The Plank

Who's Singularly Lacking In Specifics?

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I see John McCain is attacking Barack Obama for lacking specifics, the same theme Hillary Clinton has been pounding. Well, it's certainly true that Obama can't match Hillary Clinton's grasp of policy detail. Clinton is a true policy wonk. I also happen to think this doesn't matter -- as president, you need to be intelligent and know a lot about policy, but there's a point above which the principle of diminishing returns applies. Obama has a perfectly well detailed platform. He knows enough about policy to have intelligent debates with his advisors. Clinton knows enough about policy to be a policy advisor, but I don't think that level of detailed knowledge is necessary.

But to hear this attack coming from John McCain is just galling. McCain takes a strong interest in foreign policy, to be sure, but his main public appeal has been to endless remind voters of his history as a POW. On economics, he's repeatedly admitted that he knows very little. And on social issues, he doesn't even know what his own positions are. (See this hilarious report from last year.)

McCain is like Obama in that he's appealed to voters largely on the basis of broad themes and his personal charisma and history. The difference is that Obama is a former law professor who's actually done his homework on the policy, and McCain is still winging it.

--Jonathan Chait

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