President Bush and his aides are annoyed that people keep misinterpreting his Iraq policy as "stay the course." A complete distortion, they say. "That is not a stay-the-course policy," White House press secretary Tony Snow declared yesterday.
Where would anyone have gotten that idea? Well, maybe from Bush.
"We will stay the course. We will help this young Iraqi democracy succeed," he said in Salt Lake City in August.
"We will win in Iraq so long as we stay the course," he said in Milwaukee in July.
"I saw people wondering whether the United States would have the nerve to stay the course and help them succeed," he said after returning from Baghdad in June.
But the White House is cutting and running from "stay the course." A phrase meant to connote steely resolve instead has become a symbol for being out of touch and rigid in the face of a war that seems to grow worse by the week, Republican strategists say. Democrats have now turned "stay the course" into an attack line in campaign commercials, and the Bush team is busy explaining that "stay the course" does not actually mean stay the course.
This of course is the natural result of platitudes as policy. When the policy choices consist of "stay the course" and "cut and run", you sort of box yourself in a corner.