Scott McClellan: The Question is, “What Happened” to Your Integrity?

Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan has a book coming out titled, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception. I would recommend a different subtitle: A Backstabber’s Perspective.

Ultimately, George Bush is paying for having made a poor choice of a press secretary based on personal loyalty. Bush stuck with McClellen long after it was obvious to many that the guy was simply not up to the job. McClellen took the opportunity to reward Bush for his loyalty – by applying a knife to his president’s back.

First of all, McClellan’s co-workers and White House associates claim that McClellen NEVER made any comments to them stating that he felt that the Bush White House was acting unethically or inappropriately while he was on staff. For that matter, Scott McClellan HIMSELF doesn’t claim that he ever raised such doubts. It is simply pathetic that he would launch into such an attack now. If he had integrity, he would have resigned, or at least spoken up at a meeting. As it was, he comes up with what very much seems like sour grapes after being forced out when his incompetence was finally recognized.

There was a time not too long ago when White House staffers considered it a point of honor to defend their presidents as part of the job, the way Secret Service agents would take a bullet for their president even if they intensely disliked him. People were literally willing to go to prison to protect their president. McClellan’s lack of virtue in writing a tell-all book comes down to this: why should you believe such a person unless he can document everything he claims as true? Why should a “Judas” get credibility?

To answer the second question first, Scott McClellan will be given instant credibility by Democrats and by the liberal media simply because his book plays into their narrative. They want to dump on Bush (and in turn on McCain as Bush’s “third term”); and any source that serves their agenda is instantly legitimate.

To answer the first question, from what I am reading, there is little solid documentation offered. McClellan doesn’t bring memos, records, recordings, and other “proofs” of his charges to the table. Rather, he brings a lot of opinions, assertions, and amateurish and self-serving psycho-analyizing. This is a “fly on the wall” account from a fly who simply wasn’t on the most pertinent walls.

McClellan writes, “I had unknowingly passed along false information.” But the question then is, how do you now know it was “false information” if you didn’t know it at the time? What documented facts do you NOW possess that proves your claim? And if in fact it was false information you were presenting, how did you not know that it was false when you – as Press Secretary - had FAR more professional and personal resources to confirm or dis-confirm than you have now?

McClellen writes that the Iraq War was unnecessary, and that President Bush’s policy ensured that there was no other alternative but to go to war. What actual facts – beyond whatever his “word” is worth – does he bring? Not much. For one thing, during the lead up to the Iraq War, McClellan wasn’t even the Press Secretary; Ari Fleischer was. McClellan was a deputy, and was simply not given the kind of access he would have needed to document any of the incredible claims he makes.

Furthermore, he is simply wrong what he writes about the Iraq War. I have written a three part series:

Iraq War Justified: Lessons from Saddam’s History (Part 1)

Iraq War Justified: What the Chronology Reveals (Part 2)

Iraq War Justified: Paralysis, Corruption at U.N. Made Truth Impossible (Part 3)

Is Scott McClellan claiming that he has evidence that the CIA – and the world’s major intelligence services – did NOT believe that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction? Does he additionally claim to have evidence that most of Saddam’s officials themselves didn’t believe Saddam had WMD? Does he claim that President Bush could have cajoled Saddam Hussein into opening up his regime and allowing arms inspectors full access? Does he claim that President Bush could have somehow unilaterally forced France and Russia to demand that the United Nations support a resolution that would have forced Saddam Hussein to open up his regime? Does he claim that Bush could have prevented the scandal of the UN Oil for Food program that allowed Saddam Hussein to game the whole international system? Does he claim that he can prove that some eighty arms inspectors in a country the size of Texas could have come up “the smoking gun” when Saddam Hussein had thousands of experienced professionals arrayed against them to thwart every move the inspectors made?

How on earth can McClellan substantiate his claim? He doesn’t have to. In Liberalland, the claim is enough. You are guilty until proven innocent in People’s Republics.

Scott McClellan apparently is most angry that he was left in the dark over the “Valarie Plame” furor and that he went out to bat for Karl Rove and L. Scooter Libby when they were guilty, guilty, guilty.

First of all, they weren’t, and they aren’t. It is a matter of public record that neither man was involved in “outing” Valarie Plame, nor were any other White House personnel. Richard Armitage was the source, according to more than one journalist involved in printing Plame’s name. Second, Valarie Plame had not served in a “covert” capacity for several years, and was not even covered under the statute that triggered the investigation in the first place. The case should have been dropped right there, but witch hunts, after all, exist to find witches. Even though there was no actual crime to investigate, the special prosecutor continued prosecuting, and was able to show that Scooter Libby had told conflicting stories to several journalists. It didn’t matter that he hadn’t had anything to do with the actual leaking. As for the conviction, Libby would have obtained a fairer jury had he stood trial in Cuba. The District of Columbia is the most liberal region in the country, and his real crime in the jury’s mind was being a Republican.

The affair that ended up enveloping Scooter Libby started when Joseph Wilson went to Niger to look into the allegation that Iraq had attempted to purchase uraniaum. Everything about the trip was based on lies, and when Joe Wilson returned to the U.S. and wrote an op-ed, the lies just mushroomed bigger and bigger.

A 10 July 2004 article by Susan Schmidt for the Washington Post titled, “Plame’s Input Is Cited on Niger Mission: Report Disputes Wilson’s Claims on Trip, Wife’s Role” underscores the environment of deceit by both Wilson and Plame in the affair. These are the people who belong in jail.

Mark Levin writes a pretty good piece on the subject titled, “Valerie’s No Victim: Plame put herself into a political place.” He writes:

That’s right. Plame started this phony scandal. And so far, she’s gotten away with it. What do I mean? Plame has shown herself to be an extremely capable bureaucratic insider. In fact, we know she’s accomplished — she accomplished getting her husband, Joe Wilson, an assignment he desperately wanted: a trip to Niger to investigate a “crazy” report that Saddam Hussein sought yellowcake uranium from Niger (her word, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, not mine). And she was dogged. She asked not once but twice (the second time in a memo) that her husband get the job. And there’s more. The Senate Intelligence Committee investigation also found that a CIA “analyst’s notes indicate that a meeting was ‘apparently convened by [the former ambassador's] wife who had the idea to dispatch [him] to use his contacts to sort out the Iraq-Niger issues.”

Now, Wilson didn’t have an intelligence background. Indeed, the committee revealed that Wilson didn’t have a “formal” security clearance, but the CIA gave him an “operational clearance.” The fact is that there was little to recommend Wilson for the role, other than his wife’s persistence….

Why Wilson?
This is the real scandal. Plame lobbied repeatedly for her husband, and she knew full well that he was hostile to the war in Iraq and the administration’s foreign policy. She had to know his politics — and there can no longer be any pretense about him being a nonpartisan diplomat who was merely doing his job. By experience and temperament, Wilson was the wrong man to send to Niger. Plame affirmatively stepped into what she knew might become a very public political controversy, given her husband’s predilections (and her own) about that “crazy” report of yellowcake uranium.

And when Wilson came back from the trip that his wife had worked so hard to get for him, he immediately started blasting the Bush administration. How does this not go hand in hand with having a big-time axe to grind?

So, when Wilson wrote his op-ed, created a huge fervor with the liberal media, and then started going from media venue to media venue to broadcast lie after lie, the White House simply had to respond. Would you expect them not to? And men like Karl Rove and yes, Scooter Libby played a little hardball. But from all accounts, they pretty much played by the accepted rules of political hardball.

Now what exactly is it that Scott McClellan offers that refutes the basic story? Well, according to him, he saw Karl Rove and Scooter Libby meeting and talking several times, and thought that was strange.

But Karl Rove has said that it is frankly strange that McClellan would think it was strange. He points out that he and Libby served on a couple of committees together. They routinely met at briefings. And heck, their offices were something like twenty feet apart. They had routinely been meeting all along.

And McClellan alludes to meetings that he didn’t attend to create the appearance of some kind of conspiracy. Empty fluff.

The charge that most angers me that comes from McClellan’s book is that McClellan claims that George Bush once said he might have used cocaine, but couldn’t recall for sure. Yet another example of something McClellan thought was strange.

If Bush did in fact say anything like that with McClellan present, he spoke as a man in the company of friends, based on a personal relationship of trust. He certainly didn’t tell the White House Press Secretary that to have him go out and do a press conference! And he most certainly didn’t say it so that McClelland could put a little sleaze on the prez in a tell-all pseudo-non-fictional hit piece. For McClellan to offer that bit of dirt – a conversation with a friend – as something to personally profit from tells me what a cockroach Scott McClellan has become.

And allow me to give my own take on President Bush’s “I don’t know” doubt about taking cocaine (if he even said it at all). Keep in mind that George W. Bush has openly acknowledged that he was an alcoholic. Question: do alcoholics remember everything they did when they were drunk at a party? Answer: no. The fact that our armchair psychologist would find some kind of deviant tendency in Bush’s psyche to believe whatever he wants and self-rationalize his actions, it just shows what a pile of crap this book is.

McClellan’s book is on the top of the Amazon.com best seller list today. But few who buy it will actually ever bother to read the drivel. The thing that concerns me is that a bunch of people with an agenda are going to go out and tell people that the book “proves” or “documents” this, that, or the other.

If you are genuinely inclined to believe anything McClellan says, at least read his book for yourself, and read it with an open, critical mind.

Scott McClellan writes that Karl Rove “always struck me as the kind of person who would be willing, in the heat of battle, to push the envelope to the limit of what is permissable ethically or legally.”

That may or may not be true of Rove. But one thing IS true of McClellan: he didn’t need the heat of battle to push the envelope on what was ethically permissable. All he needed was some dollar signs.

In a fitting case of irony, it turns out that the 30 pieces of silver that Judas betrayed Jesus for would be worth $75000 today – exactly the price McClellan’s publishers paid him for his book.

I am coming back on June 2 to make two observations that result from new revelations:

1) The Vanity Fair article slamming former president Bill Clinton.  Are you going to arbitrarily believe Scott McClellan and disbelieve that Bill Clinton has a “cavernous narcissism” and has demonstrated a vile temper and despicable personal dishonesty in addition to his routine sexual trysts?  Maybe we shouldn’t be too quick to believe the nasty stuff coming from “former” staff members.

2) In addition to Ari Fleischer’s May 28 statement (on the Bill O’Reilly radio program) that Scott McClellan had come to him saying that the book would be good for the president – and that something had obviously changed – we now have the McClellan Book Proposal available on Politico.com, which reveals that McClellan pitched a must softer view of Bush than the one that he subsequently came to publish.

It does seem in hindsight – even though McClellan denies it – that he was pressured to alter his portrait of Bush and the Bush White House to make it harsher.

I would argue that without substantial documentation proving the claims of a “former staff member,” we should take any such “tell-all books” with a grain of salt.

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