Republican of the Week!
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
- Triumph and Illusion
- Revelation and Humiliation
- Out of Touch
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.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 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.
"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."That and other character flaws led to Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq:
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.
History appears poised to confirm what most Americans today have decided -- that the decision to invade Iraq was a serious strategic blunder.Bush's top advisers, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice,
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.
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.Policy determined by politics: perpetual campaigning:
.... 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.
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.Scott McClellan's resignation on 19-Apr-06 was greeted by George Bush with his typically simplistic Pollyannaish and Panglossian fervor:
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.
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.