Apparently the book’s title was changed after this cover shot was released.
We’ve all worked with and for people and organization we’d rather not mention. As we move on, sometimes bitterly, we go on, do the next thing, and try to put it out of our heads. Most of us haven’t held high-profile positions, so even if we would tell of our experiences working at say–McDonald’s as a teenager–we really wouldn’t do much to damage the reputation of the mega-business.
But suppose you held a higher position, one that at times had the eyes of the world on you–what would you do when you left that job? Privy to secret conversations and national matters and addressing the press on a daily basis–it’s a pretty big responsibility and one that former White House press secretary Scott McClellan held for three years. Now his tell-all book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception, is set to release this Tuesday.
Working for George W. Bush since his days as governor in Texas, McClellan has been a close ally, confidante, and friend of the President. However, it seems that friendship was strained when McClellan was “pushed out” of his job two years ago and replaced by Fox News anchor Tony Snow. While McClellan’s accusations seem damning to some, especially considering the source, I’m not surprised by one word.
According to the New York Times (story), McClellan claims that Bush deceives himself to accomplish his will, that invading Iraq was a “blunder”, that the White House lied about the leak of CIA operative Valerie Wilson and the involvement of both Karl Rove and Scooter Libby’s roles in the leak, and the Feds failed to act during Hurricane Katrina because they were “in denial”. Oh, and Bush flying over the carnage of New Orleans after the hurricane hit? Totally not his fault. It was the idea of that scoundrel Karl Rove, dangit!
While I believe that McClellan’s assessment of the Bush administration is accurate, does anyone really like a whistle blower? Sure, we intrigued by the confirmation on suspected scandals, but deep in the recesses of our minds aren’t we thinking, “That guy is a rat!” I know I am.
As I consider McClellan’s book several things come to mind. Didn’t McClellan have to sign some sort of agreement saying that he was forbidden to speak about the affairs of the White House? I, for one, am uncomfortable that someone can work at the White House and a couple of years later start spilling secrets. Sure, I want to know what’s going on in the Oval Office as much as the next person, yet I’m uneasy that the information is so accessible. While these allegations are damaging to the Bush White House, they certainly don’t compromise national security.
It seems that choosing to publish this book while Bush is still is office is a great public relations move, but a poor ethical decision, especially for a man who writes, “I fell far short of living up to the kind of public servant I wanted to be.” Supposedly this is an example of McClellan taking the blame for his own actions. Except that in the New York Times story, he blames everyone else–Bush, Condi, Karl Rove (his favorite whipping boy), and even the news media for their relentless questioning. Where is his personal responsibility in any of this? Maybe he didn’t knowingly participate in any wrongdoing–I don’t know.
I have no doubts that McClellan was treated poorly and that he was dismissed because his faith in Bush and his administration wavered. Yet a book like this from someone who was part of Bush’s inner circle compromises not only the integrity of our administration, but also of our nation. Like it or not, the United States IS at war and Bush IS our leader. It is certainly McClellan’s right as an American to speak out against the President and his actions, but that doesn’t mean he should publicly proclaim Bush’s shortcomings in a book after working as press secretary. Couldn’t the release wait until January or February when Bush is out of office? Given our heated political environment, now is a great time to sell an expose. I understand the business end of things, yet as a former public servant and as a trusted spokesman, should McClellan so viciously bite the hand that once fed him?
Not only will McClellan make a buck off this buck (especially with all this free promotion), but he’s getting a nice piece of revenge. McClellan would probably say that he’s just clearing his conscience and had to speak the truth. Whatever. The White House press secretary’s job is to feeding the press cleverly crafted lines and cover up the truth, sometimes for very good reasons, but more often to clean up the mess of political scandal. McClellan knew the game and played the game and he did it well. Were we supposed to believe him then or are we supposed to believe him now? I guess he was just “doing his job.” Hmm…where have I heard that before?