"Stay the course" has been so discredited as the way to proceed in Iraq that House Republicans tried to fob their used slogan off on the Democrats today.
"This is the stay-the-course, stiffen-the-enemy, begin-our-collapse resolution," Texas Republican Louie Gohmert said of the resolution opposing President Bush's decision to send 21,500 more troops into Iraq.
"The resolution the Democrats advance today is a vote for the status quo," echoed the Republican whip, Roy Blunt, of Missouri, as the Congress began a three-day marathon of debate in advance of a vote on Friday.
A vote for the resolution, Blunt said, is "a vote for the current strategy because it's a vote not to change strategy. The current strategy isn't working."
Which is why the president, on the other hand, "continues to come up with new ideas to win this global war on terror," argued Georgia Republican Lynn Westmoreland.
Yet, he said, "some people on the other side believe that if we pull out, people are going to go back to tending sheep and herding goats."
Though dozens of Republicans are expected to break ranks by the end of the week, the loyalists went first.
Clearly, they did not want to be on record as having predicted that the escalation would succeed.
"I can't guarantee it will work," said Minority Leader John Boehner, of Ohio. "Now, there's no guarantee of success," said Duncan Hunter, of California.
But they did cast opposition to the buildup as nothing short of treasonous.
"This debate is really about whether this is a great nation," said Peter Hoekstra, of Michigan.
Indiana's Dan Burton likened criticism of the president to criticism of Churchill's opposition to Hitler before World War II. And Georgia's Jack Kingston argued that today's debate sent a horrible message to, well, dead people.
"What does this say to servicemen who've already lost their lives? Sorry, but we didn't mean it?"
Many of the Democrats who spoke in the early hours of the debate were combat veterans themselves, and several said the non-binding resolution was only a first step toward withdrawal from a fight that had in fact already been lost.
Stephen Cohen, of Tennessee, described himself as a fight fan and likened the U.S. to the boxer Floyd Patterson, who was a great fighter and the heavyweight champion, "but couldn't beat Muhammed Ali. Now, a good trainer would throw in the towel, call a TKO and realize we can't fight Ali. It's not our fight. There are certain places we can't go."
Not every Democrat tore the roof off, rhetorically speaking; Michigan's John Dingell said his party's message to the administration was, "Find a new mechanism to prevail in this matter."
But Iraq vet Patrick Murphy, of Pennsylvania, did, and without ever raising his voice, which cracked as he named friends who had served with him in the 82nd Airborne, and "never made it home."
"The time for more troops was four years ago," he said quietly.
At the Vietnam Memorial, just down the hill from the Capitol and a short walk through the snow that fell on Washington today, he said, "half the soldiers listed on that wall died after our leaders knew it could not be won."