when i first encountered the argument (i believe it was over at chez echidne), i was surprised that the bush administration would make such a charge. after all, W spent even less time as governor prior to becoming president than edwards has in the senate. given the circumstances, i thought the administration would let that one quietly drop.
that will teach me to assume this administration is capable of recognizing the weaknesses of its own argument. sure enough, president bush himself said today that he does not think edwards has enough experience to be VP.
bush, like all modern presidents, has a series of handlers and political advisors that help him to prepare virtually every public remark he utters each day. so bush himself probably did not write the statement about edwards' inexperience. someone else probably did, bush just delivered it. but as bush rehearsed his line in front of the bathroom mirror this morning, one can only wonder if his criticism sounded a bit familiar. maybe it reminded him of e.j. dionne has pointed out a statement orrin hatch made during the 2000 republican primary debates:
"You've been a great governor," Hatch declared of his rival for the Republican presidential nomination. "My only problem with you, governor, is that you've only had four and going into your fifth year of governorship. . . . Frankly, I really believe that you need more experience before you become president of the United States. That's why I'm thinking of you as a vice presidential candidate."
now that was hatch, this is bush. bush himself never endorsed the idea that inexperienced politicians belong in the vice presidency. but it will be interesting to watch to see if hatch himself ever picks up the edwards is inexperienced line.
meanwhile rude pundit has a good historical run-down of the experience (or lack thereof) of past presidents and vice-presidents.
it strikes me that a single term in the senate is all you need to be vice president. under the constitution, vice presidents have only two things to do: (1) preside over the senate, and (2) wait for the death or incapacity of the president. his single term in the senate will certainly be enough to help him with #1, and anyone can do #2.
in addition to the constitutionally mandated roles the vice president has two other job duties: (3) doing whatever jobs the president assigns to him, and (4) campaigning for the president and otherwise selling the administration's policies to the public. regarding #3, kerry will probably find stuff for edwards to do that are within edwards' abilities. that's how its been done in the past, after all. clinton put gore in charge of the reinventing government program, a role he apparently fulfilled fairly well as government generally shrank during the clinton administration. bush put cheney in charge of the entire country. he hasn't done a good job at that, but it probably was better than the alternative of letting bush make decisions by himself. the point is, history is fairly clear: what presidents choose to assign their vice presidents seems to have more to do with what the vice president (and president) is capable of doing than anything else. there is nothing about edwards' experience in the senate that would suggest kerry couldn't find something to keep him busy.
as for #4, campaigning seems to be edwards real gift. not even edwards' critics say he can't be an effective campaigner.
on balance, therefore, it seems pretty clear that edwards' limited experience should not disqualify him from the job of vice president. and to the extend it raises questions about his ability to serve as president... well, that's a question bush himself should be answering first.
(some of the above links via holden at eschaton)