A Step in the Right Direction?

I know two things: 1) I've never spoken with anyone who, in a casual conversation, follows "way" with "forward." 2) Politicians, marketers and ...
by | September 20, 2007

  I know two things:

1) I've never spoken with anyone who, in a casual conversation, follows "way" with "forward."

2) Politicians, marketers and the media are obsessed with the "way forward."

Don't know what I mean? Consider the nation's governors. They understand the versatility of those two little words.

Generic: "The public has entrusted all of us to choose and chart a way forward."

--New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine

Sappy: "The only way forward, the only way out, is with each other."

-South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford

Ideological: "The way forward is not to look left, but to look ahead. There is too much at stake to do otherwise."

--Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney

Biographical: "I have grown up in poverty and worked my way forward."

--Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick

Confused: "We are where we are -- now which way forward?"

--Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels

I'd like to tell you that this is a case of states serving as laboratories of rhetoric, but that's probably not true. As William Safire has noted, the phrase has popped up everywhere, seemingly simultaneously, seemingly overnight.

Most famously, President Bush dubbed the Iraq plan he introduced in January, "The New Way Forward." Now, as of this month, he's moved on to "return on success" as the phrase of the day.

Still, his national address did include this line: ''The way forward I have described tonight makes it possible, for the first time in years, for people who have been on opposite sides of this difficult debate to come together.'' For clarity's sake, he should have explained that the "way forward" he's now talking about is not the old New Way Forward from January, but rather, "return on success," which is a new new way forward.

What's better than a new way forward? Michelin's slogan: "A better way forward."

They're making no promises that it will be better, but Ford has staked the future of the company on the Way Forward. I'm hoping that it's some sort of hovercraft.

What's the alternative to forward? The Democrats ran for Congress promising "A New Direction for America." But what direction? Backward? To the left? Surely not diagonal?!?

Rest assured: In March, Speaker Nancy Pelosi noted "an extremely significant development in the national debate on the best way forward in Iraq."

Best way forward? Now that's progress.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com  | 

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