Bush allies lash out at former flack's tell-all
President Bush's onetime lapdog has decided to unleash his bark -- and more than a few bites -- in a scathing new tell-all about the deceptive inner workings of the White House.
Casting aside more than a decade of loyalty, former Bush spokesman Scott McClellan has blown the whistle on the propaganda peddling that preceded the invasion of Iraq, the dishonesty top officials used to obscure the CIA leak case and even George W. Bush's own capacity for self-delusion. Still-loyal members of Bush's inner circle are none too happy with McClellan's new book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception, and they are doing everything they can to try to save face.
"Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House. For those of us who fully supported him, before, during and after he was press secretary, we are puzzled. It is sad -- this is not the Scott we knew," current White House mouthpiece Dana Perino said Wednesday.
"The book, as reported by the press, has been described to the president," she said. "I do not expect a comment from him on it -- he has more pressing matters than to spend time commenting on books by former staffers."
Politico reporter Mike Allen, who first reported details from the book Tuesday night, says none of McClellan's revelations or observations are particularly novel, but the fact that they're coming from someone who was so close to the president gives them particular weight.
"He's put on a historian's hat; he's not an administration flack anymore. And that's why there's such great unhappiness with him," Allen said on CNN's American Morning Wednesday. "People say he's given up the only good quality he had, in their view, which is loyalty."
The book came as a surprise to many in Washington who thought McClellan's book would be much tamer, despite a blurb last year that revealed he passed along untrue information about the leak of Valerie Plame's identity.
Fishbowl DC, a blog covering the Washington press, speculates one reason McClellan might have been so tough:
Our take: We're sure that McClellan means what he says, but lots of Washingtonians think poorly of their successors but bite their tongue and play the role of a good soldier. So why didn't McClellan do this? Simple: Speaking out against the Bush administration in such harsh tones is simply a smart career move by McClellan. He never became a stand-alone brand. He was never adored by the press corps. He was never adored by the Bush White House and Republicans generally (especially not now). He never developed his own schtick like Tony Snow (charming, funny, cancer survivor) or Dana Perino (hot, snippy, cute dog).
So what does this get him? Some John Dean-like street cred and the business opportunities (books, speaking engagements, consulting gigs, etc.) presented to a "reformed Republican" who possesses a rather rare quality nowadays (and one loved by the Left): A willingness to speak out against the Bush administration's march to war.
Whatever his motive, McClellan's book has created the kind of stir that the White House used to rely on McClellan to tamp down. Further revelations are likely once the tell-all hits store shelves come Monday. McClellan's writes that the Bush Administration used propaganda to sell the Iraq war and that Bush Administration officials encouraged him to lie in the Valerie Plame scandal.
Former top Bush advisors Karl Rove and Fran Townsend have disputed McClellan's claims. Rove accused McClellan of sounding like a "left-wing blogger."
This video is from CNN's American Morning, broadcast May 28, 2008.