Are you experienced?

Does spring break in Cabo count as foreign-policy experience?

That Clinton’s latest claims to greater foreign-policy experience than Obama are risible is reinforced by a campaign conference call with the press [audio clip]:

“What foreign policy moment would you point to in Hillary’s career where she’s been tested by crisis?”

Silence on the call. You could’ve knit a sweater in the time it took the usually verbose team of Mark Penn, Howard Wolfson and Lee Feinstein, Clinton’s national security director, to find a cogent answer. And what they came up with was weak—that she’s been endorsed by many high ranking members of the uniformed military.

None of the Final 3 has the demonstrated foreign-policy experience to inspire confidence in how he’d perform as Commander-in-Chief. Of this year’s crop of aspirants, only Bill Richardson did (and his campaign belied that experience). Coming into office, neither Bush 43 nor Bill Clinton did. Demonstrated experience is a plus, but not a prerequisite. Temperament, mastery of the issues, intellect, and judgment all matter. The best experience is already having been President, which wasn’t sufficient to warrant Bush’s re-election in 2004. Only positions with some substantial decisionmaking authority in foreign-policy crisis management count—Assistant Secretary of State or Defense on up, ambassador, 3-star in a regional UCC, and suchlike. (Don’t hold me to those cutoff levels.) Maybe CEO of a multinational oil company, or head of an IGO. (Don’t hold your breath.)

Attending prime ministers’ funerals, taking a Rhodes Scholarship, or going to elementary school in a faraway land does not constitute experience. Sitting on the Armed Services or Foreign Affairs Committees may reflect or contribute to mastery, but it’s not executive experience. Surviving a POW camp speaks to character and may impart a degree of wisdom, but it’s not executive experience. Serving in the Peace Corps, ditto.

Relevant experience is no guarantee of success as president, and inexperience doesn’t condemn a novice president to failure. There are plenty of other criteria by which to judge the candidates. Their advisers, for one.

Update: So much for my clever heading.