.

    Flight training doesn’t make anyone ready to be President. You can say McCain is ready, but it ain’t because he flew and crashed jets. You can say Obama isn’t ready, but it ain’t because he didn’t.

  • dg

    “…it ain’t because he didn’t…” Wow blogging really improves my writing.

  • Zhombre

    dg, I also assumed that your original post directed one to a comparison of Lincoln and Obama, a comparison other O-supporters I know have made. I agree with you that flight training doesn’t make anyone ready to be President. Neither does being a community organizer for three years, or being a law professor, or editing a law review without actually publishing or being biracial and supremely almost preternaturally self confident. I’ve said before and say again I do not support Obama because he is a liberal Democrat, and I have ceased to be one; because he has virtually no legislative achievements or executive experience; and because I deeply distrust a campaign based on charisma, oratory and imagery. McCain was never my first choice for POTUS but I will vote for him based on experience, service to this country, and the fact that he is closer to my positions on the issues. If he loses, so be it. Even should McCain win, I suspect the Democrats in Congress, the media and the federal workforce will do everything in their power to sabotage his administration, and the left will harp endlessly and operatically on The Stolen Election of 2008 and The Inherent Racism of America in its failure to elect an African-American President.

  • Danny Lemieux


    To your very astute list of reasons (because I agree, of course), I add that I would never ever vote for any product of the Chicago political combine for President. That being said, as a former Scoop Jackson Democrat (for those of you that may still recall what that means), I will not vote for any Democrat to national office any longer, nowhere, no-how.

  • suek

    I agree that being a fly boy doesn’t make one qualified to be President with the exception of one qualification – that is simply decisiveness. Whether the decision is made in 2 seconds or 2 days or 2 weeks, sometimes a decision _must_ be made. McCain has shown he _can_ make decisions. Obama seems utterly unable to make decisions. He seems to suffer from the paralysis by analysis affliction – not a good trait.

  • Zhombre

    I remember Henry Scoop Jackson. And, for all that, Everett Dirksen, Charles Percy and Adlai Stevenson too. Being from Chicago, I wouldn’t vote for a product of the Machine and a denizen of Hyde Park,where somebody like Bill Ayers is simply a nice man in the neighborhood, like Mr Rogers, but who still in his heart of hearts admires Che and Frantz Fanon and Gramsci and has a copy of Empire autographed by Antonio Negri. Well, I’m making that up. I don’t care for the Democrat party as currently constituted with its fulcrum dragged to the left but as an Independent I won’t rule out voting for a Democrat for some office. Victor Davis Hanson still votes for his Democrat Rep in California. I was interested in hearing Mark Warner speak in Denver the other night.

  • Bookworm

    I’m a registered Independent, but as long as California keeps fielding Democratic candidates such as Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein and Lynn Woolsey, I don’t see myself voting Democrat any time soon.

  • Zhombre

    Neither would I if I lived in Calfornia but I wouldn’t vote for Ah-nuld again either. And I have no intention of voting for the Stepford Democrat Congresswoman who represents my district here in Florida and runs, effectively, without opposition.

  • Zhombre

    Btw Al Gore just finished speaking at Invesco Field in Denver, and also compared Obama to Lincoln.

  • Ymarsakar

    Btw Al Gore just finished speaking at Invesco Field in Denver, and also compared Obama to Lincoln.

    Is that going to be their excuse when they create a false flag mission to kill Obama and blame it on the Republicans? That Obama was like Lincoln?

  • Ymarsakar

    Book, do you mean “wrote one better” than his wife?

  • Bookworm

    Thanks, Y. I meant “went one better than his wife.”