It makes you pine for the days of the blinding intellect and policy specificity inherent in the phrase “hope and change.” We are told that “Forward” may be the new Obama campaign mantra. That was the title, at any rate, of the video that attempted to set the stage for the general election. It’s actually a perfect metaphor, executed with perfect hypocrisy by the Obama team.

The slogan is, like the president it touts, entirely devoid of substance. Delivered with blame and foreboding about George W. Bush and the potential return of his policies (hopefully including the ones in which we defended freedom and didn’t berate the private sector), it is really all about looking backward. As CBS News noted: “The video reminds viewers of the dire state of the economy in early 2009, when Mr. Obama took office, and all that the president has accomplished since then — even in the face of Republican obstruction.”

So are we looking forward or to the past? Is the real message that there will always be someone to blame for President Obama’s failings? It’s a bit of a muddle.

But it does illustrate how difficult it is for an incumbent to turn a reelection campaign into something other than a referendum. “Forward” entails a great deal of back-patting, because otherwise you’d want to get off the train. That opens you up to an examination of the record you are touting.

“Forward”also suggests how difficult it will be for Obama to run without reference to ideology, now that he’s been president for three and a half years. “Hope and change” famously left a blank slate on which voters could project their own conceptions of the president. But “Forward” carries the baggage of a liberal statist insistent on plunging ahead with more of the same.

The “Forward” message is also laughably dismissive of the intelligence and initiative of the electorate. Don’t ask for details, just march along!

I can’t help but think back to that famous ad Obama ran against Hillary Clinton. Now it’s Obama who’s the Big Brother, telling the drones to follow the leader.