Obama vs. McCain 2008: Round 12: Age and Experience

This is the twelfth of a weekly series of public forums on TMB. Watch for a new round every Monday.

This week’s forum is on the topics of age and experience.

Is McCain’s age more of an asset or a liability? Obama’s youth? The candidates’ experience?

Discuss.

Next week: Terrorism and Diplomacy

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7 Responses

  1. In my opinion, age is both an asset and a liability. There’s no question that the older you are, the more experience you have and, hopefully, wisdom as well. McCain is old and he’s experienced a lot of things in his life that results in character-building, such as being a POW. A negative experience like that can destroy a person, especially mentally, but he obviously came out on top. That’s an asset to anyone. However, there’s also no question that a 72 year-old just doesn’t have the same physical stamina as someone in his late 40’s. A president’s schedule is grueling, with the frequent travel and long hours. Look at past presidents and see how they aged during their time in office. Makes you wonder how McCain will look after 8 years.

    On the other hand, age can be a liability in some ways. I admit that maybe I’m a bit biased because I work with old people and it seems I’m surrounded by them all the time. Old people are great in a lot of ways, but they’re generally stubborn and resistant to change. Some of them like to believe that “everything was better back in my day.” I’m not saying McCain is like this, but I have to say that I don’t know many 72 year-olds that are open to change, trying new things, or accepting new ideas.

    Obama perhaps has a slight advantage because he is more in the middle of the age spectrum. While I think that older people would perhaps find McCain more appealing, Obama is not a teenager, so he can definitely work harder to gain their support. Perhaps concentrating on health care reform is something that would appeal to an older audience. As well, Obama still seems vibrant and youthful, so I would imagine that the youngest voters lean towards him. Young people also tend to be more liberal and want to see change.

    Will McCain be tougher than Obama when it comes to dealing with extreme Islamic nations? Yes, I think so. But I don’t think that that necessarily makes Obama a softie. His approach may be more fruitful in keeping the peace if he’s able to change America’s image, which is really, really bad in a lot of places in the world after 8 years of Bush. Voters will have to ask themselves whether the tough-guy approach, or being open to dialogue and negotiation, will produce better results. Personally, I think you need a combination of the two, but this is where I feel Obama has an edge edge. I feel he is the better diplomat, at least in the eyes of non-Americans. If you are an American who is only concerned about what goes on within America’s borders, then I think I would find McCain more appealing.

    So which is stronger in this dept? It’s a tough call!

  2. I have been absent a while, but thought I would weigh in with a thought on this topic. Obama has not left much of a wake behind him. Chicago is not any different for him having been there. He made connections that were convenient for local politics, then defenestrated them as soon as he was on the national stage. For all his talk of Change, he hasn’t done much. Over the last 10 years, he has spent 5 of those years campaigning for higher office. Obama has a very thin pile of legislation that he pushed through at any level of government. He somehow edited the Harvard Law Review without actually writing anything in the Harvard Law Review.

    Of course, McCain is stubborn. He was his own greatest campaign liability a year ago when he was pushing comprehensive immigration reform. He almost torpedoed all chances he had to become the nominee before the first primary started. Last I heard, he still stands by campaign finance reform which razes the First Amendment by limiting political speech. And of course there is the long held belief that legislators don’t make good executives.

  3. What it seems to come down to is if a voter thinks America is on the right path or not. Obama’s youth shows vitality and readiness for change, anxious to get into the political arena. McCain’s age shows a confidence in what America is already doing.

    In terms of experience, I’m not sure what constitutes as good preparation for president. What makes a president a good president? To me, it seems like an ability to adapt and make smart, pragmatic decisions. What would prepare someone for that?

  4. Kelsy is correct that Obama is experienced enough and smart enough if you want change, and McCain is not too old and brittle if you want to continue the course we are on.

    Moreover, the presidency is not a one-man show. McCain has been more or less captured by the Republican Party and Obama by the Democratic Party. The party establishments will shape their options, though I hope neither will be as partisan as President Bush.

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  6. FD:

    A president’s schedule is grueling, with the frequent travel and long hours. Look at past presidents and see how they aged during their time in office. Makes you wonder how McCain will look after 8 years.

    This is an excellent point. I had a psychology textbook that showed pictures of Clinton (and perhaps a couple other presidents) before and after his 8 years of president. There is a big difference. You can see this with Bush (W) as well.

    Kelsy,

    What it seems to come down to is if a voter thinks America is on the right path or not. Obama’s youth shows vitality and readiness for change, anxious to get into the political arena. McCain’s age shows a confidence in what America is already doing.

    I think you’ve captured the crux of this issue for me. Both Obama’s “youth” and McCain’s “experience” are assets or liabilities depending on how much “progress” or “conservation” a person wants to see for America right now. The big problem, however, is if either candidate will not be adequately informed by both fresh youth and wise experience. Regardless of whether you’re “progressive” or “conservative,” to think that you can marginalize youthful or older perspectives is the epitome of “zeal without knowledge” youth on one hand or “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” experience on the other.

    In this regard, I think it is humorous when people discount Joe Biden as Obama’s (potential) VP because he doesn’t symbolize “change.” I hope that anyone who wants “change” is not completely unleashed by some “old dogs.” In fact, change is best seen in the light of the status quo, and likewise best made in the midst of some status quo representation and insight. The alternative, frankly, is scary.

  7. ABC has an interesting article about McCain’s medical history. Between the smoking and all the skin cancers, it’s amazing that the guy is still around and in the shape that he is now.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Politics/Story?id=4922123&page=1

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