Scott McClellan Cashes In

Scott McClellan Cashes In Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan has published a tell-all book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception, taking swipes at the Bush administration. Politico’s Mike Allen has an extensive review and summary. The upshot of the book:

“I still like and admire President Bush,” McClellan writes. “But he and his advisers confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war. … In this regard, he was terribly ill-served by his top advisers, especially those involved directly in national security.”

Since that’s been my assessment for the last several years, it strikes me as exactly right. As to the specific charges thrown out by the book, though, I’m rather less interested. Has was a Bush confidante, dutifully passed on the administration’s talking points, and participated in all the things he’s now saying were so awful. So he was either lying to us then or he’s lying to us now. Why should we take him at his word? Either a man has integrity or he doesn’t.

Most of the blog reaction thus far has come from Bush critics and has been gleeful. But I think David Corn gets it right.

Apparently McClellan has seen the light. Well, where’s his plea for forgiveness? If he were truly contrite about his involvement in a deceptive, propaganda-wielding administration, McClellan could demonstrate his sincerity by pledging that all profits from his belated truth-telling will go to charities supporting the families of American soldiers killed or injured in Iraq. For history’s sake, it is good that McClellan is confirming what most Americans (according to polls) have long known: the Bush administration trampled the truth to win public backing for the Iraq war. But as an enabler (witting or not) of that process, McClellan owes the public more than a for-sale account. He should not profit from this book, making bucks for correcting war-supporting falsehoods that he defended. He ought to be doing penance. True heart-felt confessions come free.

Jason Zengerle is also rather harsh:

Put aside the fact that McClellan has ample personal reasons for writing a harsh book about the Bush White Hosue (two of those reasons are named Rove and Libby). Writing a harsh tell-all memoir of the Bush years is just good business sense at this point. You only need to look back at the anemic sales of Ari Fleischer’s rosy, no-tell memoir of his White House years to realize that–and Fleischer’s low-seller came out at a time when Bush’s approval rating was higher than 28 percent.

So kudos to McClellan. His book displays a calculating mind that was never much in evidence in the White House press room.

McClellan is, at best, as prostitute. If he thought these things were wrong at the time, he had a duty to fight to stop it and, if overruled, resign in protest and inform Congress. He didn’t do that. He gladly enjoyed the perquisites of power and is now cashing in by betraying the confidence of his former bosses and colleagues. He’s possessed of all the moral fiber of a jailhouse snitch.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    Too early to comment much about it, past saying it’s a book clearly designed to cash in. You can always sell books by telling people what they want to hear…. particularly leftists.




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  2. Bithead,

    I don’t think it is only leftists who like to hear what they want to hear.




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  3. DL says:

    One of the objective criticims of Bush is the selection of this incompetent as spokesman for Bush. His appearance of being so easily intimidated by the hardball anti-bushites in the media only added to hurting the presidency. Dick Cheney cloned would have been better at the job dealing with all those America haters.




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  4. Yes, Bush “veered TERRIBLY OFF course” — Scott McClellan’s own words –, and the country is NOW paying the TERRIBLE prize for it. SHAMEFUL.




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  5. nick says:

    Ha, insider’s confirmation that we have dirt bags and clowns running the White House. Freakin Republican dirty bags gave us 8 years escalating inflations, out of control deficit and a war nobody wants!




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  6. John Burgess says:

    Nick: a war nobody wants!

    I wanted it. Still do, though I’d like to see it run better.




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  7. Bithead says:

    I don’t think it is only leftists who like to hear what they want to hear.

    perhaps not, but whom do you suppose the book is geared for? those doing victory dances at TALKLEFT, for example?




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  8. M1EK says:

    Shame, James (I expect this kind of hackery out of Bithead).




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  9. James Joyner says:

    Shame, James (I expect this kind of hackery out of Bithead).

    You should probably make an actual argument here.

    My contention is that 1) the thrust of what McClellan says rings true but that 2) McClellan was either lying then or now and 3) he’s a rat cashing in.

    Your response on those points?




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  10. anjin-san says:

    he’s a rat cashing in

    He’s still a Bush man. Its his nature…




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  11. HD says:

    McClellan at least had the integrity to come forth and admit what most Americans already knew about Bush & his GOP. I’m not surprised at all to hear about this Bush, Cheney , Rove & GOP corruption that has screwed over this nation for the last 7 years. Also…it will come as no surprise that the White Houses only response to the book will be to take cheap shots that accuse McClellan of being disgruntled or disingenuous. Since they have no moral compass or integrity to stand on…and since the record of Republican corruption and treachery against the USA these last 7 years speaks for itself…they really do not have a leg to stand on in their defense against the content in McClellan’s book. If Dana Perino and others loyal only to the Bush Crime Family and the Republican Party had any sense, they would simply keep their mouths shut and quit accusing McClellan of being a disgruntled person. The more you complain about McClellan’s book, the more obvious you make your own sins against the USA.




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  12. Fence says:

    I’m new here, but James your posts are usually more real-world fair and grounded than this one.

    My contention is that 1) the thrust of what McClellan says rings true

    yep

    but that 2) McClellan was either lying then or now

    Duh. I haven’t read the book or been inside the Bush White House, but I have a hunch on “then”. Show me a White House press secretary from the last 40 years that hasn’t lied on the job. If his book were the fiction, wouldn’t the din be on questioning his facts, and not his “integrity”?

    and 3) he’s a rat cashing in.

    Everyone cashes in. The people who don’t talk are quiet because they think there is more money or prestige in that (ie, the next job), or because there is no dirt to tell. Or all of the sudden do you have second thoughts about capitalism?

    Obviously it would have better (for us, not him) if he spoke out before, but it seems doubtful that doing so would have stopped the war — rank and file Americans had swallowed the kool-aid already.




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  13. James Joyner says:

    Or all of the sudden do you have second thoughts about capitalism?

    I don’t question McClellan’s right to keep his profits, merely his integrity.

    your posts are usually more real-world fair and grounded than this one.

    Thanks, I guess. The point of this post is about profiting from an enterprise and then cashing in on betrayal. I don’t find that honorable even if the original enterprise was a dishonorable one.

    While Watergate was repugnant, I have enormous respect for Chuck Colson and grudging respect for Gordon Liddy while I hold John Dean in contempt.

    Colson refused to plead guilty to something he didn’t do but fessed up to a crime the prosecutors didn’t even know about, served the max sentence, and then devoted his life to ministering to prisoners. Liddy refused to talk, period, and served by far the longest sentence. Dean, meanwhile, ratted on his former co-conspirators to save his own ass.




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  14. Fence says:

    James, I get your point, but let’s just assume for the sake of my point that the lead up to war was in fact a snow job by the Administration. (Obviously a debatable point). In that case, on the scale of honor/dishonor, participating in the snow-job chalks up so many dishonorable points that the few additional points that might be assessed for “ratting” it out for cash later don’t put him in much worse a camp than he was in already. To me, what Liddy and Dean did in the early 70s are pretty much the same. Your respect for Colson may have more to do with the idea of redemption for later acts than deeming what he did while in the White House “respectful.”

    And frankly, I find books like Dean’s Blind Ambition useful whether they are true or not — reading stories of how things went wrong are useful for those who follow in their footsteps. Or at least useful for those who read.

    Actually, your mention of Dean made me chuckle a bit, since you also said of McCllelan, “If he thought these things were wrong at the time, he had a duty to fight to stop it and, if overruled, resign in protest and inform Congress.” That is one way of viewing what Dean did. Can I gently ask whether there is any winning you over for someone with something harsh to say about a Republican President?

    Either a man has integrity or he doesn’t.

    Hmm, this black and white dichotomy sounds so familiar . . . I can’t quite place it. I think from some guy standing behind a podium with an eagle seal and in front of a blue curtain with an oval sign . . . dang, I can’t remember. 😉




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  15. M1EK says:

    What we hear from McClellan is a combination of “I went along with some bad stuff” and “they did some other bad stuff I didn’t know about at the time”. Depending on the ratio, one can certainly make the case that he went along too much.

    But the problem with your posting, James, is that you don’t at all care that Bush’s group dragged the country to war on false pretenses – your outrage is limited to the guy who snitched.




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  16. Bithead says:

    M1EK, you’re making some asumptions, aren’t you?
    And, you speak up now because you managed to find someone who credits those assumptions.




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  17. Bithead says:

    And, of course because I do not credit those assumptions, I’m a hack?

    Get off my lawn.




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  18. James Joyner says:

    But the problem with your posting, James, is that you don’t at all care that Bush’s group dragged the country to war on false pretenses – your outrage is limited to the guy who snitched.

    Depending on one’s perspective, that’s either old news or still not known. As a general rule, I tend to discount the statements of admitted liars who stand to profit from more lies.

    My longstanding view on this (going back to perhaps mid-2003) has been that Bush and company propagandized the war, overhyping evidence that supported their position and downplaying countervailing evidence. I’m somewhat less than outraged by that given the political environment and what I think was a sincere belief that they were pursuing the greater good. But, yes, it’s highly problematic.




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  19. anjin-san says:

    I’m somewhat less than outraged by that given the political environment and what I think was a sincere belief that they were pursuing the greater good. But, yes, it’s highly problematic.

    This level of parsing and triangulation would do a Clinton proud…




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  20. M1EK says:

    “Problematic”. Wow. Them’s pretty strong words compared to this:

    He gladly enjoyed the perquisites of power and is now cashing in by betraying the confidence of his former bosses and colleagues. He’s possessed of all the moral fiber of a jailhouse snitch.

    Yeah, silly me for presuming you were still apologizing for Bush.




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  21. seekthetruth says:

    …perhaps not, but whom do you suppose the book is geared for,those doing victory dances at TALKLEFT, for example?
    Hey Bithead, maybe it’s to open the eyes of the blind.




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