Thursday, May 29, 2008

Republican of the Week!

What Happened to Scott?

Scott McClellan has released his memoirs, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.

Chapter headings are brutally revealing:
  • The Permanent Campaign
  • Deniability
  • Triumph and Illusion
  • Revelation and Humiliation
  • Out of Touch
The most intriguing issues raised from the excerpts emerging so far is suggested in the title: McClellan seems to blame it on 'Washington' and the 'Liberal Press'.

On one hand McClellan says the Bush White House suffered from a “permanent campaign” mentality, and that policy decisions were inextricably interwoven with politics because,
I think the concern about liberal bias helps to explain the tendency of the Bush team to build walls against the media ... Unfortunately, the press secretary at times found himself outside those walls as well.
OTOH, he blames it on the so-called liberal press:
If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq.

The collapse of the administration's rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. … In this case, the 'liberal media' didn't live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.
Equally revealing and diagnostic is McClellan's uptake on the issue of cocaine in Bush's life. The author traces Bush's penchant for self-deception back to an overheard incident on the campaign trail in 1999 when the then-governor was dogged by reports of possible cocaine use in his younger days. The book recounts an evening in a hotel suite "somewhere in the Midwest." Bush was on the phone with a supporter and motioned for McClellan to have a seat:
"The media won't let go of these ridiculous cocaine rumors,"I heard Bush say. "You know, the truth is I honestly don't remember whether I tried it or not. We had some pretty wild parties back in the day, and I just don't remember."

I remember thinking to myself, How can that be? How can someone simply not remember whether or not they used an illegal substance like cocaine? It didn't make a lot of sense.

Bush isn't the kind of person to flat-out lie.

So I think he meant what he said in that conversation about cocaine. It's the first time when I felt I was witnessing Bush convincing himself to believe something that probably was not true, and that, deep down, he knew was not true. And his reason for doing so is fairly obvious -- political convenience.

..... It would not be the last time Bush mishandled potential controversy. But the cases to come would involve the public trust, and the failure to deal with them early, directly and head-on would lead to far greater suspicion and far more destructive partisan warfare.
That and other character flaws led to Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq:
History appears poised to confirm what most Americans today have decided -- that the decision to invade Iraq was a serious strategic blunder.

No one, including me, can know with absolute certainty how the war will be viewed decades from now when we can more fully understand its impact. What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary.

President Bush has always been an instinctive leader more than an intellectual leader. He is not one to delve into all the possible policy options -- including sitting around engaging in extended debate about them -- before making a choice. Rather, he chooses based on his gut and his most deeply held convictions. Such was the case with Iraq.

Bush is plenty smart enough to be president. But as I've noted his leadership style is based more on instinct than deep intellectual debate.
Bush's top advisers, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice,
played right into his thinking, doing little to question it or cause him to pause long enough to fully consider the consequences before moving forward ... Contradictory intelligence was largely ignored or simply disregarded.
Vice President Dick Cheney "the magic man" mysteriously directing outcomes in
every policy area he cared about, from the invasion of Iraq to expansion of presidential power to the treatment of detainees and the use of surveillance against terror suspects .....Cheney always seemed to get his way..
In Iraq, Bush saw
his opportunity to create a legacy of greatness ..... Bush and his advisers knew that the American people would almost certainly not support a war launched primarily for the ambitions purpose of transforming the Middle East.

.... Rather than open this Pandora's Box, the administration chose a different path -- not employing out-and-out deception, but shading the truth ..... President Bush managed the crisis in a way that almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible .... The Iraq war was not necessary ..... Waging an unnecessary war is a grave mistake ..... The lack of candor underlying the campaign for war would severely undermine the president's entire second term in office.
Policy determined by politics: perpetual campaigning:
Over that summer of 2002, top Bush aides had outlined a strategy for carefully orchestrating the coming campaign to aggressively sell the war. . . . In the permanent campaign era, it was all about manipulating sources of public opinion to the president's advantage.

The president had promised himself that he would accomplish what his father had failed to do by winning a second term in office .... And that meant operating continually in campaign mode: never explaining, never apologizing, never retreating. Unfortunately, that strategy also had less justifiable repercussions: never reflecting, never reconsidering, never compromising. Especially not where Iraq was concerned.
Scott McClellan's resignation on 19-Apr-06 was greeted by George Bush with his typically simplistic Pollyannaish and Panglossian fervor:
First of all, I thank Scott for his service to our country. I don't know whether or not the press corps realizes this, but his is a challenging assignment dealing with you all on a regular basis. And I thought he handled his assignment with class, integrity. He really represents the best of his family, our state and our country. It's going to be hard to replace Scott ... One of these days he and I are going to be rocking on chairs in Texas, talking about the good old days and his time as the Press Secretary. And I can assure you I will feel the same way then that I feel now, that I can say to Scott, job well done.
This use of inappropriate and insincere platitudes is not evidence of a fawning naiveté on the part of our current POTUS. It's just a signature part of the script used by Busheney to dramatize the primary organizing principle of their government: a two-way life-time coda of personal loyalty between superiors and subordinates.

Because Scott McClellan values his future reputation more than being offered a Presidential Medal of Freedom, he broke this code of silence.

Better late than never.

For that, I have to acknowledge that he deserves recognition in these pages as the Republican of the Week.

12 Moderated Comments:

Blogger Vigilante said...

As nominated by the ever-prescient Wizard, in comments in the preceding thread!

5/29/2008 12:33:00 AM  
Blogger Anonymiss said...

He's pretty brave. If I were him, I'd avoid listening to O'Reilly and Co. and Rush Limbaugh and his ilk.

5/29/2008 06:28:00 AM  
Blogger the WIZARD, fkap said...

I heard his interview this morning on National Public Radio and he comes across as a sniveling weasel.

He actually disagreed in a number of places with his own book and the interviewer at one point became very frustrated.

He either should have the courage to stand by the book as published (sounds like there were some re-writes by the publisher), or he should have had the courage to tell the publisher to take a flying leap.

Best yet, he should have had more courage to speak out when he was in the White House.

Vigilante's Goddess, Arianna Huffington has said it best,

"How many times are we going to have a key Bush administration official try to wash the blood off his hands -- and add a chunk of change to his bank account -- by writing a come-clean book years after the fact instead of when it actually could have made a difference? What Happened is page-turning reading. What Didn't Happen -- namely McClellan telling the truth in service to his country rather than in service to his book sales -- is a stomach-turning disappointment."

5/29/2008 07:08:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

You can't say everything in even an over-lengthy post like this one.

I never lightly cross swords with Goddesses or Wizards. But I will say that Progressives are strategic pragmatists as opposed to Liberals' dogmatic idealists: We are happy to construct coalitions, alliances, and popular fronts where we find it suits PROGRESS! That's why I have always praised people of the Libertarian and anti-war ilk such as Ross Perot, Ron Paul, Bob Barr, Chuck Hagel, Chris Shay, etc.

I don't question motives. I take people as I find them. McClellan is in it for a buck, of course. I sincerely hope He makes a few. I hope he doesn't fold under the crushing massive retaliation falling around his shoulders which has fallen on other critical Bush Ex-pats. A point in his favor is that he didn't wait until it was safer to do what he has done, like 235 days from now.

Judge Scott McClellan by the enemies he chooses.

5/29/2008 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger Stella said...

In some ways, McClellan could not have timed the release of this book more perfectly. With the election looming and Busheney-McCain's dismissal of the American public, I have to admit that this publication coming out on the heels of the election may help the political climate.

Vig, I watched the entire Libertarian debate and convention. They have some good ideas, but I also have problems with some of their platform.

Integrity forces me to write that if they'd elected Gravel, I might have a change of heart.

5/29/2008 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger GetaLife-ReadUrNews said...

Vigilante and Stella, You can't mention Paul and Gravel in the same sentence with Barr. Barr has an anti-Liberty" record in Congress a mile long. Try the Patriot Act. Try the Defense of Marriage Act. Barr was the greatest (or worse) drug warrior in Congress. His ascencion represents a conservative statist coup dividing the party. All disgruntled Republicans, led by Richard Viguerie, who refuse to vote for Obama have flocked into the Libertarian party and split it away from the graps og the hard-line anarcho-capitalist Libertarian Radical Caucus wing of the party and the Outright Libertarians (gays).

... the party still has the look and feel of a geeky extracurricular activity -- part philosophical debate society, part Lassiez Faire economics book club, part internet-based family of Statist Dungeons & Socialist Dragons gaming enthusiasts.

Without Paul and Gravel, the Libertarians will not be a factor.

Alternet

5/29/2008 08:29:00 PM  
Blogger Utah Savage said...

He's my current favorite. Olbermann gave him the full hour tonight. Then Russert on Sunday. David Gregory is might pissy about being called gutless for not doing a better job covering the run up to the war. Swallowing the crap on leaks in the Plame case. A bit touchy, I think. Scott's right about the fact that there was no seriously critical press coverage. Every one was cowardly. They still are. when is the press covering McCain going to start pressing him on when he plans to bring back the ever so popular Draft.

5/29/2008 08:48:00 PM  
Blogger Soros' Proxy said...

I have a few observations based upon McClellan's appearance on Keith Olberman's Countdown.

1. From Olberman, McClellan only fielded softball questions; when he appears on Russert's Meet the Press on Sunday, he'd better be primed to defend his strike zone, because he's going to get curves, screwballs, rising fastballs, sinkers, knuckleballs and even some 'chin music'.

2. As John Dean predicted, McClellan is going to get the worse crap this weakened and compromised presidency can muster. They will accuse him of all kinds of crap. His old friends will be deserting him in droves. Everything will be done (or fabricated) to discredit him. He has said some critically things which corroborate many suspicions (directly implicating the POTUS in the Valerie Plame leak).

3. McClellan is not a lawyer like Dean was; McClellan, like most press officers, can authoritatively testify only to a small part of the elephant. He seemed very tentative in many of his answers. That reflects his limited grasp of the Presidency he served.

4. I'm not sure it's a good idea to subject Scott McClellan to Congressional hearings, unless you can scare Bush's surrogates into being absent; if the GOP thugs are present, they will be primed with swift-boating questions. He doesn't have that much more to say that he hasn't already said in his book. Unless this whistle-blower has held some more dirty stuff back for Congressional appearances, it would be best not to send him up.

5/29/2008 10:07:00 PM  
Blogger Soros' Proxy said...

Pat Buchanan says that McClellan has sucker-punched Bush:

The synchronized savagery of the attacks on McClellan as turncoat suggests he drew blood. For what he has done is offer confirmation to the president's war critics, from within the White House inner circle, that Bush's motive in going to war was not a clear and present danger of attack by Iraq with weapons of mass destruction, but to advance a Bush crusade to impose democracy on the Middle East.

Neoconservative ideology, not U.S. national interests, McClellan is saying, motivated Bush to launch one of the longest and most divisive wars in U.S. history.

When loyalists defect and seek to profit from that defection, it is usually a sign of a failing presidency. And, indeed, events suggest that history is passing Bush by.


More here.

5/30/2008 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger Stella said...

GetaLife-ReadUrNews...YES! Great comment.

I agree with absolutely everything you wrote. I looked up Bob Barr's voting record (anti-liberal everything), as well as Wayne Allen Root (LP VP-elect; slimy capitalist). I think they are worse than Bush. The LP are primarily disgruntled, ultra-right wing Republicans.

Great quote from Alternet

For many Libertarian delegates, the best joke of the weekend wasn't overheard in the lunch line; it was the result of the convention itself, which party veterans describe as the most bruising and ideologically acrimonious in a quarter-century. After six ballots, a deeply divided party chose the dour former Republican Congressman Bob Barr as its presidential candidate and a brash Vegas oddsmaker named Wayne Allyn Root as his number two. Both are recent GOP defectors...

The only reason I watched the debate and convention was due to Gravel who, as you noted, is nothing like the previously mentioned duo. After watching the convention, it seemed as if they already knew who they'd elect. Root went over to Gravel and I think, because Gravel was lagging, tried to get Gravel's delegates.

Gravel refused to make a statement on stage or endorse anyone. Why he went over to the LP in the first place, I don't know. The issues he supports never matched the party.

Thanks for the Alternet link, GALRYN. Great read.

5/30/2008 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger MadMike said...

I don't find McClellan to be a "sniveling weasel." On the contrary, I find him to be a man of great courage. I have no doubt he wrote the truth and in so doing he made a lot of money. Good for him. That is the American way.

Obama'08

5/31/2008 03:59:00 PM  
Blogger Yellow Dog said...

Right on all points, Michael.

Bob Herbert (NYT) agrees with us:

Mr. McClellan’s book landed like a bombshell on Washington not because of any startling revelations or staggering new insights, but because he was an insider who wrote unflatteringly about his boss.

Forget that this is supposed to be a government of, by and for the people, and that the truth is supposed to matter. Mr. McClellan is being denounced as a traitor by those who readily accept the culture of deception, and who believe that a government official’s primary loyalty is not to the people, but to power itself — in this case, to the president.

It’s exactly that kind of thinking that begets unnecessary wars.


Obama '08!

6/02/2008 08:07:00 AM  

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