One of the core tenets that has guided the Republican Party for at least the last five years is message discipline. When one Republican says something, you are almost guaranteed to hear the exact same thing from the next Republican. It is that discipline that they've ridden to virtually total control of the federal government, and along the way, they seem to have painted the Democratic Party as weak because Democrats do the exact opposite, namely they allow the members to voice their own opinions and views without having to run it by some sort of Central Committee. And that, at times, can apparently appear less appealing than one monolithic message to the average voter.
All that being said, the last several months have not been good to the GOP when it comes to message discipline. As the Iraq war grows worse and worse, some Republicans are no longer satisfied with sitting on their hands and toeing the party message. Some are speaking out because it's what is right, others are doing it in an effort to distance themselves from a highly unpopular president. And once the foot soldiers start to scurry away, it's only a matter of time before the guys on top start slipping around, aimless without their almighty monolith of a singular message. Which brings me to today.
A couple of weeks ago, Ken Mehlman appeared on Meet the Press and attempted to jumpstarted a new talking point while downplaying another that had served them well for so long. He attempted to make the case that conservatives are "not coming in and saying 'Stay the course'" in Iraq, but rather are advocating "Win by adapting." Think Progress has the video. Here's the exact quote:
Look, the fact is that our mission in the war in Iraq is critical. We agree on that; we agree it’s wrong to cut and run. But look, we’re not coming in and saying “Stay the course.” 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.”
Of course, the GOP has done nothing but pound on the drum with their "Stay the Course" as if they were zombies aimlessly walking around in a George Romero movie, all repeating in the same monotone, "Brains...". And obviously there are numerous examples to be found of Republicans spouting the monolithic "stay the course" mantra [h/t to Think Progress for compiling the following]:
The fissures in the GOP monolith of message really started to appear that day as Mehlman attempted to basically rewrite their rationale for fighting the Iraq war. I guess 'stay the course' just doesn't cut it anymore, at least according to the polls and such (not that Bush pays any attention to polls, of course).
“We’re not going to lose in Iraq. As a matter of fact, we will win in Iraq so long as we stay the course.” [7/11/06]
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow:
“The second thing you do [to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis] is you stay the course. And you allow the government of Prime Minister Maliki to create a functioning and successful democracy.” [7/10/06]
Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN):
“We’re for staying the course in Iraq and the war on terror.” [7/27/06]
Sen. John Thune (R-SD):
“And a believe that a free, democratic Iraq is quickly becoming an inevitable fact, and that now more than ever we need to stay the course there.” [2/17/05]
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA):
“On behalf of our men and women in harm’s way, the children they protect, and the dreams and aspirations of Americans for a bright future, I will stay the course as a member of the Senate to support them in the war on terror.” [11/8/05]
I guess my question is, if "Win by adapting" is the new message, then why didn't Bush utter the line once during his entire press conference yesterday? Was it that much of a non-starter that the message gurus decided to scrap it and hope that everyone forgets Mehlman's appearance? Whereas I was not paying attention to every utterance out of Bush's mouth in order to catch a "Stay the course" if he happened to utter the words, I can tell you that his message was unequivocal - STAY THE COURSE. We will not be leaving Iraq as long as he is president. I don't think you can stay the course much more than by doing that. Again, I might have missed it, but I don't recall a single utterance of "win by adapting." If anything, Bush seemed to infer thobstinatepposite. He was obstinent and angry that anyone would even question the strategy. "We must win" was his message. I guess I should have turned up the volume because I suppose he could have said, "We must win by adapting," so maybe I just missed it.
Bush's bull-headed determination to "Stay the Course" was on full display yesterday as he charged through that one of his dreaded press conferences. To Bush, the message has never been clearer. To the rank and file, well they aren't so monolithic anymore.