During the Democratic primary debate last Sunday, this very question tripped up, if not derailed, Barack Obama altogether.
Instead of being able to express his views and illustrate his ideas on the need for change, the freshman senator from Illinois was put on the defensive, addressing concerns and complaints about his lack of experience.
The Obama campaign has been struggling to find a solution to this problem.
A recent Gallup poll has Obama, who just a month ago trailed Hillary Clinton by 12 points, currently 23 points behind the Clinton campaign. His lackluster performance in recent polls may be an indication that people have either grown tired of the Hollywood glamour attached to him or that they are hesitant to cast their vote for him until he eases their worries about his lack of experience.
Despite what Obama has said or may say in the future, the old adage is right: experience is everything, especially when it relates to being President of the United States.
Experience may not be necessary to work at the local fast food diner or deliver pizzas, but the bigger the job and the higher the responsibility, the more necessary relevant experience becomes. No one wants their pilot or surgeon to be wet behind the ears.
If so, why should we make an exception for Obama, who wants to lead the country? The American Presidency is not exactly an entry-level position.
Many wish to compare Obama with past presidents such as Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, saying that these men, especially Lincoln, had little or no executive experience prior to assuming the presidency. This may be so, but these men’s paths are not as parallel with Obama’s as many may like to think.
Lincoln ran several heavily contested campaigns, especially in 1858, when he unsuccessfully ran against Stephen Douglas for U.S. Senate. Obama ran for state representative in an uncontested and highly democratic district of Illinois.
Also, for a period of time in 2004, Obama had no opponent in his quest to become Senator. Without opposition, there is no test.
Kennedy, a naval officer and war hero, had 13 years of legislative experience on the federal level prior to being elected in 1960. Obama is in the third year of his first six-year Senate term.
What has Barack Obama done while in office?
Aside from going back on his promise to fulfill his senate term, appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show and paralleling his voting record with that of leading Democrats in the Senate, the answer is not much.
The man is, at best, what John Edwards was in 2004: a fad that will eventually fade into insignificance. A candidate can only sustain the glitz and glamour for so long before they crack and crumble to the pressure of campaigning, eventually stepping down while the well-seasoned candidates step up.
It is audacious to hope that an inexperienced freshman senator, notwithstanding his recent foreign policy gaffes and unsupportive comments about our military efforts in Afghanistan, can become President of the United States? Is Barack Obama ready to be president?
One cannot begin to seriously address this until Obama’s campaign comes up with a solution to the experience question. Until then, Obama will have to be content with, at best, second place.
Joseph Haynie is a senior political science major. His column appears Fridays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.