Bush Administration Seeks To Move From "Stay The Course" Rhetoric
The Bush Administration is trying to convince Americans that it is no longer "staying the course," instead subbing in variations of the rhetoric "adapting to win."
For example, during yesterday's White House press briefing, Press Secretary Tony Snow had this heated exchange with NBC's David Gregory, in which Snow tried to suggest that it has always been "adapting":
GREGORY: Don't try to dismiss me as making a Democratic argument, Tony, when I'm speaking fact.
SNOW: Well, okay -- well, no --
GREGORY: You can do that to the Democrats; don't do it to me.
SNOW: No, I'm doing it to you because the second part was factually tendentious, okay? Now, when you were talking about the fact that it failed to adapt, that's just flat wrong. And you will be -- there has been -- there have been repeated attempts to try to adapt to military realities, to diplomatic realities, to development of new weapons and tools on the part of al Qaeda, including the very creative use of the Internet. So the idea that somehow we're staying the course is just wrong. It is absolutely wrong.
Linguistics has always been a key for the Bush Administration, but changing rhetoric doesn't equate to changing results. Mid-course during its effort to sell the country on Social Security privatization, the administration began saying "personal accounts" instead of "private accounts." But the plan, at least for now, didn't catch on.
Other examples of conservatives changing the rhetoric include subbing in "death tax" for "estate tax," and subbing in "partial-birth abortion" for "late-term abortion." Any time the GOP needs to put a fresh face on a topic, a Luntzian phrase follows.
The wholesale effort to push "adapting to win" on the American people has been going on for about a month. In August, Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman told guest host Gregory on NBC's Meet The Press that "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.' " Two weeks later, National Review editor Kate O'Beirne said on Meet the Press that the administration is "changing (stay the course) to 'adapt for victory.'"
But the funny thing is, even though the administration wants to change the way Americans think -- important when a majority of Americans don't agree with administration policy -- it can't get the new lingo down.
For example, 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.
In an August 17 press briefing, Snow said, "you also cannot be a president in a wartime and not realize that you've got to stay the course." The day before, Snow added: "And that's why the president is determined to stay the course."
The true test of whether the Republicans are successful in changing the rhetoric -- winning the war is another story altogether -- will be if your favorite newspaper or evening news makes the switch. It's already happening (big surprise) on Fox News Channel and conservative talk radio.