Senator John McCain gave this doozy of a statement in Florida today:
"The next president won't have time to get used to the office. He won't have the luxury of studying up on the issues before he acts. He will have to act immediately."
Well, I submit that whichever candidate is elected, he will have the same amount of (non) time to get used to the office, because as Senator McCain (finally) figured out in the last debate, he's not George Bush. Which also means, he doesn't have any experience in the office of president.
But that's not my real point, rather it is this...
"He won't have the luxury of studying up on the issues before he acts."
When, exactly, did becoming informed about decisions become a "luxury"? Since when is "act[ing] immediately" before learning about the issues a preferable trait to trying to become informed about the decisions one has to make?
Yes, I know, that he was trying to say not that he acts without thinking or being informed, but that's sure what it looks and sounds like. Certainly Senator McCain is right that the office of President may be accelerated--professional athletes, particularly football players, often talk about the speed of action the higher one rises--but this sound bite makes it sound like the only substitute for speed is to eliminate preparation. In fact, if anything, the Bush administration has shown that simply going by your gut is a pretty good way to run things into the ground.
Two other points. As far as the idea that one needs to be prepared rather than learn on the job, I think it has been Senator Obama and his campaign that has been more efficient, specific, and otherwise indicative of a readiness to begin to implement ideas rather than trying to figure out what to do. The second point is that the acceleration of pace of office makes stamina important (so, yes, age is an issue) and (more importantly) means that staffing is important as well. It is precisely because the president can't learn everything about everything that he or she needs to be surrounded by a staff that is capable of advising, briefing, challenging, and otherwise working with him. Senator McCain's pick of Sarah Palin as a running mate, along with his insistence that she is ready to be president should anything happens to him, not only evidences questionable judgment but gives a powerful clue to the sorts of people he would surround himself with and what he sees as their function and value.