What's the plan, Mitt?

Would that Candidate Romney had indeed presented himself as a solid chief executive who got things done. Instead he has appeared as a fawning PR man, apparently willing to do or say just about anything to get elected. In some areas, notably social policy and foreign affairs, the result is that he is now committed to needlessly extreme or dangerous courses that he may not actually believe in but will find hard to drop; in others, especially to do with the economy, the lack of details means that some attractive-sounding headline policies prove meaningless (and possibly dangerous) on closer inspection. Behind all this sits the worrying idea of a man who does not really know his own mind. America won’t vote for that man; nor would this newspaper. The convention offers Mr Romney his best chance to say what he really believes…

In theory, Mr Romney has a detailed 59-point economic plan. In practice, it ignores virtually all the difficult or interesting questions (indeed, “The Romney Programme for Economic Recovery, Growth and Jobs” is like “Fifty Shades of Grey” without the sex). Mr Romney began by saying that he wanted to bring down the deficit; now he stresses lower tax rates. Both are admirable aims, but they could well be contradictory: so which is his primary objective? His running-mate, Paul Ryan, thinks the Republicans can lower tax rates without losing tax revenues, by closing loopholes. Again, a simpler tax system is a good idea, but no politician has yet dared to tackle the main exemptions. Unless Mr Romney specifies which boondoggles to axe, this looks meaningless and risky.

On the spending side, Mr Romney is promising both to slim Leviathan and to boost defence spending dramatically. So what is he going to cut? How is he going to trim the huge entitlement programmes? Which bits of Mr Ryan’s scheme does he agree with? It is a little odd that the number two has a plan and his boss doesn’t.