Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011

Leading from Behind

The phrase leading from behind, a reference to President Obama's leadership style, first appeared in a New Yorker article in April. "One of his advisers described the President's actions in Libya as 'leading from behind,' " wrote Ryan Lizza. "That's not a slogan designed for signs at the 2012 Democratic Convention, but it does accurately describe the balance that Obama now seems to be finding [between] stealth and modesty as well as military strength." That rather complimentary phrase was appropriated by Republicans, who have used it as a constant hammering point, suggesting that Obama is dithering or displaying weakness. (For his part, Obama has countered that he actually "led from the front.") It even became an insult that GOP presidential hopefuls lobbed at one another to suggest a lack of commitment. "It's been fascinating to watch these three words ping-pong into conservative editorials, through the debates, and then on up to Jay Leno," Lizza wrote in October. Given what an easy phrase it is to throw around, politicians aren't likely to leave it behind anytime soon.