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Posted at 05:54 PM ET, 09/06/2011

Pay phones vs. smartphones, Mitt Romney vs. Obama

“President Obama’s strategy is a pay-phone strategy for a smartphone world,” Mitt Romney said Tuesday in his Jobs Plan Speech, in a Metaphor That Might Live in Infamy.

So, it’s the sort of strategy you used to find everywhere when America was prosperous, but now you don’t find it anywhere and when you do there’s gum up in the works.

No, wait, it’s the sort of strategy that the economy can slip inside and transform itself into Superman!

No, er, it’s the sort of strategy that if you approach one and hit it with your thumb, sometimes people will have left nickels inside and you can abscond with them.

The more you think about it, the more layers this metaphor has! Romney has a point — say “pay phone” and most of the non-Supermen among us shudder convulsively.

But what he fails to think about is the ramifications of the Smartphone World he claims we live in.

We may be stuck in this smartphone world, but we don’t have to like it. Smartphone guy is an obnoxious know-it-all or at least find-most-of-it-on-Google who has made traditional forms of conversation obsolete. Maybe we didn’t lose much when we stopped having protracted debates about Who Really Won the ’59 World Series and How Much Grain Bolivia Exports. Then again, perhaps we did. Now all we do is watch YouTube videos and agree with each other.

But there is nothing more dangerous than a metaphor run amok.

It’s wise of Romney to try something new. If he tells me one more time that “I was in the business world for 25 years” and that Obama is “not a bad guy. He just doesn’t have a clue what to do. He hasn’t ever done it before. And I have. I’ve done it before” — I’ll, why, I’ll go out and destroy some jobs just out of spite.

You can see why Romney wants that smartphone association. According to the Wall Street Journal, smartphones are a thing that Hip, Young People have. Next he’ll tell us that Obama’s plan is a Floppy Disk plan and we live in a Cloud Computing world — or that we live in an mp3 world and Obama’s plan is a vinyl plan, although that one might backfire.

This is the sort of inane criticism of style over substance that should be taken with copious grains of salt, but Romney was trying so hard to be folksy that I was worried he might rupture something. He did a beautiful impression of the Hip Business Professor who really, really wants you to come back for that second lecture: “Look, here is some interactive video content! And later we’ll listen to a song by Alabama! Here’s some reading. You can do it on your Kindle! Or not! Swing by office hours and I’ll keep you in the loop!”

I look forward to reading his Fifty-Nine Steps to an America We Can All Be Excited About Again. (That may not be the actual title.) I hear it’s like “The 39 Steps,” but with 20 bonus steps. Instead of an adventurous tale guaranteed to excite and alarm you, it’s a jobs program that will help America get back to fiscal sobriety that you can download on your Kindle. (“I hope it’s free,” Romney added.)

I like Romney. He seems nice. If he has a tragic flaw, it is probably that he actually enjoys giving PowerPoint presentations. He positively lit up as he listed his points and they appeared projected behind him.

(“Magical technology!”Romney exclaimed, as the screens with his plan points sprung into life behind him. Or it might have been, “The magic of technology!” Either way, it was the sort of remark you should refrain from making if you’re trying to position yourself with The Future and Smartphones as against the past.)

Maybe this Smartphone World vs. Pay-phone Plan isn’t such a bad idea. Right now, he’s PowerPoint Guy.

By  |  05:54 PM ET, 09/06/2011

 
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