Does Hillary Really Have "35 Years of Experience"?

One need not be a news junkie to appreciate the gist of the Democratic presidential race: Barack Obama is emphasizing "change" and "hope"; Hillary Clinton is offering "35 years of experience."

They share similar policy ideas and platforms, but believe their backgrounds and visions are unique -- Obama sees his approach as a breath of fresh air in a political environment that needs it badly, and dismisses Clinton as an integral part of an old, tired, ineffective system. Clinton sees her approach as one based on experience and decades of know-how, and dismisses Obama as relying too much on charm and personality.

But there's always been a nagging question: what constitutes "experience"? Ari Emanuel put it this way:

Well, Senator Clinton, I'm confused. I've done the math. You're 60, which means that 35 years ago you were 25. And I Googled your name, looking for all the change you were making as a 25 year old and, frankly, I'm not finding much. You were going to Yale Law School at the time -- which I'm sure was a personally transformative experience, but it's hardly the kind of change that should count on one's Presidential Training Experience resume, is it? Is that when you started your personal Working-for-Change-O-Meter?
That summer, the summer of 1972, you campaigned in Texas for George McGovern's unsuccessful presidential bid. A worthy -- if ultimately futile -- endeavor to be sure, but a notch on your Years of Change belt? Kind of a stretch, don't you think?
Well, maybe a little. In 1974 (about 34 years ago), Hilary Clinton was a member of the impeachment inquiry staff for the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate scandal. That should probably count for something. One can make a reasonable case that the clock should start in 1979, when she became the First Lady of Arkansas, and immediately became a public advocate for causes she cared about, most notably issues relating to children. 1979 was 29 years ago, which is at least in the ballpark of "35 years."

But maybe we're going about this the wrong way.

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