Everyday Semiotics

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Stay the course no more

Turns out this is actually old news, but the White House speechwriters have officially dropped "stay the course" from heavy rotation in their discourse about Iraq and the war on terror.

From an NPR report by David Greene (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6369925):

One of the president's trademarks is his self-portrait as a steadfast leader. He has often invoked the importance of "staying the course" in Iraq, and finishing the job of building a democracy.

Speaking in Utah at the end of August, President Bush said, "We will stay the course. We will help this young Iraqi democracy succeed."

But that may have been the last time the president used the phrase "stay the course." On Monday, White House spokesman Tony Snow said that the phrase was dropped after August. When asked about the change, Snow paused briefly before answering.

"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, not looking at what the situation is,' when in fact it's just the opposite."

This is an interesting rhetorical inversion. Of course, critics have been saying "Well, here's an administration that's just embarked upon a policy, not looking at what the situation is" for a while now. This is nothing new, and the fact that the White House is just now acknowledging that is pretty laughable. But Snow couches his response in such a way as to make the elimination of "stay the course" sound like a pre-emptive move, to stop critics before they can criticize.


The lead editorial in the New York Times this past Sunday captures the larger picture, of which this minor change in Bushspeak is most certainly a part.

The generrals who told President Bush before the war the Donald Rumsfeld's shock-and-awe fantasy would not work were not enough to persuade him to change his strategy in Iraq. Nor did month after month of mounting military and civilian casaulties on all sides, the emergence of a near civil war, the collapse of reconstruction efforts or the seeming inability of either Iraqi or American forces to secure contested parts of Iraq, including Baghdad, for any significant period.

So what finally, after all this time, cause Mr. Bush to very publicly consult with his generals to consider a change in tactics in Iraq? The president, who says he never reads political polls, is worried that his party could lose some of its iron grip on power in the Confressional elections next month.

It is not necessarily a bad thing when a politician takes stock of his positions in the teeth of an election. Our elected leaders are expected to heed the will of the American people. [...]

But the way this sudden change of heart has come about, after months in which Mr. Bush has brushed off all criticism of his policies as either misguided, politically motivated or downright disloyal to America, is maddening.

Damn right.

Dropping "stay the course," along with finally re-evaluating the Iraq campaign, are gestures sure enough. I wonder how often White House press secretaries have spoken so openly about the administration's word choice....

NPR mentioned the abolition of "stay the course" quite a lot today, and Jackie Northam put together a nice piece on governmental semantics, focusing on whether or not to admit there's a civil war on in Iraq. One word that stuck out to me in the report was "euphamism." (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6373560)



At 7:25 AM, Blogger caddy jeanne said...

poppycock should be used more in everyday life. can you work it into one of your news stories?


Post a Comment

<< Home