12 November 2008

Response to A Modern Parable

Okay, so this is almost a week old, but I was rankled at it when I first read it and had set it aside for a possible post. Here's the post.

Over at the First Things blog, Stephen H. Webb has a modern parable for us:

A guy walks into a job interview. The interviewer asks him about his qualifications. He says that he wants to be judged on the basis of the interview. He has no qualifications because he has very little experience, but he has been working on his interviewing skills over the past few years. The guy thinks he gives good interviews even though he hasn’t done much else besides practicing for interviews.

So the interviewer says fine, let’s see how good an interview you give. The interviewer asks tough questions and the guy does a great job. He never loses his cool and never says anything embarrassing or out of line. Besides, he looks great. He has a great suit, he smiles a lot, and he appears to be very likable. He is obviously very smart, but he is not arrogant or condescending. To top it all off, he is an African American, and the interviewer has been feeling guilty that his business has never hired a black person for this particular job. The interviewer feels really good about himself for thinking such great thoughts about this guy.

So he gets hired, even though nobody knows who he really is or if he can do the job or not. Sound familiar?

I'm not going to bother rebutting the errors in the analogy (those should be pretty obvious), but let's instead just place this hypothetical job interview into context. Imagine that the guy who has the job now and is being replaced has been an unmitigated disaster, obfuscating the problems in his despicable job performance by refusing to discuss the complaints he gets, and just overall being an ornery fucker whenever he's criticized for anything. What's more, the other guy you're looking at hiring for this job is an aging war hero who spent most of his interview reminiscing about his military service while failing to give any specifics about what he'd actually do if you hired him. And while the other candidate does have a twenty-year record of service in a related position to the one you're hiring for and likes to call himself a "maverick," you notice that he hangs out with the outgoing guy a lot and is mostly planning to continue doing what the old guy did for the last few years.

I think given those circumstances is actually makes a fair degree of sense to just go with the bright young guy who might have a new trick or two up his sleeve rather than the old guy who may have the experience, but seems to want to use it just to do more of the same old things that haven't worked. The fact that Obama actually does have quite a bit of knowledge and experience in a wide variety of fields doesn't even come into it -- there's a credible case to be made that the young guy is the better choice even without considering the experience question.

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