Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bush Is Staying the Course, Except When He Isn't

What Bush is really saying: "When I say I'm staying the course, I'm staying the course unless the polls are bad two weeks before the election and Karl Rove says I can't say it no more! I'm the decider here!"

For George W. Bush, talking is easy. As David Gergen says, it's policy the president has trouble with. Zbigniew Brzezinski suspects that in the next year or so there's a good chance that Bush will simply "blame and run."

For the record, Think Progress has found 30 occassions when Bush has used the phrase, "stay the course" (it would not surprise me if more are found):
On Sunday, President Bush told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that his Iraq policy has “never been stay the course.” (Today, Rumsfeld disagreed, calling suggestions they were backing away from the phrase “nonsense.”)

Moments ago on Fox News, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said “we went back and looked today and could only find eight times where he [Bush] ever used the phrase stay the course.”


Apparently, the White House research team isn’t very good at “the Google.” ThinkProgress has documented 30 times that Bush has used the phrase to describe his policy in Iraq: ... [there's a link for each of the 30 times]

Notice that someone forgot to tell Rumsfeld that "stay the course" is now an inoperative Bush Administration slogan. Keith Olbermann, by the way, managed to put together video of the 30 times so far that we can find Bush saying he's staying the course.

Here's Jim Rutenberg of The New York Times on Bush's attempt to save what's left of his failed presidency:
Facing public dismay over the war in Iraq, President Bush on Wednesday somberly acknowledged the broad scope of American setbacks and missteps there. But he urged Americans to look beyond the violence on their TV screens and avoid disillusionment over a war he said was being won.

The war in Iraq is not being won. What exactly is being acknowledged if Bush cannot admit that the war is not being won? The best Bush can hope for is to clean up his mess. That is not winning. That is cleaning up the mess. We have gained nothing from Bush's war, partly because there was never a consistent set of achievable goals. Bush has now established that arrogance, unilateralism and right wing ideology do not lead to realistic and achievable goals.

Here's more from The New York Times article:

Mr. Bush’s comments were the latest iteration in a recent rhetorical evolution that has seen him move from vowing to “stay the course” in Iraq to promising flexibility. But Mr. Bush also said, “We cannot allow our dissatisfaction to turn into disillusionment about our purpose in this war.” He said eight separate times, in various formulations, that he was committed to getting the job done.

When asked whether the United States was winning in Iraq, Mr. Bush said, “Absolutely, we’re winning” — a declaration that prompted a volley of statements from Democratic leaders, who accused Mr. Bush of being “in denial” about Iraqi violence.

It sounds like Bush is back to playing words games. Some reporters noted that the prepared statement that Bush read, a careful statement probably prepared by his national security staff, was undermined by Bush's own responses to questions after he read the statement.

Here's what Thomas E. Ricks of The Washington Post had to say about the press conference:
The text of President Bush's news conference yesterday ran to nearly 10,000 words, but what may have been more significant were the things he did not say.

The president talked repeatedly about "benchmarks" for progress in Iraq, using that word 13 times. But he did not discuss the consequences of the Iraqi government missing those targets. Such a question, he said, was "hypothetical."

That response left unclear how the benchmarks would be different from previous times when the United States has set out intentions, only to back down. For example, the original war plan envisioned the U.S. troop presence in Iraq being cut to 30,000 by the fall of 2003.


Yet under his sober mien and a newfound insistence on adaptability, he appeared to be quietly digging in his heels. "Our goals are unchanging," he emphasized in his opening remarks. "We are flexible in our methods to achieving those goals."

And what goals are those? This late in the game, the only goal that I can see in Iraq is cleaning up Bush's mess, holding some troops at a distance to keep the region from spiraling out of control and then getting ourselves out of there so that we can concentrate on rebuilding our military, our credibility and our broken foreign policy. Bush is very unclear about what he's trying to accomplish at this point. Even his point about benchmarks is meaningless unless there's some sort of time framework to those benchmarks and also consequences if those benchmarks are not met (such as packing up and leaving).

I'm sure by now the reader gets the general idea. Let me end with Senator Bill Frist, who, unwittingly, explains why we need change in Congress (via Think Progress):
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) said today that if conservatives want to be reelected, “they should turn their focus away from the Iraq war.” Frist told the Concord Monitor, “The challenge is to get Americans to focus on pocketbook issues, and not on the Iraq and terror issue.”

Ignoring Iraq and ignoring Bush's growing failures is exactly what is wrong with the right wing Republicans in Congress and why we need change (and what has Frist done for our pocketbooks except give us a deficit as far as the eye can see while good jobs keep going overseas?). Republicans have been ignoring the problems in the White House and Iraq for three years. Republicans are doing nothing to hold George W. Bush accountable. Even if Bush promises to change his ways, we need a Congress that would hold him to his promises instead of repeatedly ignoring his growing failures.


Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

"On Sunday, President Bush told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that his Iraq policy has 'never been stay the course.' (Today, Rumsfeld disagreed, calling suggestions they were backing away from the phrase 'nonsense.')"

This indicates to me that Rumsfeld was sincere in trying to resign twice and now really, really wants out.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Bush's lengthy press conference is filler. It's window dressing. It means nothing. All that was said meant not a thing. He learned nothing from the questions asked. The media learned nothing that can be trusted as accurate, truthful or durable past the time the room emptied and the lights were turned off.

The meeting was the message, period.

The consequence of failure to meet a benchmark is a hypothetical, Bush says. I'll top that: benchmarks are hypotheticals, as the reporter should've shot back.

2:04 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Bush, his cronies and generals probably realize this thing's going down, one way or another. Right now, they just want to get past the election minimizing the political damage here at home.

I suspect the looming debacle at the polls has registered in their collective consciousness in a big way. They may well be starting to disengage psychologically. Starting to prepare their cover stories ("The Iraqies never did do their part," which has some truth to it).

They likely now want to plot as face-saving an exit as they can within 18 months — to be well free of the tar baby ahead of the '08 Republican convention and fall presidential campaign.

Don't be surprised if they end up making a deal with al Sadr or some other strongman: Leave our Green Zone compound and hard-site military base out in the desert alone, get the oil flowing to market, and we'll leave you a free hand to run the country.

2:13 PM  
Anonymous Craig said...

S.W., good comments all. I suppose Bush was attempting to reassure his 'base' but he did little, I suspect to reassure most of America, if they were listening.

The big disappointment was much of the major media once again giving Bush the benefit of the doubt. After almost six years of failure? Amazing.

11:22 PM  

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