"Obama," writes Matt Bai in The New York Times Magazine, "would set a new precedent for inexperience in the White House; he was a state senator only three years ago, when he delivered the keynote address at the Democratic convention, and before that he was a community organizer."


If Obama is elected to the White House, he will have served eight years in the Illinois State Senate and four years in the United States Senate. In the twentieth century, I count Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan as all having served fewer than 12 years in public office before assuming the Presidency and I count exactly twelve for Warren Harding. To find a President with as few as six years of public office under his belt before becoming President, you need to go all the way back to . . . the current President of the United States so it's not like you need to be a historian to figure this out.

Now arguably some of these people were "more experienced" than Obama along other metrics than a raw count of years would indicate, but there's still no obvious sense in which Obama is a precedent-shattering figure. At a minimum, Carter and Abraham Lincoln were unambiguously less experienced.