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The Big Muddy

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By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, October 23, 2006; 1:38 PM

With just more than two weeks to go before a mid-term election that promises to be in large part a referendum on the war in Iraq, President Bush and his aides continue to muddy the debate by trying to redefine their terms on the fly.

The most obvious example came on Sunday, when ABC News broadcast an interview in which Bush denied he had ever advocated staying the course.

Here's the text of the interview, which was conducted on Wednesday.

Anchor George Stephanopoulos was asking Bush about comments from James A. Baker III, who has said that the independent commission he co-chairs is pursuing alternatives to "cut and run" or "stay the course" in Iraq.

Said Bush: "Well, listen, we've never been stay the course, George. We have been -- we will complete the mission, we will do our job and help achieve the goal, but we're constantly adjusting the tactics, constantly."

White House counselor Dan Bartlett used almost the exact same words this morning on CBS News's " Early Show ": "It's never been a stay the course strategy."

But as the liberal Think Progress blog so definitively pointed out yesterday, Bush repeatedly has described his strategy in precisely those terms.

"We will stay the course." ( 8/30/06 )

"We will stay the course, we will complete the job in Iraq." ( 8/4/05 )

"We will stay the course until the job is done, Steve. 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." ( 12/15/03 )

"And my message today to those in Iraq is: We'll stay the course." ( 4/13/04 )

And so on.


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