As presidential campaign slogans go, President Barack Obama's newest—"Forward"—is about as meaningless as they come.
Forward—to where, to what, toward whom? "Forward" is how the light brigade charged. "Forward" is where the soldiers at Gallipoli went in the First World War. "Forward" into Little Big Horn is where General Custer ordered his troops to go.
"Forward" is where lemmings go at the beach. "Forward" is a setting for an automatic transmission. "Forward" is what the brash young man with a few too many drinks under his belt is with the attractive young lady at the bar.
"Forward," as it should by now be clear, is not always the right choice. And it's an unusual one for Barack Obama to adopt as a political slogan given the amount of time he, his closest advisers, and senior officials in his administration have spent looking backwards—and encouraging the rest of us to do likewise.
How many times over the last three years—over the last year even—has Obama himself tried to remind us of "how bad things were" when he took over? How the GOP drove the economy into a ditch and left it there among other various, confusing metaphors? The president, to put it simply, spends a lot of time talking about the failures—real or imagined—of his immediate predecessor. He doesn't spend much time at all talking about his own tangible accomplishments, probably because there aren't very many to speak of. Sure there's the nebulous "jobs created or saved" metric that the administration was forced to abandon after even they realized how ridiculous it was. We still don't know where all the stimulus money went, by the way.
No, Obama isn't defending his record. He's still running against George W. Bush, who hasn't been president for more than three years and, because of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, can never be president again.
There has been a fair deal written already about how "Forward" as a political slogan ties back to Lenin and the Bolsheviks or Hitler and the National Socialists or China under Mao. Interesting perhaps, but largely beside the point. As a campaign theme, it is too open to interpretation, too meaningless to really make sense. "Forward" is a direction—not a condition. Is Obama suggesting we want more of what we've had during his first term? The polls seem to suggest a majority of the American people are a solid "No" on that one.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney took his own step forward Wednesday suggesting it might mean "off a cliff." The likely Republican general election nominee suggested that "Progress" might be better. Think of the possibilities: Progress in getting unemployment down and people back to work; Progress in getting the federal debt under control; Progress towards balancing the federal budget, addressing the coming entitlement crisis before it happens, and making the world a far more secure place than it is now.
The only place "Forward" is going to lead the Obama campaign team is back to the drawing board to come up with a new slogan, one that might actually persuade people to give the president four more years in office. This one doesn't cut it.