South Bend, Indiana mayor and one of [I lost count] presidential hopefuls Pete Buttigieg appeared on Meet the Press on Sunday to counter criticism that he lacks adequate experience for a presidential run.
“I would stack up my experience against anybody,” he said. “I know it’s not as traditional, I know I haven’t been marinating in Washington here for a very long time and I’m not part of the same establishment. But I would argue that being a mayor of a city of any size means you have to deal with the kinds of issues that really hit Americans.”
The basis of Buttigieg’s argument is that he’d enter the job with more executive and military experience than the two most recent presidents, and that his tenure as mayor has given him a perfectly adequate sense of the issues he’d be handling on a national and global scale.
The debate over a candidate’s “experience” is like spotting an old friend in evacuation center during a hurricane. It’s a cozy, familiar discourse in a political landscape most often described as “hellish,” “apocalyptic,” or, in New York Times parlance, “extraordinary.” In the salad days of 2004, we asked ourselves whether Obama, derided as an inexperienced “community organizer,” was fit for office. A little over a decade later, the poles shifted; the question was no longer about experience, but how many sexual assault allegations should reasonably disqualify a person from holding the nation’s highest office. (Jury’s still out.)
Buttigieg, who is Christian, also pointed out the entirely obvious and frankly mind-boggling hypocrisy of evangelical Christians supporting Trump:
“It’s something that really frustrates me because the hypocrisy is unbelievable,” he said of evangelical support for Trump. “Here you have somebody who not only acts in a way that is not consistent with anything that I hear in scripture or in church, where it’s about lifting up the least among us and taking care of strangers, which is another word for immigrants, and making sure that you’re focusing your effort on the poor.”
Buttigieg is expected to announce his candidacy next week. I’m no campaign strategist, but I think a potentially successful slogan would be, “Honestly, I’m Fine.”