Several media figures have recently claimed, or let Republicans claim, that the White House "rejects" the policy that the United States should "stay the course" in Iraq, even though President Bush and White House spokesman Tony Snow have continued to use that term to describe the administration's Iraq policy.
In recent days, several media figures have claimed, or let Republicans claim, that the White House "rejects" the policy that the United States should "stay the course" in Iraq, even though President Bush and White House press secretary Tony Snow have continued to use that term to describe the Bush administration's Iraq policy.
For example, in an August 31 Washington Post article, staff writers Peter Baker and Jim VandeHei reported that "[m]any Democrats accuse the president of advocating 'stay the course' in Iraq, but the White House rejects the phrase and regularly emphasizes that it is adapting tactics to changing circumstances." Similarly, on the August 30 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, guest host and MSNBC chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell left unchallenged the claim by Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman that "I don't think our approach is stay the course. ... Our approach is to adapt and win." During a roundtable discussion on the August 27 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, responding to Al Hunt, Bloomberg News' Washington bureau chief, who stated that the conservative National Review had described Bush's "stay the course" policy as "absolutely not credible," National Review Washington editor Kate O'Beirne claimed that the Bush administration is "changing" its rhetoric to "adapt for victory."
The notion that the White House has disavowed the phrase "stay the course" appears to have originated with Mehlman. In his August 13 appearance on Meet the Press, Mehlman told guest host and NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory: "The choice in this election is not between 'stay the course' and 'cut and run,' it's between 'win by adapting' and 'cut and run.' "
Yet the Bush administration has continued to use the term "stay the course." In fact, as blogger Duncan Black (a Media Matters for America senior fellow) noted, Bush used the term "stay the course" as recently as August 30, during a speech in Salt Lake City:
BUSH: Iraq is the central front in this war on terror. If we leave the streets of Baghdad before the job is done, we will have to face the terrorists in our own cities. We will stay the course, we will help this young Iraqi democracy succeed, and victory in Iraq will be a major ideological triumph in the struggle of the 21st century.
Snow also used the phrase at least twice since Mehlman initially denied that the administration had a "stay the course" approach but rather had an "adapt and win" approach:
- In an August 17 press briefing, Snow claimed, "you also cannot be a president in a wartime and not realize that you've got to stay the course."
- During an August 16 press briefing, Snow said: "To have a democracy that allows people to have sovereignty over their lives is something that we think is so powerful, and that the yearning for freedom is so natural, that that is going to send a powerful signal throughout the region. People are going to want more of it. And that's why the president is determined to stay the course."
From the August 31 Washington Post article:
While no Democrat has the powerful platform that the White House affords Bush and Cheney, the complaints about the mischaracterizing of positions on the war flow in both directions. Many Democrats accuse the president of advocating "stay the course" in Iraq, but the White House rejects the phrase and regularly emphasizes that it is adapting tactics to changing circumstances, such as moving more U.S. troops into Baghdad recently after a previous security strategy appeared to fail.
"Strategically, we are staying committed to the fact that this is an important mission and one that should be accomplished," said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Democrats, this adviser said, say "we're 'doing the same thing over and over' when that's not the case."
From the August 30 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
O'DONNELL: Then let me ask you about Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, who recently sent out a campaign mailing rejecting both extremes, President Bush's stay the course approach and a cut-and-run approach. So, you have moderate candidates that are Republicans that don't want to run on this message that you've got the secretary of defense delivering, that the president is delivering.
MEHLMAN: Well, I don't think our approach is stay the course. As I indicated -- I was on Meet the Press about a week-and-a-half ago. Our approach is to adapt to win. One of the reasons you've seen some violence go down in the past few weeks, is we adapted by adding more troops into Baghdad. We did the same thing before the third successful election. We changed how we train people.
The fact is: We must constantly adapt, because this is an enemy that is a movement. And it's an enemy that, because of technological forces, has an ability to recruit people on the Internet, to establish -- to build IEDs based on what they learn on the Internet. It requires us to constantly adapt and be smart.
And what we don't need to do is what most Democrats would do, which is weaken our ability to have coordination by killing the Patriot Act, and reduce the ability to interrogate the enemy, reduce the ability to have surveillance of the enemy that was critical in London.
You look at question after question, beyond Iraq, on issue after issue, most Democrats have taken positions that would surrender key tools we need to win the war on terror, and that would weaken America, and that's a very important issue for Americans to think about 69 days before the election.
From the August 27 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:
HUNT: Kate, the problem, however, is that -- look, Bob, I somewhat disagree. You can make the McCain case -- we might agree or disagree -- but you can make the case that we need to really escalate over there. We need to send more troops, not just take troops from Mosul and send them to Baghdad, but really go and cut off the Iranians and make a full-fledged effort and say, "We're going to be there for years, folks." Or you can say we're going to be in a staged withdrawal. We're going to go to an enclave period and try to create some kind of partition in that unnaturally created country.
The one thing that's not credible, as the National Review pointed out, is stay the course. Bush's policy is the one policy that's absolutely not credible. So, I think that makes it very tough for Republicans today.
O'BEIRNE: Right. Well, they are -- they are changing that to "adapt for victory" sort of stuff, and it is true that public opinion is closer to the former. Despite all of the bad news and how pessimistic the public is, they do not support leaving prematurely and a timetable to do so.