I know this blog has gotten pretty horseracy as this race keeps on going, but I’ve still got a lot to learn if I want to be a bigtime media player. Yesterday, for example, Peter Slevin and Shailagh Murray did an article for The Washington Post on Barack Obama’s economic plan. Well, it was sort of an article about Obama’s economic plan. The headline was “Obama’s Economic Plan Is A Pitch to the Working Class”. Basically, it referred to Obama’s economic plan, but didn’t say anything about it. “Obama’s Economic Plan Calls for Infrastructure Bank”? No. “Obama’s Economic Plan Calls for Credit Card Reform?” No.
But that’s just the headline. Journalists don’t write our own headlines. Maybe if you decide to scan the article you can a taste of what sort of measures were included in Obama’s plan. Here’s the lede:
Sen. Barack Obama offered a detailed prescription for the ailing U.S. economy Wednesday, answering skeptics who contend he has not matched his inspirational talk with a mastery of policy and targeting voters in crucial primaries in Wisconsin, Ohio and Texas.
Up until the comma, we’re doing well here. We learn that Obama offered a detailed plan. But after the comma, we don’t learn any of the details. The next six grafs are all about the political context — Obama’s momentum, the looming primaries, Obama’s need to expand his appeal to working class voters. In graf eight, John McCain accuses Obama of offering “platitudes.” In grafs nine and ten, Obama fires back accusing McCain of flip-flopping on taxes. In graf eleven, Clinton echoes McCain’s attacks. In graf twelve, the fact that Obama delivered a speech on the economy gets re-iterated. In graf thirteen, we learn that Obama says he’ll pay for the plan by ending the war in Iraq and rolling back tax cuts. In graf fourteen, the Clinton campaign quotes a McCain advisor as calling the plan “plagiarism.” Finally, in the fifteenth graf of an article about Obama’s economic plan we get something resembling a description of the content of the plan:
The newest element of his proposal was the establishment of a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank, which would spend $60 billion over a decade to rebuild deteriorating roads, bridges and waterways. Obama said the spending would generate 2 million new jobs, many of them in a construction industry that has been hard hit by the housing market downturn.
I don’t know whether Obama’s campaign was helped or hindered by this strange way of covering the plan. Maybe his efforts to make inroads are being stymied since the ideas he was hoping to help him make them are being muffled by focus on the political context. Or maybe his efforts are being boosted, because the details wouldn’t really sway people but random chatter about Obama doing detailed, working class stuff is sends the right message. My guess is probably the latter; this is more helpful to Obama than a straightforward description of the infrastructure bank proposals (it would allow the government to account for infrastructure spending as a kind of investment rather than an expense on continuing operations; it’s the kind of distinction companies usually make between capital spending and operating expenses) but it’s really no good for the country.