Both presidential candidates are diminished by a failure to articulate a vision of leadership.
Gentlemen, we understand -- to a point.
You, President Obama, don't want your first term to be history's sole remembrance. The agenda you brought to the presidency -- narrowing our society's inequality, reuniting the body politic in a time rife with schisms -- isn't completed. A second term would be a second chance.
And you, Gov. Romney, need Americans to evict the incumbent president before you bring your own agenda to the Oval Office. You crave the opportunity to demonstrate how private-sector expectations and business-minded deliverables can reinvent the American jobs machine.
But month upon month, not just day upon day, these aren't the topics the two of you discuss with your fellow Americans. You and your campaigns increasingly focus only on each other. Your daily attacks and verbal jousts may enthuse the extremists in your respective camps -- and may even keep the campaign contributions coming.
But look at yourselves. Both of you are diminished by your failure to articulate how you would lead the United States of 2013 and beyond. You are good men who, as you've intensified your campaigns and your assaults on one another, look nothing like leaders whom 314 million Americans would want to trust and follow.
Instead of inspiring the voters buffeted by your comments and advertisements attacking one another, you have become human minus signs.
Mr. Obama, Mr. Romney, in seven months one of you will stand in the January chill and take this nation's presidential oath of office. You will face a populace that, barring some radical turnaround, will be gravely troubled about the direction of this country. Having chosen one of you, Americans will look at their array of economic and other problems and will want to be part of the solutions.
Tell us now what you'll say then. Instead ...
Mr. Obama, your inartful scolding about what built whose business was beneath you. While we realize you were trying to suggest that it takes a village to make a business successful, your harping tone helped only those who accuse you of resenting individual success stories other than your own.
Mr. Romney, your assaults on the president's economic performance would ring more authentic if voters were absorbing some vision of what a Romney White House would demand of Congress -- and of Americans. Stop five people at your next streetside campaign event and ask each one what he or she understands to be your recipe for job growth. For debt reduction. For balancing energy needs with Mideast diplomacy. We'll bet you get five blank stares.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.