The experience issue has become a cornerstone of the Democratic race for the nomination. This weekend when the election was discussed amongst family, it was a major plus for Hillary Clinton that she was more experienced than Barack Obama.
I think experience is important, but I think it is also over-rated and can also be a detriment. In one of the key areas where leadership will be critical, the management of the War on Terror, neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton (nor Bill Clinton for that matter) have experience with a such a massive and complex undertaking. I don't think either of them will be able to step in on "day one" and easily manage the situation.
But, as a prerequisite for the presidency, experience is neither a positive nor negative indicator of success. In the past fifty years, three men have taken office who have been extremely experienced but have mixed records as presidents. These include George H.W. Bush, Richard Nixon, and Lyndon Johnson. While Carter, Clinton, and George W. Bush has experience as executives of states of varying size, their level of experience as "deciders" does not correlate with their accomplishments or failures as president.
Then, there is Abraham Lincoln, who was not experienced. Yet he is considered to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, president.
So, what criteria do you use, if not experience? It is obvious that philosophy is a factor and is very important when it comes to Supreme Court nominations. But, both philosophy and experience are trumped by personal style.
For instance, while Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are diametrically opposed philosophically, you have to take Bush's views on the issues much more seriously because he values standing his ground more than he values pragmatism. In Clinton's case, you could take his specific views less seriously because you could count on him to change his mind when it was politically expedient.
Personally, I am nervous about Hillary Clinton's personal style, which is similar to Bill Clinton's, but also a little more stubborn. At this point, I have more confidence that Obama would be less concerned with settling a score or being viewed as wrong as he would be with getting it right. I also think he will learn fast when he gets in office.
One concern I do have about Obama is that he can be flustered, as he was in the debate when both Clinton and Edwards were attacking him. To throw in a 24 reference, Obama is a little more Wayne Palmer than David Palmer, when we need David Palmer. But I would take either Palmer over President Logan, the experienced Washington hand. Plus, Wayne Palmer was tough-minded when it counted. I think Obama would be too.