Current and former White House aides blasted former press secretary Scott McClellan on Wednesday for his scathing new memoir about his years working for President Bush. Former Bush adviser Karl Rove said McClellan’s book, in which he says Bush used a “political propaganda campaign” to deceive the public and sell the war in Iraq, reads like the work of a “left-wing blogger.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
What the commentators said
McClellan’s charge on Iraq is “damning,” said Jay Nordlinger in the New York Post, but is it true? McClellan says now that the war was “not necessary,” but all the intelligence available before the war said that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Bush said repeatedly before the invasion that there were risks in action, and in inaction. In the end, he simply “chose the risks of action.”
The Bush camp would love to dismiss McClellan’s broadside as the work of a disgruntled former ally looking to cash in, said Carl Leubsdorf in The Dallas Morning News. But McClellan’s book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception, “gains credibility because the author had a long reputation" for "being loyal to Mr. Bush.” Sure, McClellan might be trying to distance himself as his former boss leaves office with low approval ratings, but “his long tenure in the Bush orbit” give his words “impact.”
It would have been terrific if McClellan had come clean earlier, said The New York Times in an editorial, instead of joining in the “culture of deception” with such “zeal” that he rarely missed an opportunity to “ridicule critics of the war and question their patriotism.” But at least his self-serving book serves as a “reminder that we still do not know precisely how far Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and the others were willing to wade into that ‘culture of deception’ to sell Americans on the disastrous Iraq war.”
“It's hard to feel great sympathy for McClellan,” said John Dickerson in Slate. “If he felt strongly that the president was deceiving the country, or that he had been deceived by Karl Rove, he should have left his job.” But the “withering and coordinated response” from still-loyal Bushies only reinforce the heart of his account of the Valerie Plame CIA leak case—“that the White House smears its critics.”
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