Thursday, March 27, 2008

Compassion and Experience

March 27, 2008, 7:25 a.m.

Compassionate Maturity

President George Bush has characterized himself a "compassionate conservative." However appropriately you may think that label applies to our president, we've had some evidence recently that the phrase, compassionate conservative, is not the oxymoron many Democrats believe it to be.

As general semanticists were trying to get us to understand during the latter half of the Twentieth Century, much of what we see and hear, and virtually all of what we say, reveals far more about what is going on inside that electro-chemical soup we call our brains than anything going on in the "real world" of space-time events "out there."

I was reminded of this the other day when I read the comments of Senator Hillary Clinton and Governor Mike Huckabee regarding Senator Barack Obama's former minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

As I say, neither comment tells us much, if anything, about Rev. Wright. Both comments tell us volumes about the contrasts between Clinton and Huckabee.

First, here is an excerpt from the story about Clinton's reaction:

"Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking for the first time directly about the association between the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Sen. Barack Obama, said 'getting up and moving' would have been the right response to hearing the preacher's fiery sermons.

Wright 'would not have been my pastor,' Clinton said during an interview with the conservative editorial board of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, whose endorsement she is seeking. 'You don't choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend,' she said."
Anne E. Kornblut, "Clinton Weighs In on Wright Controversy," Washington Post/The Trail, March 25, 2008, 5:15 p.m. ET.

Now read Governor Huckabee's reaction:

"Obama has handled this about as well as anybody could, and I agree, it's a very historic speech [Barack Obama, "A More Perfect Union," March 18, 2008]. . . . He made the point and I think it's a valid one. That you can't hold the candidate responsible for everything that people around him may say or do. You just can't. Whether it's me, whether it's Obama, anybody else. But he did distance himself from the very vitriolic statements."

"I grew up in a very segregated South. And I think that you have to cut some slack . . . I'm probably the only conservative in America who's going to say something like this, but I'm just telling you. We've got to cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told you have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie; you have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant and you can't sit out there with everyone else; there's a separate waiting room in the doctor's office; here's where you sit on the bus.

"And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment and you have to just say, I probably would too. I probably would too. In fact, I may have had a more, more of a chip on my shoulder had it been me."
Derrick Z. Jackson, "The black man's burden," Boston Globe/, March 25, 2008.

(Governor Huckabee earlier earned my once-every-four-years "if I had to pick a Republican who would it be?" award: Nicholas Johnson, "It's Huckabee," July 24, 2007 -- for many of the same reasons reflected in these quotes.)

Not incidentally, from Jackson's report Senator John McCain's reaction also spoke well of McCain: "John McCain, the assured Republican nominee resisted the attempt by FOX News's Sean Hannity to whip Wright's remarks into a pyre for Obama. McCain said coolly, 'I do know Senator Obama. He does not share those views . . . I've had endorsements of some people that I didn't share their views . . . My life has been one of reconciliation. . . .'"

In short, what we ought to be looking for are neither "compassionate conservatives" or "compassionate liberals," rather the quality of "compassionate maturity" in all of our candidates.

Tung Yin on "Experience"

I have written prior blog entries about Senator Hillary Clinton's assertions regarding her "35 years of experience" and why, she says, it makes her more qualified to be president than the experience of Senator Barack Obama. Nicholas Johnson, "Hillary's Lack of Qualifications," March 8, 10, 11, 12, 2008; Nicholas Johnson, "Hillary Makes Up 'Experience,'" March 14, 21, 2008; Nicholas Johnson, "Clinton Shouldn't Lie About What's Videotaped," March 22, 2008.

Yesterday [March 26] Tung Yin ("The Yin Blog") turned Senator Clinton's claims on her husband:

Experience to be President

If Hillary Clinton's main claim to the Democratic nomination over Barack Obama is her greater "experience" (in what?), then can we safely assume that she also believes that the country made a mistake in electing her husband in 1992?

After all, Bill Clinton had only been governor of a small state, while his opponent:

(1) was the sitting President of the United States -- itself no doubt the best experience for being President of the United States;

(2) had been a United States Ambassador to the United Nations;

(3) had headed the Central Intelligence Agency; and

(4) had served two terms as the Vice President of the United States -- a position at least comparable to Senator Clinton's eight years as the First Lady.

If you want to talk about experience, George H.W. Bush's record dwarfed Bill Clinton's . . . .
Tung Yin, "Experience to be President," The Yin Blog, March 26, 2008.

What Tung Yin kindly does not point out is that, however little experience Bill Clinton may have had to be president -- especially compared to that of the first President Bush or, I would add, Governor Bill Richardson -- it significantly exceeded that which Senator Clinton now has (insofar as her husband had at least the public administration experience, and useful knowledge of federal-state relations, that came from having been a governor).

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