He said it on March 24, and March 22 -- and on March 16. And March 9. Oh, and March 13. Did I mention March 21? (He said it four times that day.) He said it March 28. And an "unnamed official" said it on March 29.
He said it at a press conference. He said it after a cabinet meeting. He said it in Wheeling, West Virginia. He said it at the "Mike Sodrel for Congress and Indiana Victory 2006 Reception." He said it at the National Republican Congressional Committee Dinner. He said it at the Georgia Republican Party President's Day dinner. (The "unnamed official" said -- well, the reporter who gave him cover wouldn't say where he said it.)
In all these comfortable, safe, even plush locations, he said it. But he didn't demonstrate it. What was he talking about? "Nerve."
"I will not lose my nerve in the face of assassins and killers."
"They have said that it's just a matter of time, just a matter of time before the United States loses its nerve."
"We will not lose our nerve."
Why? Because "...someday, someday, if we do not lose our nerve and our will, an American President will be talking to a duly elected leader from Iraq working together to keep the peace."
... unless, of course ...
"... we were to lose our nerve and withdraw prematurely."
"If people in Iran, for example, who desire to have an Iranian-style democracy .. see us lose our nerve, it's likely to undermine their boldness and their desire,"
"The enemy believes that we will weaken and lose our nerve. And I just got to tell you, I'm not weak and I'm not going to lose my nerve."
The robotic repetition of an inane focus-group phrase like "lose our nerve" is annoying, but nothing more. It's the use of the first-person singular by this particular individual, however, that makes the remarks offensive.
"I will not lose my nerve."
"I'm not weak and I'm not going to lose my nerve."
Our soldiers are the ones in the line of fire, Mr. President, while Halliburton or whichever favored vendor you brought in charges them for the Internet access they use to keep in touch with their families. And you want us to think you're the one with "nerve"?
This is why other Republicans are running from Bush like cockroaches from a switched-on light. Character will out, and the President's plunging poll numbers reflect the public's belated realization of who and what he is.
This particular buzzword's going to bring him down. It's "bring it on," squared. Here's a man who's spent a lifetime losing his nerve, who blinks in thinly disguised panic when he's asked a question that's not in the script.
Suddenly his character is crystallizing for the American people, and so -- by inference -- is that of the party that chose him to lead it;
- "Nerve" is playing the game on the field, not wearing cheerleader whites and waving your arms from the sidelines;
- "Nerve" is serving in combat when you support a war, not hiding behind beer kegs and sorority girls' dresses while others die in your place;
- "Nerve" is making your own way in the world, not spending a lifetime financially dependent on your family and its friends;
- "Nerve" is letting all the votes be counted and standing or falling on the results, not sending John Bolton into the vote counting rooms in Florida to say "I'm from the Bush/Cheney campaign and I'm here to stop the voting."
-'Nerve" is not sending other people's kids to die or be maimed to prop up your failing image as a strong leader.
I could go on, but the zeitgeist is doing my work for me. Like they say down South: "Son, I just got one nerve left in my body, and you just got on it."
This pathetic tactic lights the President from within like an X-ray, revealing his nature for the entire country to see: The President is a weakling.
This man, whose biography is a portrait in cowardice and weakness, is a lame duck President. For that reason, I mention his character more as an icon for the GOP's character than to bash the man just for the hell of it. Personally, Bush is already yesterday's fight. But symbolically, he's tomorrow's.
I hope the American people remember these pitiful attempts at bravado, for they should come to characterize the Republican Party as a whole. As Olympia Snowe, Bill Frist, Chuck Hagel, and their other would-be leaders continue to demonstrate, the GOP is a party of weaklings and cowards.
And this draft-dodging cheerleader and his draft-dodging gun-waving VP sit in air-conditioned safety, lecturing the rest of us on "losing our nerve" while they play with our soldiers' lives and our country's security?
They've got some nerve.
Follow RJ Eskow on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rjeskow