The problem is, years in a legislative body aren’t all equal.
How meaningful was Obama’s years in the Illinois State Senate?
How meaningful have Clinton’s years in the U.S. Senate been?
How meaningful has Obama’s years in the U.S. Senate been?
In legislative bodies it is very often the case that junior members do not get to be part of many of the committees that make the most important decisions. Typically the most important members of a legislative body are ones who have served many years, forged many political alliances, and who have been given many important committee positions.
What committees are Obama and Hillary on?
How active have they been in their respective legislative roles? Did they miss very many votes compared to other Senators? How many legislative proposals have they created? How many have become law?
I doubt either of them will compare favorably to John McCain in any of these categories precisely because you need a significant period of experience in the U.S. Senate before you become much of a political power.
Furthermore, I think it blatantly obvious that Obama and Hillary entered the Senate for one reason–as a stepping stone to the Presidency. To me, that sort of colors their entire term of service. I think both have probably been more political in deciding what legislation actions they are going to be involved in because I believe both have been posturing for the Presidency in the U.S. Senate.
Ultimately no job qualifies you for being President except for being President. Even then it is questionable, as many second-term Presidents have done worse in their second terms than they did in their first term.
Now, there are certain jobs that position you very well to be elected President. Being Vice President or a Governor have been your best bets recently, although this election cycle is going against that trend. But, that just refers to which jobs position someone best to be elected that is not the same thing as which jobs best prepare someone for actually doing well when they are elected.
I actually think a mix of executive and legislative experience would be ideal. You need experience in managing an enormous number of people, you need experience making tough decisions, you need experience at compromise, you need experience working with the legislative, you need to be able to work with foreign leaders.
I think this is why a mix of executive and legislative experience would be ideal, because the President has to work very much with the Congress. The President needs to be able to manage but also needs to be able to compromise with legislative and foreign leaders.
I think Al Gore was probably the most qualified person to run in recent memory. (Excluding Presidents who were running for second terms) Gore had significant legislative experience and was Vice President for eight years.
I know that the Vice Presidency is an often-maligned office, and true, it has virtually no really important day-to-day functions of responsibilities. The Vice President is, at least constitutionally, basically just a second body to fall into the Presidency if the President happens to die.
Many American political figures both historical and current have turned down the Vice Presidency, explaining that they have no interest in a position that is effectively a do-nothing job.
However, I take a different view. I think the Vice Presidency has become more important over time. I agree with John Adams–when he had the office, it was pretty much a pointless political office. I think that probably remained true for many years after that.
But if you look at the 20th century many Vice Presidents have taken part significantly in policy formulation. While they have no obligations per se, most recent Vice Presidents have had fairly large staffs and have made some important policy contributions. Cheney was in charge of the search team that helped select several of Bush’s cabinet officers, for example. Cheney has met with both congressional and foreign leaders. I’m not going to deny that Cheney has been incredibly unpopular, but he hasn’t sat in his office and done nothing for seven years–I think everyone can agree with that.
But if you look at recent history, starting with Richard Nixon–Vice Presidents have had significant roles in the administration and have always emerged as powerful politicians when their term of service is over (barring scandal.)
Most have run for the Presidency. Agnew was probably on path to run for the Presidency if not for his corruption coming to light. Cheney is the first to break this mold, as his health condition and repeated statements from 2000 onwards have clearly indicated he never had any Presidential aspirations (at least not after the year 2000.)
Nonetheless, even without being an assumed Presidential successor, Cheney has been viewed as being a powerful Vice President with many responsibilities.
While everyone assumed (correctly) that Al Gore was going to run for President, he was active in his role as Veep–that combined with his legislative experience probably made him the most qualified (on paper) candidate we’ve had in my life time (except for maybe Richard Nixon.) While you aren’t “chief executive” when in the VP role, you get to see the inner workings of the executive branch. You get to sit in on all cabinet meetings, you’re a member of the National Security Council. You are privy to pretty much the most important decisions the President makes on top of having your own policy initiatives.
I think it’s long been unfair to label a term as Vice President “meaningless.”