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A Word About Experience…

October 31, 2008

For those who missed it because they either think he’s a left wing nut, or find him offensive, or just don’t find him funny…go back and check out the interview with Barack Obama on Jon Stewart’s show. There’s a lot of interesting things to be taken from it that I haven’t noticed from many of the other interviews. The title of the post is a word on experience so, here is my word on experience. Obama has aged lately. A lot. The Stewart interview showed it in a way I’ve never really seen before. I don’t know if it was because the interview was in a place where the lighting wasn’t fully controlled, or the makeup people didn’t have the time to sit with him they way they wanted or what, but it shows in his face and in every grey hair on his head. The man who looked so youthful and embodied a sense of being fresh, new, and inexperienced isn’t looking so green anymore. He looks aged, and the signs of the experience of the last 2 years are glaringly obvious.

And yet, it’s not over. Both parties tell us this, and guess what…they’re right. The majority of us still haven’t voted. It’s still dragging on. It’s been the longest campaign season ever. The candidates have done more appearances, given more speeches, raised more money, spent more money, placed more ads, analyzed more polls, and held more debates than ever before. And there’s still a large number of “undecided” voters 5 days before the election being courted by both sides. If the effect of the longer campaign was that we, as a populous, were better informed about the candidates than ever before, then why are there so many questions about their candidate that even supporters can’t answer? Recycling talking points for months longer doesn’t help us.

The experience given to both sides by this campaign is readily visible. As someone who grew up with a great respect for John McCain, it has saddened me to see him shaken in a way never before. I’ve watched and wondered how McCain could continue to follow campaign advice that went against everything he stood for. But when I look back on it now, I’m not surprised. The sheer length and toll of this campaign season is something that no one can walk away from without having years taken from their life. And I’m beginning to think that, in McCain’s case, it has taken years from his judgement. I wonder just how different things would have been if both candidates hadn’t been suffering from a forced exhaustion, and had been able to have the best of their wits about them. I honestly think if that was the case, McCain would have a much better chance. It is possible, even, that the selling of Sarah Palin would never have succeeded. And my respect for Sen. John McCain might have grown instead of dwindled. 

Campaigning has always been hard. Candidates have always had to travel and stump tirelessly. It’s what running a successful campaign is all about. But with each passing year, this process is elongated. Any reasonable person must begin to wonder – is this really healthy for our country? It is right for the public to know the person they are voting for. It is right for us to be informed, and for our leaders to know that they must speak to us, frankly and candidly, before we decide on election day. But is it right for us to require them to endure 21 months of sleepless nights, jetlag, and mental and physical exertion that is beyond pale? If either of these guys were Hollywood stars, they would have been on hiatus for exhaustion long ago. Personally, I don’t want the next leader of my country to enter into office already exhausted. I don’t think it’s a smart thing to do. Being president is an exhausting enough job in the best of times. Whoever wins the next election will undoubtedly be taking on the most exhausting job in the nation. Let’s do ourselves a favor, and stop wearing them out before they ever get there.

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