Today Is D-Day, Just Like Yesterday and Tomorrow

Why people talk about debt ceiling D-Day, NFL lockout D-Day, and more

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The cliche As we noted yesterday, this week's news cycle is filled with stories involving high stakes decisions. But of all the important moments this month, it seems the White House singled out today as one in which a debt deal must be forged. "The White House says this is D-day, the day a deal has to be in place to beat the August second deadline," says WLTZ News. But wait. Just yesterday, as leaders struggled to forge a deal on the Greek debt crisis before day's end, The Scotsman declared "Europe faced D-Day over Greek debt crisis talks" or as World's First Currency Exchange put it more succinctly: "D-Day for Europe." And--hold on--this morning Niners Nation asked of the NFL lockout negotiations, "Is D-Day at hand?" BET supplied the answer. "It's D-Day for NFL Owners and Players," it declared. How many D-Days can we have in a year?

Where it's from  When people hear "D-Day," they almost certainly think of June 6, 1944, the day the Allies invaded Europe on the Normandy beaches and turned the tide of war against the Axis powers. The day looms large in historical memory and has been gruesomely relived time and again, (in the graphic opening to Saving Private Ryan, to name a well-known example.) The term is actually a general one in military planning, not created specifically for that day. The "D" may stand for "day" (as weird as "Day-Day" sounds) and military strategists use it as a variable when they are planning an operation without a set date or with a date they need to remain secret.

Why it caught on  So when news outlets name a D-Day for every day of the week, they aren't actually contradicting each other since one "D-Day" need not preclude another. The name has come to mean a generic "day of importance." But also, the ill-defined "D" may be attractive for other reasons. Readers can read it as "Decision" or "Deadline" if they wish (though they'd be historically incorrect). As the Otago Daily Times writes, "July 22 is D-day in Washington DC. D for debt, D for deficit and D for default." The list of applicable "D" words is practically endless!

Why else?  At least in America, as panic sets in at the looming prospect of default and financial Armageddon, commentators have increasingly upped their estimates of what is at stake. Bruce Bartlett wrote in The New York Times that President Obama may even be able to enact wartime powers because the foreign policy implications of default would be so great. So maybe, when referring to D-Day, the media means to draw a parallel between the international cataclysm of World War II, and the potential effect on the world community of such possibilities as U.S. default or the collapse of the Euro. As for the NFL lockout, well, we're not sure there's as much of a case for a WWII analogy there...

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.