I've always been interested in politics. I enjoy reading about it, I watch the news as often as I can, I love talking to others about their opinions. And I love reading. So when you join the two, in a political memoir, I am hooked. I just finished reading "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception" by Scott McClellan, former press secretary to George W. Bush. I read this book because I have become increasingly frustrated with my own inability to decipher what is true and what is spin when it comes to understanding this President's term and major decisions, including the war in Iraq.
By that, I mean, the mainstream media does a fine job of telling us what is wrong with our world today (see last post) and more conservative news outlets, like Fox or talk radio tend to agree, without question, the policies of the administration. I have always found myself in this strange in-between world, where I voted for Bush twice, yet had nagging questions about his decision-making and have begun to question his truthfulness.
Well, it seems I'm not alone. Scott McClellan, who knew and worked for Bush back in Texas and followed him to Washington has written a controversial "tell-all" about his time serving in the White House. I figured someone who served under the actual administration might have a unique view and be a bit less biased (although I fully acknowledge we all are biased in one way or another).
The book covers a variety of topics, but focuses heavily on the decision to go into Iraq, including the infamous "16 word controversy" concerning the president's use of intelligence later proved false in his state of the union address. McClellan also deals with the leak of Valerie Plame's name and status as a covert CIA agent. That topic was particularly interesting to me because I never felt like I completely understood the story, and it was often dismissed as partisan warfare by conservatives.
Much of the criticism McClellan offers is to the mindset of the "perpetual campaign" in Washington - the idea that an elected official is always considering his "base" before making a decision, so that he can get re-elected. This mindset seems to have always been a problem in D.C., but grew under Clinton's administration and was embraced even further by Bush, evidenced by his close ties with Karl Rove.
Scott McClellan was put into the unfortunate position of lying for the administration, in regards to the leak case, without realizing the information he was given was false. This severly crippled his reputation with the press he tried to work with and ultimately led to the end of his career as Press Secretary. In parts, it seems like he is writing this book just to exonerate himself, and thus seems a little shallow, but his insider's look at the administration makes it worth reading.
His conclusions on how to make Washington a better place are simplistic to say the best. Basically it boils down to an extra staff position in the White House that would be a guard dog for truthfulness (shouldn't everyone working there be in that position?) and he further encourages the common citizen toward tolerance with other points of view and forming a common bond to make America better.
What's the saying? Everything you need to know in life you learned in Kindergarten. I think the same could be said for his conclusions.