March 19th, 2008
03:55 PM ET
14 years ago

Blitzer: Experience versus change

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="The experience v. change argument still rages."](CNN) - Experience versus change. That has been a constant refrain we’ve heard out on the campaign trail. Which is more important in this presidential election campaign?

Barack Obama beats Hillary Clinton and John McCain in our latest CNN-Opinion Research Corporation Poll when it comes who voters feel is the candidate best able to effect change. The American public, the poll shows, believes he can better change our political culture. In the same poll, however, he loses when it comes to experience. For one thing, both Clinton and McCain have been figures on the national political stage for far longer.

Obama is willing to address the issue directly – and in the process take a swipe at both McCain and Clinton.

“It is time to have a debate with John McCain about the future of our national security,” Obama said Wednesday. “And the way to win that debate is not to compete with John McCain over who has more experience in Washington because that’s a contest he will win. The way to win a debate with John McCain is not to talk, act and vote like him on national security because then we all lose.”

Obama’s surrogates have made the constant point in recent weeks and months that having a great deal of Washington experience is not always useful. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, they point out, had decades of Washington experience – going back to the 1960’s – which they say did not necessarily help them make better decisions during this Bush administration.

If Obama gets the Democratic presidential nomination and faces John McCain, you can expect to be hearing a lot more about change versus experience.

- Wolf Blitzer

Filed under: Wolf Blitzer
soundoff (354 Responses)
  1. Deb

    McCain has experience but not the right ideas.
    Obama has ideas (as do all democrates) but not the right trusted experience of HOW to work within the Washington culture and the world stage to bring about real change.
    Clinton is the right combination. She has the desire to change the situation PLUS the respect, experience and trust of the global players to put ideas into ACTION. Including 20+ generals, etc.
    If Hillary were a MAN this conversation would not be taking place.
    Like Mike Huckabee, Obama would be considered a light weight and the mantle of Commander in CHIEF would be a deal breaker for Obama's position. We are in the war and how we go forward is the issue. Obama keeps rabbitting on about the initial vote. This is not relevant to the average person.

    March 19, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  2. JackArbiter

    Wolf you don't take a side, and I like that.... I also like this topic, it's a good discussion.

    March 19, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  3. Pamela Barbour

    I heard speaking now about "judgment" in response to Clinton's campaign slogan based upon "experience." These are both adjectives dused by the candidates to describe themselves. "Change" describes a process that moves the American people and policy in a direction that Obama describes. For me it is judgement AND integrity that are much more significant than Clinton's self-defining "experience" banner. Obama's speech yesterday in Philadelphia speaks to his integrity and judgment as well as his ability to lead based upon the best of principles and motives. Thanks.

    March 19, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  4. suzanne

    Experience has NOT helped McCain know the difference between Sunii and Shiite, apparently!

    Who wants the Clinton experience?I would like a president who is not going to face impeachment hearings, and has less baggage than Marie Antoinette Cinton!

    A 65 year old tired white woman in Oregon

    March 19, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  5. Esther

    Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people. Obama does not want to discuss people he wants us to discuss something higher than petty insignificate things he wants us to reach beyond what you all wish to discuss in this world. I want us to do that too. I am tired of this life when all we have to discuss is entertainers, their drug problems or what the reverend wright said when we have bigger things to think about. we sound like children on the play ground. when the average child is just as much affected in this election of who you going to put in the white house. ask the 4th graders who they want for president. how come we do not talk about the child we are destroying with this endless smut talk and we call ourselves civilized. Obama is a mix of all great thinkers and I for one wish to be called to imagine a world where we are all one out of many. we need to change we need to get the truth out we need to inventory our history and find out what went wrong cause we were on a path and someone hijacked us.

    March 19, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  6. Tony

    I have a few questions? How many people do you poll, 50, 100, 1000? In red states or blue states? Rich Americans or middle income? Why are the low percentages always on top, misleading the public on the results of the people polled in the newsroom?

    Your polls seem skewed to suit your personal political agendas.

    March 19, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  7. aware

    Wolf, it is too late for Barack! 🙁

    He appeared very conflicted in his speech yesterday. You cannot honestly address structural or systemic racial problems or speak truth to power when you are an opportunistic politician using every possible means to gain power for yourself.

    Wolf, Barack would have been more credible if he had not tried to wiggle out of his Rev. Wright/Trinity relationship when the inflammatory videos first surfaced. He wanted us to believe a lie and when that didn't work he tried obfuscation by hiding the original lie in a grandiose speech.

    No more speeches Barack!

    You are not trustworthy. You blew it big time. Barack, you are not electable! 🙁

    March 19, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  8. democrat

    Hillary is a Republican hiding under the Democratic mantel. Her vote of confidence in McCain's presidential readiness alone should disqualify her from the Democratic primaries. Instead of teasing the Democrats with the possibility that Obama could be her VP she should just offer herself up as McCain's VP. Taking into account his age she might have a better chance of inheriting the presidency from him than winning it on her own. It's time for change and that means neither Clinton nor McCain.

    March 19, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  9. Janet Strong

    Barack Obama is similar in many ways to Hillary Clinton when she first went to Washington in 1993:
    – 44 years old
    – brilliant and accomplished
    – great plans to change everything (health care, etc.)
    The difference between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton today – 15 years later – is the now Senator Clinton knows much more about how to do it! How to change things.
    If she were president for 8 years with Barack as VP, and if Barack were president for 8 years after her – think of what a wonderful country we would have!
    In 8 years, Barack will know more about how to effect the changes we all want.
    Our country is not in normal times – we have an emergency situation – and we need Senator Clinton to be president. I have 100% confidence that she is the most qualified, and will do a fabulous job as president.
    Thank you.

    March 19, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  10. Stan

    Change is Theory and Experience is Actual. Bad experience is still experience (learn from you mistakes). I don't remember seeing a long list of anything (experience or good judgements) about Obama. Washington will chew him up once he is in the office.... wake up voters and superdelegates.

    March 19, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  11. calvin

    yes and did you understand statement that hillary clinton-horton; made " that race and gender is a complicated issue in politics and america. now this is a insult . i'am a human being who happens to be black and not complicated its what god intended. her statement was a dodge to the fact that it was her moment to gloat about the mess that the willie horton situation her and the clinton campaign created. you see that look of glee on her face. and shes not only a monster but two-faced to. now thats experience.

    March 19, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  12. yancey burns

    An issue I've wondered about since the first Rev. Wright clips played on the news channels is "who had access to the tapes" and "who released the tapes to the media"? Surely, none of Obama's fellow parishoners distributed these venom-filled who is actually the source? I firmly believe Senator Obama when he says he wasn't aware of these particular words being spoken in Wright's sermons and that he rejects them, so anyone who made them available in the media had to be a mortal enemy of the Obama campaign and the electorate has the right to question their source.

    March 19, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  13. Mike

    Do you actually have nothing else to offer your viewers other than the lame position that Hillary Clinton has more experience than Barack Obama? I'm an informed viewer and would appreciate more from the so called news than simply repeating what the candidates tell you to repeat. Quit being so lazy and do some reporting for a change.

    When talking about experience why don't you point out that none of the candidates have experience at the executive branch level. All will be learning as they go. Let's face it the experience of President is not something anyone can prepare for. Talk about that Wolf.

    March 19, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  14. nick

    Spare any change please!

    March 19, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  15. dmc

    Now that MI and FL are out of the picture as possible revotes Clinton should capitulate as she has no chance of victory and yet she will make a Dem victory in the general more unlikely if she stays in the race.

    March 19, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  16. Boomer For Change

    I am not as concerned with how much experience the future president has in Washington as I am with which candidate is most likely to bring change to Washington. We need to get past all of these ridiculous distractions. The truth is, the bar has been continually raised for Barack Obama ..... none of the other candidates has endured such intense scrutiny during this campaign season... and answered with such candor and sincerity. Hillary has lied about her actual experience, refused to release personal documents that are important to voters...until it is convenient, has numerous ties to people convicted of campaign finance irregularities, etc...etc... so why is she not equally scrutinized? If it is not about race, then why the unequal treatment? Stories about his personal life (i.e., his church and former pastor), which is not at all related to his performance in the Illinois state senate (7 yrs.), or his 3yrs in the US Senate, and only serve to feed the bigots and racists that are afraid of change. For people that have never been concerned about issues of race in our country, it will take more than this primary season to fully educate them.....ignorance is no excuse! The truth, sadly, is that there is comfort for some in maintaining the status quo. Apparently, the choice for those younger voters....those that will ultimately inherit our less than perfect union, CHANGE is preferable to time spent in Washington. We owe it to them to not make our choice based upon cynicism and fear. As a voter, I want to hear more about the issues that are important to me. Barack Obama represents a choice for the change that can lead us into the future and nothing, NOTHING has "PROVEN" he is not who he says he is!!!

    March 19, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  17. Ann

    CHANGE is definitely more important than experience – experience will be obtained but change may not. Obama is smart enough to surround himself with people who are as smart or smarter than he. That is the sign of a great leader. It is the age-old Washingtin experience that we DO NOT want. We want someone who can bring this Country together and someone whom we can trust. Hillary's deceitful campaign tactics will only continue once in the White House. It is time for a change and I believe that Obama is the only candidate who can make this happen.

    March 19, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  18. quen

    Let me say this that Obama was right about addressing the race today. It really runs deep with people and they just don't want to fess up to it. Now it is alot of people that think the same thing. It took a young man who love his country to address this matter. I think that Obama spoke for alot of Americans who felt that way. Thank you for taking a stands for all Americans Obama we really need that leadership. By the way Obama really looked Presedential standing behind those flags.

    March 19, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  19. Veterans for Obama

    Change is what we need NOW. One of our least experienced Presidents was Lincoln...One of our most experienced was Bush Senior....go figure.
    Obama in 08

    March 19, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  20. Debby

    Wolf, change is good and I don't begrudge Obama for running on that but he is nominee that has never been to Iraq to study what exactly that is going on there in person. Sure we can all say the war is bad, the war is costing alot of lives, the war is costing a fortune from our safe haven here, but if Obama wants the nom. he has to do more than make speeches and go see for himself what is going on in Iraq.

    I also want to know why Obama is all over your network as a guest tonight on Anderson Cooper tomm. on Larry King. This is so biased toward one candidate. I would like to see the same coverage on Hillary and her voice on issues. We have 2 candidates remember.

    March 19, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  21. HEIDI



    March 19, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  22. TMo

    I'll take good judgment over amount of time spent in the limelight any day of the week.

    March 19, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  23. Jon, PA

    "If Obama gets the Democratic presidential nomination and faces John McCain, you can expect to be hearing a lot more about change versus experience."

    Wolf...That's it? From all of the news in politics that's gone on today, THAT is your little "pearl of wisdom" that you've been stewing ALL DAY?! How is it that you can state something that every single person in the US (and probably quite a few outside the US) knows to be true and sit there, defending it, like it's some sort of profound thought?

    Fact- Obama doesn't have as much experience as McCain. Fact- Obama's entire campaign has been about change.

    Who in their right mind would possibly think that, should the two face off in the General Election, that change vs. experience WOULDN'T be what we all hear about?

    I can't believe you get paid a 6 (7?) figure salary to state what an elementary school child could figure out. You are clearly a political genius of our time. Wow....

    March 19, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  24. Emm C

    I am glad the media is finding out more about Barack Obama and his way of thinking. Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper are doing a great job of revealing the facts. I like most of the people on CNN, but everytime I hear Campbell Brown and especially Jeffrey Toobin fawn over Barack Obama it makes me sick. We already have most of your black guests speaking in favor of him no matter what the situation and facts are. It is so nice to hear from the black people who do give us an honest opinion and not just hugs and kisses for Obama. Please control your paid news people and tell them to stop offering us their opinion about how graceful and eleoquent BO is. It is gross and I turn the channel everytime I hear this fake and unwelcome affection. Why are they both so quick to point out Hillarys problems, but always so quick to stick up for, complement and/or reveal their admiration for Barack Obama. Why? Bias! Who cares who those people like or hate. Just report and moderate please.

    March 19, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  25. NickSP

    As long as he stops playing the judgement card – that is no longer an argument he can win.

    March 19, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
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