Interviewed about Iraq on the October 22 edition of ABC’s This Week, George W. Bush declared, “Listen, we’ve never been ‘stay the course.’” This was not a slip of the tongue but a White House line, as evidenced by Bush advisor Dan Bartlett’s assertion that “it’s never been a ‘stay the course’ strategy” on CBS’s Early Show the next day.
The trouble is that Bush and his spokespeople had constantly insisted that their Iraq strategy was “stay the course.” Just one example, from a December 15, 2003 press conference: “We will stay the course until the job is done. . . . And the temptation is to try to get the president or somebody to put a timetable on the definition of getting the job done. We’re just going to stay the course.” (See Think Progress or YouTube, both 10/22/06, for more instances of what was once one of Bush’s favorite phrases.)
Perhaps realizing that people now have access to what Bush calls “the Google,” the White House quickly shifted strategies: The new line, announced by press secretary Tony Snow on October 23, was not that they had never said that “stay the course” was the strategy, but that they would no longer say that. And the press corps, obedient as usual, swallowed the new line.
Even ABC World News Tonight (10/23/06) did a report that evening about how the White House was changing its language, but didn’t mention that Bush had lied about that language to one of the network’s own journalists just the day before. The New York Times did a story October 24, “Bush Abandons Phrase ‘Stay the Course’ on Iraq,” that even referred to the ABC interview—without pointing out that that interview contained a glaring falsehood about the precise subject of the article.
Given the lengths media have gone to expose—and in some cases manufacture—examples of double talk by Democratic politicians like Al Gore and John Kerry, the clearly conscious effort to avoid pointing out that Bush had lied was a stark example of partisan media bias going into a crucial election.