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The Man With the Plan

The president wants to make sure people know he has a plan to fix the economy—even if they don’t understand or agree with all the specifics.


He’s got a plan, and don’t you forget it.

One of the more curious things about President Obama’s big economic speech yesterday, and this is admittedly cynical observation, is why the president decided to so dramatically change the subject of the public conversation from his handling of pirates back to his handling of the economy.

He, in effect, pre-empted an ongoing good news story with a bad news one, replacing a tale of American strength with one of American weakness. This is decisively counter to the traditional practice of modern political stage management.

But as Nietzsche is rumored to have said, “a man without a plan is not a man.” The president understands the value of having a plan and making sure people know about it—even if they don’t understand or agree with all the specifics. And in his 46-minute speech, there were a lot of specifics: Obama repeated his concerns about income disparity and the rising cost of health care. He talked about reforming the entitlement program. He lamented the dominance of the financial services sector in the economy and urged a renewed commitment to the teaching of science and engineering in American schools and colleges.

"For so long, we have placed at the top of our pinnacle folks who can manipulate numbers and engage in complex financial calculations. And that's good, we need some of that," Obama said, to some laughter, "But you know what we can really use is some more scientists and some more engineers, who are building and making things that we can export to other countries."

But his overall purpose seemed clear: He was determined to make sure Americans understood that the flurry of activity at the White House in the last two months is part of a larger strategy aimed at attacking the various weaknesses in the economy.