The plan purports, first, to be a plan, and second, to outline a second-term agenda distinct from his first-term agenda. It fails on both counts. It cobbles together his current policies with some ill-defined new bullet points to barely cover 20 pages largely devoted to nice pictures of the president.
Make no mistake: What the Obama agenda lacks in substance, it makes up in graphic design. The pamphlet has as much gloss and as many soft-focus photos as a copy of Playboy. The seriously besotted Obama fan might have to assure friends, “No, really — I only read the Obama second-term plan for the policy details.”
Why would the president wait until 14 days before the election, after the conventions and the debates, to release his plan? And then print 3.5 million copies of it, making the plan a publishing phenomenon to rival “Dreams from My Father”?
It’s the panicked realization that his campaign’s attempted destruction of Mitt Romney hasn’t worked and isn’t enough to win. The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll this week found that 62 percent of people want major changes in a prospective Obama second term. Four percent — that’s almost down to Obama administration officials and immediate family — want more of the same.
So the president needed someone to get on QuarkXPress to paste together “a new plan” and then run down to FedEx Kinko’s — pronto. But he couldn’t hit print during debate season, lest he give his opponent another target. Surely Romney would have loved to cite the risible document as Exhibit A for Obama’s status-quo presidency.
If the pamphlet works, it deserves to join the ranks of the classic picture books of all time, right up there with “Go, Dog. Go!” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” In an amusing touch, it has a table of contents — as if readers would have trouble navigating the extensive volume. It’s a wonder the campaign didn’t include a guide to the dramatis personae at the beginning — Barack Obama, Barack Obama and Barack Obama — like it were a critical edition of “Anna Karenina.”
The pamphlet’s “reviving American manufacturing” section touts the creation of a new network of 15-20 manufacturing innovation institutes and a new trade enforcement unit. Heady stuff. The big idea is a reform of the corporate tax code. Obama calls for reducing rates and making up revenue by closing tax preferences and loopholes — in other words, exactly what Romney is proposing for income taxes and what the president deems utterly impossible.
Read the rest of the op-ed