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Inherit the (head)wind

Every president generates buzzwords. For Barack Obama, of “jobs saved or created” and “bending the cost curve” fame, the term du jour is “headwinds.”

“Throughout history it has typically taken countries up to ten years to recover from financial crises of this magnitude,” President Obama assured an audience in Cleveland last week. At least he didn’t blame his impotence on gusts from across the Atlantic.

In 1920, senator and neologist Warren Harding promised war- and Wilson-weary Americans a resumption of “normalcy.” In 1960, the electorate wondered if the trust-fund playboy John Kennedy exuded the “gravitas” for the office. George H.W. Bush even questioned whether he possessed that “vision” thing.

Barack Obama wants voters to know that the economy struggles to overcome “headwinds” rather than him.

The buzzword has become a punchline. Jocular Bill Clinton-allied pollsters warned last week that Obama may encounter an “impossible headwind in November” unless he changes course. The Republican National Committee tallied seventeen presidential references to “headwinds” in a YouTube vidicule.

Since then, presidential mentions of headwinds have faced, well, headwinds. But elsewhere “headwinds” has experienced tailwinds.

The obscure compound word has become ubiquitous, especially when used metaphorically. The Wall Street Journal reports: “McDonald’s Sales Face Headwinds.” National Public Radio claims, “As Economic Headwinds Pick Up, Employers Lie Low.” Only Agence France-Presse seems to use the word literally: “Headwinds force solar plane to abort Morocco flight.”

Like when John Kennedy forgot his hat for the inauguration, or when Ronald Reagan donned a brown suit, the current president spawns imitators. He speaks. We repeat.

The word may have outlived its welcome but the sentiment hasn’t. Excuses form the basis of Barack Obama’s campaign. The president’s ideological certainty transforms demonstrations of his policies’ failure into proof of the need to expand them. Whether the reelection effort blames Wall Street financiers, Japanese tsunamis, or European debt, the common denominator posits a culprit everywhere but 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

And after retiring the word for a week, Obama’s “headwinds” has returned—in full force.

The president reminded listeners of his weekly address on Saturday that “we’re facing some pretty serious headwinds” from Europe. He then used the weekly radio address to implore Congress to adopt the same policies that created the European crisis.

Obama’s excuse for the economy’s anemia is also his solution to the economy’s anemia.

“What’s holding us back is a stalemate in Washington,” Obama maintained on Saturday. “Right now, Congress should pass a bill to help states put thousands of teachers, firefighters, and police officers back on the job. They should have passed a bill a long time ago to put thousands of construction workers back to work rebuilding our roads and bridges and runways.”

Missing the message from Greece (not to mention Wisconsin), the president called for grabbing more money from the private sector to fund public sector jobs. Saturday’s speech additionally demanded punitive taxes on wealth creators, more green government jobs, and a further enlarged federal behemoth with, presumably, more debt to finance its appetites.

The headwinds the president feels are the headwinds he creates.

The word suggests forward movement that isn’t experienced because of countervailing forces beyond control. But we are not moving forward, and it’s Big Brother, not Mother Nature, slowing the economy down. The control freak who seeks to a hand in everything from health care to student loans to an automotive company now insists that the economy remains beyond his control.

Don’t blame the president. Blame the headwinds from Europe.

The election is about whether we thwart the headwinds or contribute to them. The European crisis stems from PIIGS—Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain—taxing away prosperity and borrowing away the future to engorge a gluttonous public sector. The pigs in America strangely seek to imitate Europe—at the same time that they blame Europe for their own failures.

The man who once promised hope now hides behind headwinds.

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