Pray, of course
Carlton M. Caves
2006 October 24

This is my completion of George Stephanopoulos's recent ABC interview with President Bush. Thanks to Think Progress for links to Bush avowals that he and his administration will "stay the course" in Iraq.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Exactly what I wanted to ask you about, because James Baker said that he's looking for something between cut and run ...

BUSH: Cut and run and ...

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... and stay the course.

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.

INTERVIEWER: What about your speech on April 5, 2004, at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina? You said, "So we've got tough action in Iraq. But we will stay the course."

BUSH: Let me explain that one. What I said was, "Play the course." The CPA and the military commanders said they needed a golf course in the Green Zone, for a little after-hours recreation---you know, they can't get out of the Green Zone, it's too dangerous---so we did it. Pretty easy, really. You put the holes where the insurgent bombs have fallen, make some greens around them, and pretty soon you've got a course with as many holes as you could ever want. This is an example of how we've always been adjusting our tactics---and I mean adjusting them constantly---and it's worked out pretty good. Kind of big holes, but that keeps the scores down---and that makes everybody happy. It's a little hazardous playing, of course, but it's a war zone. There's gonna be risk.

INTERVIEWER: In remarks you made in Crawford on August 4, 2005, with President Uribe of Colombia at your side, you said, "We will stay the course, we will complete the job in Iraq." Did you mean that we will stay the course?

BUSH: I might have been mumbling on this one, since I was in Crawford---on vacation, for God's sake---and I stayed on vacation till Katrina ruined things.

But what I said was, "Flay the source," and I was talking about how these leakers are out of hand. Here's an example of what I mean, from last spring, I think. I get a report that says our presence in Iraq is creating more terrorists, so I classify it immediately, before I even read it. It's just discouraging to read that kind of stuff, and the American people are better off uninformed, like me. And then somebody in the government goes and leaks it, so we've got to track them down and do something with them.

Now this was a hard one, and it was Karl who came up with "flay." We needed a rhyme, but I didn't even know what it meant, so I had Bartlett look it up after Karl left. And what do you know, Karl came through again, like he always does. It means to lash or flog to the point that skin is stripped off. This begins to sound like torture, so now I'm interested. Maybe we can write some flaying rules---secret, of course, but you need rules just to keep things legal---and then we can really start going after these leakers.

INTERVIEWER: What about your Rose Garden press conference with Prime Minister Blair on April 16, 2004? You declared, "And freedom will be the cure for those who harbor deep resentment and hatred in their heart. And I appreciate the Prime Minister understanding that vision, as well. It's a wonderful feeling to have a strong ally in believing in the power of free societies and liberty. And that's why we're going to stay the course in Iraq. And that's why ..."

BUSH: Now listen, I actually said, "Display no remorse," and there's been no change in that---no change at all. And, really, this is our main strategy---I mean, our main political strategy. Well, maybe it's a tactic, because our strategy is to slip in a signing statement that says we can classify all these cut-and-run Democrats as enemy combatants and ship them off to Guantanamo. Then we'd have a real country to be proud of. Just thinking about it makes my day. But Karl says I'm supposed to leave that kind of red meat to Ann and Rush and Bill, so what I want to say is that we should have slipped that in while nobody was paying any attention to those signing statements. Probably too late now. But who needs it anyway. As the unitary executive---whatever that means, I like "decider" better---I'm sure I can do it without any kind of statement. It's always better if you work in secret anyway.

But back to your question. If we show any remorse, these cut-and-run Democrats and the radical liberal press will be all over us. So, I don't show any, and nobody can say I ever have.

INTERVIEWER: One last question, Mr. President. In your remarks on arrival in Salt Lake City on August 30, 2006, you said, "Iraq is the central front in this war on terror. If we leave the streets of Baghdad before the job is done, we will have to face the terrorists in our own cities. We will stay the course, we will help this young Iraqi democracy succeed, and victory in Iraq will be a major ideological triumph in the struggle of the 21st century." That's just two months ago. Did you mean it?

BUSH: Listen close this time. What I said in Salt Lake was, "Pray, of course," and the good folks in Utah understood exactly what I meant. We're constantly adjusting our tactics, and prayer---you know, I pray every day, really every hour. Prayer, now that's a big part of our tactics---well, it always has been, but our commanders on the ground tell me that if there ever was a time to pray, that time is now. Prayer is our main tactic now. And I've always thought it was, except---well, Karl told me I'm supposed to talk about how we're constantly adjusting our tactics, but our strategy never changes---it's always victory---but it's hard for me to see how prayer can be just a tactic. It's more of a strategy really, and it's been my main strategy right along.

I sent the troops in with a prayer and a song---God Bless America, of course---and I want the conservative base to know that prayer has always been my main strategy---really my only strategy. Dick and Don tell me we need more than prayer, and they've tried some other stuff, but as Don says, you go with the President you've got, and for me, prayer is the whole deal. And, really, has anything they've tried worked any better?

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