Thursday, November 20, 2008

What Happened

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.


Linda C said...

I saw him in many interviews when his book came out and my already low opinion of Scott McClellan went deeper. My husband and I are political news junkies:)

He was SELLING a "tell all" book DURING the CURRENT administration for which he served (poorly). The release of the book was so conspicuously timed for high profit. Worst press sec. I've ever seen. He became known at our house as "deer in the headlights McClellan" during the yrs. he was there- he was highly intimidated by the WH press, and they loved messing w/him:)

(People that worked w/ him and have also since left the WH, said that Scott was not present, or ever invited to be, in meetings that he claims in his book to know what was said.)
And his line about Washington-"can't we all just get along?" was his message in the interviews. And buy my book, I need the money.

I agree that Bush has made mistakes along the way- and I am not happy w/ how he has dealt with things. If I am not mistaken, the investigation found that the person who leaked the identity of Valerie of the CIA was from the justice dept. not the WH.

Scott McClellan claimed some moral responsibility to disclose "the truth"- in the "behind the scenes" situations-- fine--if they were true- and why not wait and release the book in 2009? Because he knew that the media would give him maximum coverage while Bush was in office. They love to kick him in the teeth at any opportunity.

(MSNBC hosts were giddy when interviewing McClellan and McClelland, in response, looked like he'd been invited to sit at the "cool kids' table")

Okay-I'm done now:)- sorry to be so harsh, but as you can tell, he is really low on my list of respectable authors:)

Donette said...

Oh how I wish we lived closer together, Linda! I feel like I have very few girlfriends that like to talk politics, so I usually end up hanging with the men when they discuss this topic and I always feel awkward!

Thanks for the insight!

Linda C said...

I hear you:) I imagine that you and I could have had some great conversations during the campaigns!
Lon and I enjoy bouncing all this political information and news off each other and then bringing our kids in on it too. I say "kids"- they are all young adults now:)

I am so glad that we can rest in the Lord and know that He is in control in these topsy turvy times! --...the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow...!!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, Donette!