What exactly is experience?

Larry J Sabato at the University of Virginia\'s Center for Politics produces an excellent newsletter called Crystal Ball. But in his latest newsletter he perpetrates an appalling error. In one paragraph he describes Senator Clinton as having "broad-based experience that is unparalleled in the 2008 Democratic field". In the next he says that former Senator John Edwards has a "thin public office résumé". Edwards has six years experience in the Senate and two elections for public office (successfully as a Senator and unsuccessfully as VP) to his credit. Clinton's experience comprises, currently, five years in the Senate and just one election. Admittedly, Clinton will probably have been re-elected to the Senate by 2008, and if she is defeated this year her presidential ambitions will be scuppered anyway. Nonetheless, the public office records of Senators Clinton and Edwards are fairly similar.

Granted, Sabato does not specify in Clinton's case that he is talking about experience of public office. She was a lawyer once. But so was Edwards, and so have been a great many potential candidates. Senator Clinton's experience is not only paralleled but greatly exceeded by most of her rivals. The only possible experience that Sabato can mean is that Clinton is the wife of someone who has served as president. But this is not experience. She should be judged on her own, rather thin, record, not the matter of the person to whom she is married.

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