A throwaway line at a Nevada debate last month became the Clinton campaign message yesterday. "I am in the solutions business," Hillary Clinton told a crowd of 2,000 in McAllen, Texas. "My opponent is in the promises business." Just to drive the point home, her chief strategist, Mark Penn, used the line again in a conference call with reporters. In Corpus Christi, Clinton put it this way, "I believe strongly I have a better set of solutions for America. I don't know how you can have an economic plan that is really focused on delivering 21st-century solutions for America if you don't have a universal health care plan."
Let us pause briefly to consider the irony of using the S-word to attack an opponent -- what's his name again? -- for being vague and platitudinous. After all, if we agree on nothing else, can't we at least agree that the phrase "solutions" has come to dominate the language of commerce in a bad way? Usually it signifies puffery, lending the business mission an import it doesn't merit, or worse: the inability to fully describe the mission at all.