There was the following sentence in the article of Washington Post (November 9) that came under the title, “For Obama, and Democrats, it’s crunch time.”

Obama is dismissive of the crisis-an-hour mentality that often grips the political chattering class. He has endured low moments throughout his political career and has found a way to ride them out. He is famously patient. But he is now in a hole of his own making.

I understand 'crisis mentality' means the disposition / attitude of someone who is always thinking the worst will happen, but what does “crisis-an-hour mentality mean? Why is it the hot topic in political chattering class?

2 Answers 2


The phrase simply means that crises are coming so fast, there seems to be a new one every hour. (It's figurative language; there isn't really a new crisis every 60 minutes – but it seems that way.)

In an office environment, a related metaphor sometimes used is firefighting, which is used to describe a work pace so hectic that people are just “putting out one fire” when the next one starts. For example, in a piece called How Daily Firefighting Affects Your Work Performance, one blogger wrote:

These guys are so brilliant and so efficient that they land up fire fighting, handling emergencies and crises all day. Their own work gets hampered .. after all, you get promoted when you shine at your own work and rarely for salvaging other people's slack.

If you were looking for a word to use around your workplace to describe a pace of crises so frantic that it's hard to do any strategic planning, I think you'd find that fire fighting would be more familiar than crisis-an-hour (at least here in the U.S.), although both would be readily understood.

As a footnote, I don't think that a "crisis mentality" quite means "someone who is always thinking the worst will happen" (that's more of a pessimistic mentality). It's more a matter of acting as though even a minor obstacle is a major crisis. Interestingly enough, one proposed definition at Collins was a "state of continuous panic when challenged," but that proposal was rejected on the grounds that the meaning could be deduced by the individual words. (I'm not sure I completely agree.)

  • 1
    I don't altogether agree with your footnote. I accept that a 'crisis mentality' is not the same thing as pessimism. But nor do I think it refers to someone seasoned, and hence presumably with expertise, in managing crises. A 'crisis mentality', surely, refers to someone who analyses and deals with daily problems as though they were critical, when in fact they are just everyday occurences.
    – WS2
    Nov 10, 2013 at 21:42
  • @J.R. I think WS2 has the more accepted interpretation of crisis mentality. Ironically, many people who deal with emergency situations, e.g. real firefighters, approach their work without a crisis mentality and are more effective for it.
    – bib
    Nov 10, 2013 at 22:59
  • @bib - Good call; I've edited my closing remarks. Thanks for the help.
    – J.R.
    Nov 10, 2013 at 23:21
  • JR/WS2. Whatever ‘crisis mentality’ or ‘crisis-an-hour mentality’ is, IMHO, I don’t think it’s positive and likable mind-set. Otherwise Mr. Obama needn’t to be ‘dismissive of’ having such mentality. Nov 11, 2013 at 0:47

‘crisis-an-hour mentality’ is the belief that bad things often happen. It actualy means being positive. :)

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