Friday, May 30, 2008

McClellan Defends Himself Against the White House: Plame Leak Was the Crossroads

In an interview Thursday on the Today Show, Scott McClellan explained his scathing attack on the Bush Administration in his memoirs, "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception," and defended himself against Bush Administration officials who have said he is simply disgruntled about being forced out of his post as White House Press Secretary.

In fact, on Wednesday, current White House Press Secretary Dana Perino:
“Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience in the White House. For those of us who fully supported him before, during and after his time as press secretary, this is puzzling and sad. This is not the Scott we knew.”
It appears they are not just saying he's ticked off; they are also saying he's either brainwashed or emotionally disturbed.

In a lengthy interview with Meredith Vieira, McClellan touched on several points.
Vieira: The book is called "What Happened," which is the same question people are asking about you this morning, particularly folks who are watching now in Washington, D.C. What happened t to the Bush loyalist who defended this administration, stood up for it when you were a part of it. Why now write such a critical book?

McClellan: Well, because I believe it's important to look back and reflect on my experience, and talk to people about what I learned and what we can learn from it - to hopefully change Washington for the better. The larger message kind of been lost in the mix of some of the initial reaction to the book, and I think it's important to go to that larger message. My hope is by writing this book and sharing openly and honestly what I lived and what I learned during my time at the White House, that in some small way it might help move us beyond the destructive partisan warfare of the past 15 years.
Ah yes, partisanship. Which is why our government, which was built with checks and balances, is so unbalanced. Since it requires a 2/3 majority to override a veto, and since most vote along party lines no matter what their conscience may be, overrides almost never happen. This places an enormous amount of power in the hands of one man.

McClellan: The White House would prefer that I not talk openly about my experiences, but I think there's a larger purpose to this book and that is the message I just talked about: it's really about looking at this permanent campaign culture in Washington, D.C. and talking about how can we move beyond it.

When I went to work for President Bush back in 1999, then Governor Bush, I had all this great hope that we were going to come to Washington and change it. He talked about being a uniter, not a divider. This was a president that had a record as governor of Texas of being a bipartisan leader, of someone who brought people together to get things done; an approval rating well into the 70s.

And then we got to Washington, and I think we got caught up in playing the Washington game the way it's played today and I think a lot of Americans like me would like to see us move beyond that bitter partisanship that exists today.

Vieira: So he let you down then, this man that you believed in?

McClellan: Well, I think I'm disappointed that things didn't turn out the way that we all hoped they would turn out. We all had high hopes coming in. And I think this is sharing my personal experience of going through that, coming into Washington, D.C. as deputy Press Secretary, then becoming the White House spokeman, the White House Press Secretary. And by the last 10 months or so of my time at the White House, I grew increasingly disillusioned by things. When the first revelation came out that what I had been told by Karl Rove and "Scooter" Libby, that they were no way involved in the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity, which we now know is not true, despite the fact that I went to the podium and said "these people assured me they were not involved," uh, I started to become a more little disillusioned about things.
So it was the Valerie Plame episode that really started things unraveling for McClellan.

BTW, what does McClellan mean by "permanent campaign culture." While explaining the innuendo and "shading of the truth" that Bush and his cronies used in the prelude to the Iraq War, McClellan explained it as follows:
What it means is that everything is centered on trying to shape and manipulate the narrative to one's advantage. Each party or each side is trying to do that. That's Washington has become today; they're trying to manipulate the narrative to their advantage. And that's the way the game's played; it's a battle over power and influence, and how can we win those battles, how can we win over public opinion, instead of what it should be more on, which is bipartisan deliberation and compromise; that's become a distant second.
He's probably not the first one to say it, but he's certainly got it right. It's less about what's good for Americans, as how can we spin it to make it look good for Americans, while at the same time advancing our party.

Example: low taxes, always trumpeted by the GOP. Hey, I'm sorry, someone has to pay for stuff. If you don't want, say, high gasoline taxes, fine, but when those bridges start to fall, look to yourself for why.

Watch the clip from Thursday's Today Show.