Centralized Planning

I understand fully why the Obama campaign is releasing a 20-page booklet advertised as a “plan for jobs and middle-class security,” to be heavily distributed and then flourished at campaign rallies. After all, the MSM believes Obama has no second-term agenda (though it’s unclear they’d recognize one unless it is their own consensus preference, the Bowles-Simpson Report), and the Romney campaign has made that part of its own presentation of Moderate Mitt From Massachusetts, The Man With The Five-Point Plan.

But it sure brings back some not-so-great memories. In 2004, as it happens, I was dragged into a frantic effort just prior to the Democratic Convention to help write up a policy “plan” for the Kerry-Edwards ticket, which began life as a 45-page “booklet” and then ballooned into a book (the final version, Our Plan For America, which has a lot of photos, was eventually 304 pages, and you can still buy a copy for a round penny at Amazon!).

I don’t recall the book having any big impact on the campaign. Its girth was mainly attributable, I gathered, to some focus group finding that swing voters really liked to hear that the candidates had “plans,” so we attached the word to practically everything either man had said since middle school. My fear at the time was that all these “plans” added up to a whole lot of guv’mint, in perception if not in reality. So I wrote at least one “plan” to deal with the consequences of too many “plans,” or so I recall (could never bring myself to look much at the final product).

In any event, Obama isn’t so vulnerable to that kind of perception, since it’s Romney who seems obsessed with convincing everybody you need a plan, and he’s got one, and it’s got five points and a heap o’ sub-points! Since it’s about an inch deep at every point (though if you bother to look at the Ryan Budget, which Romney promised to sign if passed by Congress, there’s plenty of alarming detail), we are in no danger of a new administration burdened by a clear and specific mandate. But I am amused that the idea of a plan of action has become the sine qua non of the stretch phase of the 2012 campaign.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.