The NY Times' Peter Baker ponders the pros and cons of presidential candidates telling voters how they'd govern for the next for years:
It is certainly true that describing many details upfront could complicate negotiations with lawmakers, as well as alienate voters whose ox might get gored in carrying out the hard choices that will confront the next president. At the same time, it could make it harder for the winner on Nov. 6 to claim a mandate for action if voters do not buy into some of those hard choices.
Baker's analysis seems touchingly antiquated. Assuming Obama wins (a rather easy assumption) and Congress' party composition is roughly unaltered (again, not a hard assumption), will the president face genuine, conscientious "lawmakers" or just another oppositionist pack of hacks, hooligans and hitmen? And assuming Obama wins big, does anyone of sober breath believe the latter will give a demagogic damn about a presidential "mandate"?
The GOP has constructed for its base a towering image of President Obama as the Great Satan. Hence from a purely pragmatic, self-preservationist point of view, will GOP, ahem, lawmakers be suddenly inspired to cut deals with the devil himself? Or will even those miscellaneous Republicans who would like to take their oath of office seriously do little but look over their shoulders at potential primary challengers in 2014?
I'm afraid that for at least another two years the paradox must persist: The only way to revive the GOP as a responsible governing party is to kill it--to crush it so thoroughly at the polls it would have no choice but to reform and relaunch. That happy prospect for 2012, say congressional political analysts, is bleak. Maybe next time.