The Progressive assault on the English language continues. Ryan Lizza, writing in The New Yorker, tells us:
Obamaâ€™s reluctance to articulate a grand synthesis â€œhas alienated both realists and idealists,â€ Lizza writes. However, he â€œmay be moving toward something resembling a doctrine.â€ One of Obamaâ€™s advisers describes his actions as â€œleading from behind,â€ which, Lizza writes, does actually describe the balance that Obama now seems to be finding. â€œItâ€™s so at odds with the John Wayne expectation for what America is in the world,â€ the adviser says, â€œbut itâ€™s necessary for shepherding us through this phase.â€
Now I was pretty sure I knew what “leading” meant but I checked in with dictionary.com just to confirm and it turns out I was right! “Lead” is defined using words like “to go before,” “to conduct or bring,” “to show the way,” and “to go in advance.”
Of course, “leading from behind” is nonsensical as a linguistic construction as long as words have clear meanings; however, as Obama is increasingly revealed as a weak and ineffectual leader, the concept of leadership itself must be redefined. As George Orwell so aptly noted, “If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”
So if Obama wants to be hang out in the rear, I can think of many things to call it – following, for example – but leading is not one of them.