Every new president has some degree of on-the-job training but the more experience they bring to the job in important areas such as international diplomacy and national security, the shorter the learning curve and the more effective the policy.
In Tuesday's presidential primary, Republican John McCain and Democrat Bill Richardson are the most qualified candidates in the areas that will matter the most to our country over the next four years.
McCain will bring the sort of experience and integrity to the White House that can re-establish our international standing and repair the polarization in Congress that has come to define the effects of the current administration.
Americans are, of course, tired of the war in Iraq and the easiest campaign promise is to bring the troops home now, regardless of the long-term consequences such an ill-advised move would bring. McCain, a prisoner of war in Vietnam, understands better than any candidate the need for victory in Iraq. Had the calls been heeded to leave when it appeared that no progress was being made on the ground, McCain has correctly stated that al-Qaida would have been announcing that it defeated America. That would embolden our enemies and make our friends less inclined to ever depend on us again. When many were saying leave Iraq, McCain pushed for an alternative strategy that would increase our military commitment and that strategy, commonly referred to as the "surge," has had outstanding results. It is that sort of leadership and understanding of how to win a conflict that our nation will desperately need.
Domestically, McCain's call for smaller government, fewer taxes, secure borders and market-oriented approaches to solving the problem of health care costs represent the positions that reject more government spending as a solution to a sluggish economy.
Voters looking for sound judgment, experience, courage and integrity should cast their vote for John McCain on Tuesday.
Democrats have a variety of choices before them Tuesday. None can match Richardson's experience.
He has served as a congressman where he was known for his ability to reach across the aisle and work with Republicans who respected him - though they often disagreed with his policies. He served as the United Nations ambassador and was secretary of energy in the Clinton administration, where he worked on policies aimed at reducing our dependence on foreign oil.
And he has for six years been governor of New Mexico where he has increased health care opportunities for children while balancing the budget every year.
Presidents of both political parties have called on him to negotiate with foreign leaders in tense times. He has worked with dignitaries in countries ranging from Great Britain to North Korea. On Day 1 of his presidency, he would be able to handle any crisis that comes before the administration.
In his trips to Claremont, he has impressed crowds with his knowledge of all kinds of domestic and foreign issues. He may lack the charisma of other candidates but none can top him in substance.
Voters will be lucky indeed if in November they have a choice between two intellectually honest, experienced men such as John McCain and Bill Richardson.