What does “finger in the wind” mean in this quote is from James Comey’s book - A higher Loyalty

this phrase came out in regards to Vice President Dick Cheney’s opinion for the Stellar Wind program and that he didn’t want to change his opinion on legal frame of the program. The context is that in healthy organization, doubt is wisdom, but in political sphere doubt is considered as weakness. the phrase used here is “I am not talking about finger-in-the-wind, I’m afraid-to-make-a-decision kind of doubt.”

What I found out so far is meaning of “making a decision that the crowd will most likely like it” but I do not think this is the use case in this sentence.

  • I checked that out but here is in the wind Jul 13, 2018 at 9:33
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    @THEGreatGatsby - It's two ways of saying the same thing; they are two variants of the same metaphorical idiom.
    – J.R.
    Jul 13, 2018 at 10:14
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    Is this transcription correct? It is full of errors. Where does the excerpt begin? Jul 13, 2018 at 11:46
  • I think it is a poor analogy. Holding your finger in the wind is more associated with trumping up a false facade of empirical objectivity over what is just decisiveness based on feeling lucky. Jul 13, 2018 at 12:12

1 Answer 1


James Comey is using these two idioms to essentially say the same thing - that someone is afraid to make a decision. (A politician in this case)

The reason "finger in the wind" is associated with this is because of people holding their finger in the wind to gauge the direction the wind is blowing.

In relation to politics, this is often associated with politicians who are unsure of their own decisions and strive to make the decision that will please voters the most, rather then deciding based on their own beliefs and ideals.

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