Presidential campaigns are often a complex mix of issues, images, fears and frustrations. Altough it is well near impossible, candidates try to please every type and group of voter, which is the main reason why so much of what they say is delicately nuanced or a blatant flip-flop. This is why it is refreshing this year to see that besides predictable ideological differences, the candidates are talking about the importance of experience and judgment in the Oval Office.
Perhaps it is the inevitable result of eight years of a presidency that often reflected executive immaturity and careless decision-making, but there is more here in this quest for experience and judgment than the shortcomings of George W. Bush. The candidates and their handlers have begun to realize that their message to the voters must accent the personal qualities most critical for running the most powerful country in the world. Thankfully, the voters are being asked to put aside their ideological blinders and their prejudices and look into the heart, mind and soul of Barack Obama and John McCain.
Of course because this is a political campaign, this search deep into the candidates has been filled with negative advertising, sharp invective and petty complaining. But cut through all the nastiness and there is the challenge posed to the American voter to cast their ballot in November for the man who brings the most to the office and who has the human gift to know instinctively what direction to take the country. After too long in which campaigns were solely defined in terms of conservative and liberal values and programs, the American peoople are being asked to put into the White House a man who best suits the job.
Of course because this is a political campaign, the charge to the American voters to choose the most experienced candidate with the wisdom of Soloman has been muddied. Experience has come to mean years of service, time in the corridors of power and involvement in a range of duties. While these examples hold an element of definitional precision, they do not give enough emphasis to life experiences such as personal struggles, socio-economic challenges and private disppointments. Experience is not a resume, it is a life lived.
Defining judgment has also been muddied by the campaign give and take. Judgment is not getting it right all the time or somehow having the ability to see into the future, but rather having the ability to recognize the value of opposing viewpoints, the skill of compromise and consensus building and most of all the knack for knowing when to follow a new approach in solving an old problem. It use to be that we called good judgment common sense, a short phrase that seems to have gone out of fashion in Washington.
Whoever wins the White House in November hopefully will possess experience and judgment, but not just as defined by campaign strategists and advertising agents, but instead the experience and judgment honed by human experience and built upon common sense.