Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Experience and the (Vice) Presidency

[Video Link]

Stanford Law professor Lawrence Lessig put together an interesting video objectively assessing the political experience of Vice Presidents throughout American history, and concluding that Sarah Palin has less political experience than any other Vice President, save Chester Arthur and, arguably, Spiro Agnew.*

It's an interesting argument, and Lessig makes a powerful case. However, his argument is somewhat askew of his data set. He asserts that because 1 in 5 Vice Presidents becomes President through succession and America faces serious challenges right now, such as two wars and a financial crisis, Palin is unqualified to be President and therefore unqualified to be Vice President.

Here's his sampling error: if he considers political experience just as important for Vice Presidents as it is for Presidents, then he should consider Presidents in his sample.

Here are the Presidents with equal to or less political experience (as Lessig defines the term) than Sarah Palin:

George Washington
John Adams
Zachary Taylor
Abraham Lincoln
Woodrow Wilson
Ulysses S. Grant
Chester A. Arthur
Theodore Roosevelt
Herbert Hoover
Dwight Eisenhower

So a minority of Presidents have had less than or equal the political experience of Sarah Palin, but Palin's experience or lack thereof is not as unusual as Lessig proposes.

*Lessig's list includes the experience of Theodore Roosevelt, who had been governor of New York for only two years before becoming Vice President, which apparently Lessig considers to be greater than Palin's two years in Juneau. It can be argued being governor of a very large state such as New York is greater administrative experience than a demographically small state such as Alaska, but Lessig does not posit this argument.

HT: Bits & Pieces


Michael said...

From what I can see, experience is not all it's cracked up to be. Jimmy Carter presumably came from a reasonably solid political background but is arguably the worst president in the 20th century. Bill Clinton even opined recently that there is not a lot of practical experience to be had that would prepare one for this awesome job.

Things have grown progressively worse over the years, in my humble opinion, as the result of a very experienced Congress. How well does their current approval rating (17%) speak to the usefulness of experience?

Everyone has a certain level of experience. Whether it can be viewed as relevant experience is the arguable point.

John said...

I think that being an experienced politician is like being an experienced prostitute: not necessarily an appealing trait.

No offense intended to any prostitutes who read this blog.

Ken L. Hagler said...

John, that comment was one of the best lines I've read in a while. I'm going to have to post that on my Facebook page. ;)

John said...

Thanks, Ken!