It seems the whole country is abuzz following the publication of former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan’s tell-all book: “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.”
One of the first things that jumped out at me was how McClellan’s “observations” so perfectly mirror the Democrat Party’s talking points about George Bush and the Iraq war – even the talking points that are clearly bogus. One doesn’t need to be a Republican to know that George Bush didn’t lie about weapons of mass destruction. To lie, one must first know the truth and deliberately falsify it.
Bill Clinton believed Saddam had WMD. He cited Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction as justification for the four-day bombing of Baghdad during the 1998 Operation Desert Fox campaign. And so did the majority of the Democrats, all of whom are on public record warning of the dangers posed by Saddam.
All of the Western intelligence agencies – without exception – believed that Saddam Hussein had WMD. The consensus opinion of the U.S. intelligence community was that Saddam had WMD.
There were a handful in each agency, perhaps, that questioned the intelligence, but they represented the minority opinion. Hindsight is 20/20 – but nobody had the benefit of hindsight in March 2003.
As to McClellan’s book: “It appears to be more about trying to justify personal views and opinions than it does about looking at the results that we are achieving on behalf of the American people. If you look back at his past comments and his past actions, they contradict his current rhetoric. I talked to you all a little bit about that earlier today. Go back and look at exactly what he has said in the past and compare that with what he is saying today.”
That is not a quote from the White House dismissing Scott McClellan. That is a quote from Scott McClellan dismissing Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill’s discredited 2004 tell-all book, “The Price of Loyalty.”
One might ask of McClellan, “Well, why, all of a sudden, if he had all these grave concerns, did he not raise these sooner? This is one-and-a-half years after he left the administration. And now, all of a sudden, he’s raising these grave concerns that he claims he had. And I think you have to look at some of the facts. One, he is bringing this up in the heat of a presidential campaign. He has written a book and he certainly wants to go out there and promote that book. Certainly let’s look at the politics of it.”
But that would be plagiarizing the question, since it was first posed by Scott McClelland, this time about former White House terrorism chief Richard Clarke’s book, “Against All Enemies.”
McClellan and his book have several points in common with both Clarke’s and O’Neill’s books that few in the mainstream media now fawning over McClellan have noted. In the first place, all three former officials are “former” because they were fired for poor performance.
All three seem to share the sentiment that if the president had just listened to them, then all would be right with the world. All three claim to know, to the level of certainty, what was in the minds of the various players in their political dramas.
All three wrote books critical of the Bush administration. All three books became best-sellers that made their authors millionaires. All three were feted as having “broken through the famous web of loyalty” that “surrounds the president” – as if loyalty and honor were mutually exclusive.
Other books that were favorable to the administration, like “Rebel-in-Chief” by Fred Barnes, “Strategery” by Bill Sammon, “The Right Man” by David Frum, well, they didn’t do so well.
But an insider book critical of the administration is a guaranteed No. 1 best-seller.
McClellan’s predecessor, Ari Fleischer, (whom, it is worth recalling, was NOT fired for poor performance) appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America.
“This is heartbreaking to me,” Fleischer said. “This makes me wonder if Scott ever believed the things he said from the podium.”
Fleischer said that for McClellan to now “turn tail and say these things … makes you question his convictions … either now, or when he stood at the podium.”
Former top Bush aide Karl Rove compared McClellan to a “left-wing blogger. … If he had these moral qualms,” Rove told Fox News Channel, “he should have spoken up about them.”
“For him to do this now strikes me as self-serving, disingenuous and unprofessional,” Fran Townsend, former head of the White House’s counterterrorism office, told CNN.
And there is some informative value in noting that McClellan’s chosen venue to kick off his book was the openly anti-administration network NBC. Wednesday, he was on the NBC “Today” show. McClellan was scheduled to appear last night on MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” and Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” with Tim Russert.
When approached yesterday, McClellan refused to speak to reporters on the grounds he had signed an exclusive contract with NBC and therefore couldn’t comment on his bombshell charges.
It is a dead-bang certainty that the Bush administration has made missteps and mistakes over the course of the last eight years. But it is not a blind defense of the Bush administration to question why McClellan chose to release his book “in the heat of a presidential campaign” as he charged against O’Neill.
Or to ask, “why now?” or, “why didn’t you speak up then when it would have made a difference?”
But nobody is asking those questions because they are unnecessary – the answers are self-evident. His “dedication to the truth” is currently under exclusive [paid] contract to NBC, and his book is an overnight best-seller.
But if you really want to know “What Happened” to Scott McClellan, I’d suggest taking the advice of an earlier political whistleblower, “Deep Throat” from the Watergate era.
“Follow the money.”
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