Jonah Goldberg writes, “The simple, relevant fact is that the more detailed and extensive a plan a president proposes, the less likely it is that it will be enacted”:
One basic reason for this — often overlooked by politicians and the journalists who cover them — is that presidents don’t make laws in our system. Congress does. And Congress usually has plans of its own. Bill Clinton promised health-care reform, and his wife had a plan thicker than the New York City Yellow Pages. Congress never even voted on it.
Much like Obama, Bill Clinton barnstormed the country promising a middle-class tax cut. Once he got into the White House, that got filed under “never gonna happen.” George H.W. Bush said “read my lips” about his plan to never, ever, ever raise taxes. It turned out that “never” is a term open to many interpretations.
As Jonah concludes:
I’m not saying that candidates shouldn’t have platforms. But voters — and journalists — should look at them as mission statements, not the political equivalent of instructions that come with a disassembled bicycle.
The real hints for how to choose a candidate, at least in a general election (as opposed to a primary), reside in the realm of judgment, philosophy, track record and temperament. And, using those criteria, the choice shouldn’t be hard at all.
It’s also worth revisting Jesse Walker’s article from this past April in Reason, which listed FDR’s campaign promises as a candidate in 1932. As Jesse notes, what FDR proposed is a far cry from the monstrosities of the New Deal which wound up prolonging the Depression for seven agonizing years. (And would ultimately require something even more torturous–World War II–to jump start the American economy.)
Related: “Who Killed ‘Reality’? Who But The Media?”