Morris: The Holcomb Way

September 20, 2021

Learning to Speak Holcombese

by Leo Morris

I’m a little worried. I think I’m starting to understand Gov. Holcomb.

When he was talking about the Afghan refugees, he said he wanted Indiana to “be there on the back end” after the 14-day screening and vetting process. That means that if nothing goes wrong, the state will take all the credit for a job well done.

When he criticized President Biden’s mandatory vaccination policy for private businesses, he said it was “a bridge too far.” That means the governor would love to issue such a mandate, but knows he can’t get away with it in this state full of freedom-loving nitpickers.

When he was in Richmond, praising the economic potential of Wayne County, he said the county was “on the 50-yard line” and on the right “flight path,” that it had a “target rich environment” to attract companies and just had to “sell, sell, sell” itself because it already has the magic of “location, location, location,” He meant the state will gladly throw some money into the pot for whatever development scheme the county comes up with.

He sort of lost me when he went off on a tangent about something or other being “in Indiana’s DNA,” but I still got the gist of his bully-pulpit, cheerleading-from-behind boosterism.

That’s because of his increasing use of the business jargon ever present in today’s corporate America, with which, unfortunately, I am agonizingly familiar.

I spent a career in newspapers, which were once peopled by half-drunk ne’er-do-wells who could always find a source and dig out the dirt but could not spell or parse a sentence and thought “professional standards” meant wearing the tie without the gravy stains on payday.

But even journalism was eventually taken over by The Suits, middle managers who spout catchy but empty phrases meant solely to keep the troops befuddled and convince the corporate bosses in a bigger city that the bottom line is always in sight.

So, while I can’t help the governor “run the state like a business,” a pledge I’m sure he will make any day, I can help him with his apparent quest to sound like a businessman instead of an elected official.

To that end, a few suggestions for those times when the governor needs just the right cliche:

There is no “I” in team: You’re just one taxpayer among millions, and I am the governor. Deal with it.

We need to think outside the box: This is probably unconstitutional, but that’s the Supreme Court’s problem.

Let’s circle back to that: My public relations staff hasn’t told me what to say yet.

It will be a win-win: You will love my idea and come to think of it as yours.

This is where the rubber meets the road: Whatever it was, I really mean it this time, because we’re on the 50-yard line.

We need more boots on the ground: Because otherwise it won’t matter that we’re on the right flight path.

It’s all about synergy: I don’t know what that means exactly, but it sounds awesome.

We’re facing some strong headwinds: If this doesn’t work, it’s not my fault.

It was a paradigm shift: I don’t know what went wrong, but it wasn’t my fault.

We have too many chiefs and not enough Indians: It’s those damn legislators, and when the politically correct crowd complains on Twitter, I didn’t really say that.

We need to tear down our silos: You’re just not paying attention to me.

I could go on and on – the supply of corporatisms is endless. But I don’t want to belabor the point.

I just hope the governor and I are on the same page, taking the 30,000-foot view so we are comparing apples to apples and getting the low-hanging fruit while avoiding the elephant in the room so we can run with it. If not, I have an open-door policy and never want it to seem like I’m just phoning it in. I’m ready for your two-cents worth, governor – remember, there are no bad ideas, so just put your thinking cap on and ballpark it so we can wrap our heads around it.

And at the end of the day, be careful going forward where you put your stake in the ground, because it’s just putting lipstick on a pig if you try to square a circle without due diligence.

This wasn’t a one-off – that is not in my DNA – so I hope that wasn’t a bridge too far.

Leo Morris, columnist for The Indiana Policy Review, is winner of the Hoosier Press Association’s award for Best Editorial Writer. Morris, as opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Contact him at


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