Fail the Course

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At yesterday’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow was asked about “Stay the Course” and why Bush has suddenly decided to stop using it. Here is what he said:

Q Why would he stop using it?

MR. SNOW: Because it left the wrong impression about what was going on. And it allowed critics to say, well, here’s an administration that’s just embarked upon a policy and not looking at what the situation is, when, in fact, it’s just the opposite. The President is determined not to leave Iraq short of victory, but he also understands that it’s important to capture the dynamism of the efforts that have been ongoing to try to make Iraq more secure, and therefore, enhance the clarification — or the greater precision.

Q Is the President responsible for the fact people think it’s stay the course since he’s, in fact, described it that way himself?

MR. SNOW: No.

Notice what Snow is trying to do here. According to this spin, the President’s policy has always been dynamic and responsive to the situation in Iraq while the goal, victory, has remained the same. The truth is pretty much the opposite. The strategy has remained the same while the goal has constantly shifted from capture WMDs, to regime change, to democracy in the middle east, to free elections, to fight the terrorists there so we won’t have to fight them here, and so on. When the Bush administration unveils the plan to withdraw American troops from Iraq after the elections (and they will), it will be interesting to see how they will interpret the “victory” they will claim to have achieved.

Notice also that Snow claims Bush and other White House talking heads have no responsibility for this misunderstanding even though they have been drumming “stay the course” vs. “cut and run” into our heads for the last two years. After all, the president would never use a slogan like “stay the course” for purely political/rhetorical purposes. Now that it has become apparent that the term “gives the wrong impression” about the flexible and ever responsive policy in Iraq, the White House is trying to “enhance the clarification– or the greater precision”.

In other words, they are searching for a new slogan that can replace “stay the course” as they devise an exit strategy. Some possibilities come to mind. How about “cut and saunter” or “leave the course to the caddies” or “divide the course into three parts and then run”? Unfortunately for Bush and the Republican party, the grades are already in and they have “failed the course.” It is up to the voters to hand out the report card in three weeks.

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