We're Winning (By Adapting)!

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I remember Ken Mehlman. I remember the rugged, toothy, focused-like-a-laser-beam super-Republican who was going to work hand in hand with Karl Rove in keeping the GOP majority alive until long after man has decamped to Alpha Centauri. Has Ken Mehlman really been reduced to this?

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."

Who's the smartass who gave the White House site a search button? April 2004:

I just met with Specialist Chris Hill's family from North Carolina. You know, I told the family how much we appreciated his sacrifice—he was killed in Iraq—and assured him that we would stay the course…

November 2005:

Some critics continue to assert that we have no plan in Iraq except to, "stay the course." If by "stay the course," they mean we will not allow the terrorists to break our will, they are right.

It's pretty clear that the RNC did some focus grouping and saw that "stay the course" had lost its Outlaw Josey Wales appeal and pull. Pro-war candidates aren't getting a boost when they say their opponent would surrender to terror while they "stay the course." Hence the new slogan. Twelve weeks before the election. Mehlman's hard sell of the new meme is suprisingly inept.

But hey, Rich Lowry likes it.

This is a huge improvement. The last thing you want to say about a war that's not going very well is that you are going to keep doing what you're already doing–so "adapting" is much better than "staying." Also, it's important to get the word "win" in there. This is nice word-smithing, but it's conditions on the ground that really count.

Who's saying the war isn't going well? Rich Lowry, have you met Rich Lowry?

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  1. Stands-with-Frist

  2. In Full Metal Jacket, Lt Lockart read a directive to the soldiers / journalists, “… we have a new directive from M.A.F. on this. In the future, in place of “search and destroy,” substitute the phrase “sweep and clear.” Got it?”

    To which Pvt Joker remarks, “Got it. Very catchy.”

    Someone should PT Mehlman until he fucking dies. We are in a world of shit.

  3. Vote Republican: Better inept than a dead coward!

  4. David,

    I get what you’re saying, and I haven’t read the National Review piece, but ‘We’re winning’ and ‘it isn’t going well’ aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. I happen to think we are winning, and also that it is not going well, that is, we are winning but could be doing so more efficiently with less casualties, cost, erosion of civil rights, etc. Eight steps forward and seven steps back is still moving forward, but not very well.

  5. Adapting . . . I dunno. Sounds like that evolution stuff to me.

  6. At least finish his quote which doesn’t make Lowry sound like such a buffoon. Instead of 4 lines make it five and get his whole comment in.

    “Also, it’s important to get the word “win” in there. This is nice word-smithing, but it’s conditions on the ground that really count.”

    This seemed editorially lazy to make a fun point against NR.

  7. Rich Lowry, the thinking man’s Bob Costas–a little, tiny smarmy frat-boy smartass wannabe who thinks labels are a substitute for reality, at least until after the first Tuesday in Novemeber.

    And the intellectually bankrupt NRO marches on….

  8. We have turned the corner. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

  9. I don’t want my earlier comment about Ken Mehlman to be taken as eliminationist. I harbor no ill will towards the guy. It must suck to shill for a crowd that is dead set on him ever getting married if the speculation is correct.

    Besides, I forgot that baby-faced, smarmy, little whelp Rich Lowry.

    I hereby amend my comment to “R. Lee Ermy should PT the both of them until they are severely winded, have really bad charley horses, and maybe even feeling a little pukey.”

  10. kohrabi,

    I’ve not read the piece either, just throwing out a guess about the message, which is usually something akin to “A vote for a Democrat is a vote for bin Laden.”

  11. i wonder who the poor soldier who made cover of the national review is?

  12. It’s a huge shit sandwich and we’re all gonna have to take a bite.

  13. Here’s how to win by adopting:
    Have every warmonger be forced to adopt the orphans of his or her “enemy.”

  14. Glad you walked it back de stijl.

    Just to reiterate: death threats, death wishes, and other forms of advocating violence against others, even if you are being sarcastic, are not tolerated in the comments.

  15. APL: “We have turned the corner. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

    Is that the exit or entrance you’re seeing?

  16. I was going to post the following excerpt of Lowry’s latest column and ask people to guess who wrote it, but you gave away the answer, David:

    In Iraq, as in Vietnam, we face a vicious insurgency that has worn down the will of the American public. In Iraq, as in Vietnam, we have failed to cut off the enemy from re-supply. In Iraq, as in Vietnam, we have had ever-shifting military strategies. In Iraq, as in Vietnam, we have had trouble building effective, clean governmental institutions in the soil of an alien culture. Most importantly, in Iraq, as in Vietnam, we face the prospect of defeat.

    http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZjE4NDhmOWY5MTc4MjNkYjc5NjE4MGFiOTUxZjAzMTA=

  17. I’d hate to see what would happen if we were losing.

  18. “i wonder who the poor soldier who made cover of the national review is?”

    I don’t know, but he does look constipated, doesn’t he?

  19. Is that the exit or entrance you’re seeing?

    I think it’s a train.

  20. Tim,

    Thanks for the reminder.

    I am a monster fan of David Niewert who writes extensively on eliminationist rhetoric as a tool used to advance autoritarian goals(http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/).

    After posting, I realized that I’d just done the thing that I claim to hate, just because I wanted to riff on one of my favorite quotes from FMJ.

    Maybe R. Lee Ermy should PT me!

  21. “i wonder who the poor soldier who made cover of the national review is?”

    I dunno, but I know who he ain’t: part of the fighting age staff of NRO, TNR, Weekly Standard, etc, etc, etc.

  22. It’s a huge shit sandwich and we’re all gonna have to take a bite.

    Yeah, I know, it sucks, but until a lot more people take a bite out of Islamofascism its not going to go away.

    Have every warmonger be forced to adopt the orphans of his or her “enemy.”

    And every pacifist should be required to adopt the orphans of those killed by aggressive violence.

  23. I dunno, but I know who he ain’t: part of the fighting age staff of NRO, TNR, Weekly Standard, etc, etc, etc.

    And Jon H, by deploying the chickenhawk argument, reveals himself to be, well, not worth bothering with.

  24. Reason was scooped by the Daily Show last night!

  25. Highnumber please tell more about the Daily show scoop.

  26. R C Dean writes: “And Jon H, by deploying the chickenhawk argument, reveals himself to be, well, not worth bothering with.”

    Well, you see, it just proves that the warmongers at those magazines don’t believe their own rhetoric. Because if it really were Western Civilization at stake, if the situation was as dire as they claim, they would be doing more than typing about it.

    What we have seen so far is the equivalent of if Jonah Goldberg and his family were threatened by home invaders, and his response in defense of his family were to run to the PC and post to the Corner.

    Simply put, judging by their actions, they don’t believe there is a great threat. They want *you* to believe so, so that they can use your fear to get you to act irrationally, and vote for Bush or Bush-proxies.

  27. Is the current Iraqi government going to be able to hold on and keep some level of peace for the people of Iraq after the Coalition forces leave? Or are the Coalition forces just postponing an inevitable slide into civil war?

    If the Iraqis aren’t able to hold on, then “Cut and Run” is the only option which makes sense.

  28. Someone please define winning? Under what metrics?

    If they mean, to elect a fragile government that is likely to fall apart over sectarian views without fully securing the capitol or defeating the guys you intended to defeat but plan on giving the problem to a novice military with the expectation of them achieving what the greatest military could not do in three years, then yeah, maybe we are.

  29. The idea is that we’ll do what it takes. “Stay the course,” having been taken off course by the opposition to the war, no longer works, rhetorically, so I guess they focus-grouped another slogan.

    They adapt there too. Double meanings are everywhere, if you attach the right context.

    Take the shortest path through a thesaurus between war and peace

    war
    contention
    debate
    negotiation
    mediation
    conciliation
    peace

    Any three consecutive words can refer to the same thing, yet the ends are opposite.

    You can do that with any pair of words.

    A slogan doesn’t stand a chance.

  30. I hope we’ve all learned out lesson. People that spent most of their careers propping up dictators for “realpolitik” reasons, poo-pooing nation building, and saying that trade was more important than promoting democracy are probably not going to be very good nation-builders and democracy spreaders. It’s like putting a monkey in charge of the bannana protection agency.

  31. The administration is really just reaping the results of all of its puffery and bullshit about what could and would happen in Iraq.

    As far as I can tell, sectarian and ethnic civil war was a foregone conclusion whenever–and by whatever means–Saddam exited the scene. Iraq is basically a “fake country” cobbled together by the British out of three incompatible Ottoman provinces.

    The Bush administration could have leveled with the public early on that there were no guarantees that (a) Iraq could continue as a viable country, or that (b) folks there would take to American Democracy like a dog to hamburger. Of course, that would not have gone over well in trying to sell the case for going to war in the first place. Maybe the more rational tack would have been to say “we’re going to remove this crazy Saddam guy and remove/destroy anything in Iraq that could be used as a weapon against us. Whatever happens after that is none of our concern.” But of course our modern emotionalist way of politics would never have permitted that. We have to show that we “care.”

  32. I get what you’re saying, and I haven’t read the National Review piece, but ‘We’re winning’ and ‘it isn’t going well’ aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. I happen to think we are winning, and also that it is not going well, that is, we are winning but could be doing so more efficiently with less casualties, cost, erosion of civil rights, etc. Eight steps forward and seven steps back is still moving forward, but not very well.

    This is nothing more than propaganda and nonsense. We’re winning in what sense? What you MEAN to say is that “we’re doing something,” but doing something is not winning.

  33. Bush apparently read L’?tranger while in Crawford.

  34. yo henry, that was mad funny.

  35. Is the new proclamation from the Ministry of Truth already making its way to the masses through the right wing media machine of Fox News?

    I suspect entire segments of the Rush O’Hannity shows are already planned around making sure the right wingers parrot the new catch phrase correctly and send “Cut and run” to the memory hole.

  36. “and send ‘Cut and run’ to the memory hole.”

    No, it’s “stay the course” that’s going to the memory hole.

  37. “We have to show that we “care.””

    The moment we are concerned about how Saddam treats his citizens, we are showing we care. We we want to give the Mid East democracy, we are showing we care. So maybe we are too caring.

    The Rush O’Hannity show… Scott your killing me with that one!!! ROFLMAO

  38. The moment we are concerned about how Saddam treats his citizens, we are showing we care. We we want to give the Mid East democracy, we are showing we care. So maybe we are too caring.

    Yes, and all of those things have gotten us into the current pickle we are in over there. I know this is terribly “realpolitik” of me, but none of that crap is our business, except to the extent that the Hussein regime represented a threat to the USA. Assuming for the sake of argument that such a threat actually existed, then once it was thoroughly removed Iraq once more resumed its status as being ‘none of our business.’

    Does a divided and chaotic Iraq represent a threat to the USA? That is a good question to ask in the present circumstances. The threat of terrorist activity on U.S. soil seems to originate primarily from Muslims residing in Europe, based on recent events.

  39. Thanks SR my bad.

    I can’t keep all of the stupid slogans straight anymore. Liberals are cut and runners, conservatives were staying the course but now they are winning by adapting in the war against Islamofascism or the artist formerly known as the Global War on Terror that is being fought over there so we don’t have to fight them here. At the same time we are also fighting off the barbarian hordes in the War on Christmas, the continuing saga of the culture wars and the endless War on Drugs that brings us full circle to the terrorists that are funded by drug dealer profits.

  40. What’s the rule, if the area of discipline has the word ‘science’ in it, that means it isn’t (political science, social science). If you have to keep telling people it’s a real disease, it isn’t. If you hve to keep telling us we’re winning, it means we’re not.

  41. Does anyone really think we could just go into Iraq, overthrow their government, and then pull out because it’s none of our buisiness? Don’t you think such a policy might have unintended consequences, such as creating a power vacuum in the heart of the middle east? Iraqi oil production would likely have suffered. There is even the possibility that people would blame us for the ensuing mess. Of course that seems to be happening anyway. If only the president had someone in the State Department to warn him that invading Iraq would saddle us with all it’s problems.

  42. What’s the rule, if the area of discipline has the word ‘science’ in it, that means it isn’t (political science, social science). If you have to keep telling people it’s a real disease, it isn’t. If you hve to keep telling us we’re winning, it means we’re not.

  43. What’s the rule, if the area of discipline has the word ‘science’ in it, that means it isn’t (political science, social science). If you have to keep telling people it’s a real disease, it isn’t. If you hve to keep telling us we’re winning, it means we’re not.

  44. kwais,

    Last night they played tape of GWB repeating “stay the course” again & again, then they played tape of Mehlman being interviewed (Meet the Press?) giving the “win by adapting” line 3 or 4 times. Funny if typical Daily Show bit.

  45. ” The threat of terrorist activity on U.S. soil seems to originate primarily from Muslims residing in Europe, based on recent events.”

    And lately, Pakistan, or having Pakistan connections.

  46. “I hope we’ve all learned out lesson. People that spent most of their careers propping up dictators for “realpolitik” reasons, poo-pooing nation building, and saying that trade was more important than promoting democracy are probably not going to be very good nation-builders and democracy spreaders. It’s like putting a monkey in charge of the bannana protection agency.”
    Plunge, I think you summed up a lot of chickenhawks right there.

  47. Someone please define winning? Under what metrics?

    Well, it used to be that Iraq would be a secular democracy that would become a wealthy country. Then all the other Arabs would see what a mistake they had been making by being Islamists and supporting dictators. The other governments of the middle east were then supposed to fall, the Arab people would be glad for their freedom and oil would be ten cents a barrel.

    Now, we just hope to stop a human rights catastrophe. Really, does anybody see a way that this doesn’t end very, very badly? As in less than 20+ years of civil war?

  48. Really, does anybody see a way that this doesn’t end very, very badly? As in less than 20+ years of civil war?

    Carve up Iraq? At least then it wouldn’t be a civil war.

  49. Question: How do you “cut and run” from a war you should never have fought in the first place?

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