McCLELLAN ON BUSH: WHY SHOOT THE MESSENGER? New York Times
May 29, 2008
The Bush Administration’s reaction to former presidential spokesman Scott’s McClellan’s new memoir of his White House days -- What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception — has been sadly predictable: character assassination.
Poor Scott must be “disgruntled” (current White House press secretary Dana Perino). Or “self-serving” (former Homeland Security Advisor Frances Townsend).
Or he’s exaggerating his past role. “It shows how out of the loop he was” (former presidential adviser Karl Rove).
Or the Scott McClellan they knew has been kidnapped and replaced by a body double. “This does not sound like Scott, it really doesn’t” (Mr. Rove, again). “You’ve heard the way Scott briefed -- it doesn’t sound like him” (former press secretary Ari Fleischer). Or President Bush, via Ms. Perino: “he doesn’t recognize this as the Scott McClellan that he hired and confided in.”
What there has not been much of, however, is an attempt to engage the substance of Mr. McClellan’s charges.
Mr. Rove did deny one of the book’s explosive charges -- that he and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr., Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff, met to coordinate their stories about the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Mr. McClellan said they set him up to tell a false story to the world, and deceived the president as well.
That only makes sense, since at least one Democratic congressman, Robert Wexler of Florida, is calling for an “aggressive” investigation of the charge.
But where are the denials of Mr. McClellan’s other points?
Like its assertion that -- as many Americans already believe -- the administration relied on propaganda, and was loose with the facts, in its attempt to build public support in the run-up to the Iraq War.
Or the charge that the entire administration was marked by a “permanent campaign culture.”
Or Mr. McClellan’s overriding point: that Mr. Bush came to Washington to change the culture of the capital and ended up perpetuating it.
The attacks on Mr. McClellan were so quick, so plentiful, and so similar-sounding that rather than contradict his point that the Bush Administration was all-campaign-all-the-time it actually seemed to confirm it. But then again, is there really anyone who’s been paying attention for the last seven and a half years that had not already reached Mr. McClellan’s conclusions -- long before he started his book tour?