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Explanations Are In Order

By Jesse Taylor
Monday, August 25, 2008 9:18 EDT
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imageThe New York Times joins the “stop telling us what you’re going to do, start telling us how you’re going to do it, and don’t bother us with any of that ‘policy’ crap” train.

Senator Barack Obama goes into the Democratic convention in Denver with a clear challenge: to match the soaring oratory that brought him to this moment in history with a strong and detailed explanation of how he will address the country’s many dire problems.

Such as, for instance, a 59-page policy book and hundreds of bullet-points for easy summary purposes, as well as the past 19 or so months of policy speeches and debates he’s had.

Americans need to hear how he plans to halt the economy’s frightening downward spiral and help millions who have lost their jobs, homes and hopes while also preparing our children to compete in a globalized world. That will mean putting some flesh on the position statements that fill his Web site, and setting priorities.

So…do you want a numbered list? Let’s take a random Obama proposal on the foreclosure crisis:

Mandate Accurate Loan Disclosure: Obama will create a Homeowner Obligation Made Explicit (HOME) score, which will provide potential borrowers with a simplified, standardized borrower metric (similar to APR) for home mortgages. The HOME score will allow individuals to easily compare various mortgage products and understand the full cost of the loan.

So, we’ve got a proposal, the purpose and scope of which is made clear. What it does, how it does it and who it does it for is pretty transparent, although the exact mechanisms are not entirely clear. Then again, the point of the proposal gets lost in the wonkish (and readily ignored) details of which metrics are used to determine the score, the exact timetable for implementation, and a whole host of other questions that will be determined as the program’s enacted, if they haven’t been largely determined already.

And even if he does put up every mind-numbing detail, it won’t get reported anyway. Why would you do the work of further explaining a plan that’s already been laid out when the original plan’s going to be ignored? It’s wasted work and additional risk for a likely already-overworked policy team that’s likely going to result in little more than a throwaway article that says, “Experts Disagree on Obama Plan”. It’s the paradox of media wonkishness – they do everything in their power to discourage serious policy debates and then, of course, lament the lack of serious policy debates.

McCain’s comparable plan, by the way?

Any policy of financial assistance should be accompanied by reforms that promote greater transparency and accountability to ensure we never face this problem again.

No such reforms are referenced. More from the NYT:

Although the sputtering economy has replaced war as the most important issue cited by voters in public opinion polls, this remains a nation at war. It needs to hear how Mr. Obama will safely extricate American troops from Iraq, where Mr. Bush’s surge has reduced casualties from catastrophic to simply intolerable levels, and how he will salvage the war in Afghanistan. How will he keep the country safe from terrorism while also keeping his promise to restore America’s — and the world’s — confidence that this is a nation ruled by laws and the Constitution, not the whims of an unbridled president?

How’s he going to get troops out of Iraq? I think it’ll involve a phased withdrawal in consultation with the military commanders and Iraqi government. Anything more would be dictating military strategy without consultation or consideration. And Obama’s made his proposal for Afghanistan pretty clear: troop increases focused on addressing Al Qaeda, coupled with political pressure on Afghanistan’s government.

If a lowly blogger can figure out Obama’s positions and plans on these key issues at four in the morning while watching the World Series of Poker, I’m pretty sure that the editorial board of the Paper of Record can open up fucking Google and do twenty seconds of work.

Given these failings, there are a lot of theories why Mr. Obama is not leagues ahead of his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, in the polls. Some cite the fact that he is African-American. Others argue that Mr. Obama is too cerebral to connect with some voters.

It could probably have something to do with the fact that you’re a major newspaper asking for Obama’s positions on things he’s already talked about for months on end, but could rattle off a dozen bits of conventional wisdom on the candidates’ relative horserace positions without a sweat.

Slightly more than half said in a recent poll that neither candidate had made clear what he would do as president. That is why the conventions in the next two weeks matter so much.

Yes, because you keep writing and airing stories that invariably involve the tagline, “But do we know how he’ll do any of this?” over and over and over again.

More than any candidate we have seen in years, Mr. Obama has an ability to inspire hope and a sense of unlimited possibility. To lead, especially in such hard times, a president needs to offer the country both. To win the presidency, he will first have to make clear where he wants to take that nation.

And then, when he does, we will have to ignore that because – is that a Tex Mex joint! Let’s go!

Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor is an attorney and blogger from the great state of Ohio. He founded Pandagon in July, 2002, and has also served on the campaign and in the administration of former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. He focuses on politics, race, law and pop culture, as well as the odd personal digression when the mood strikes.
 
 
 
 
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