Republicans outraged by insider's book on Iraq war

Business Times - 03 Jun 2008


WATCHING the pro-Bush administration television talking heads bashing Scott McClellan, the former Bush White House press secretary, who has just published a book bashing his ex-boss, you would think that Mr McClellan has been brainwashed by a bunch of left-wing anti-war activists, if not by Al-Qaeda experts on psychological conditioning techniques. To say that President George W Bush, his aides, the neocons and the many operators who belong to the media outlets and front organisations affiliated with the Republican Party are angry at their former colleague would be an understatement.

And you can feel their rage, as they describe Mr McClellan as a 'turncoat' who had sold his Republican soul to the anti-Bush devil, in exchange for...what? Was it money (perhaps a huge advance on his book)? Publicity (after all, Mr McClellan has been interviewed by every major media organisation)? Revenge (disgruntled employee getting back at the White House for letting him go, that is firing him)? Or perhaps - who knows? - Mr McClellan is our era's Manchurian Candidate, or the Obama Candidate, if you will, brainwashed by Mr Bush's political enemies, and sent by the Democrats to bombard the White House with charges and allegations about a rush to war based on false intelligence and a hidden political agenda. He uses such terms as 'propaganda,' 'manipulation,' and 'deception' to describe the Bush administration's machinations leading up to the Iraq invasion.

These words and phrases come from the same McClellan who while serving as President Bush's spokesman, defended the White House's decision to go to war against Iraq and harshly criticised the Bush administration's critics. It's the same guy who, at that time, was accused by reporters of a cover-up and of employing 'propaganda,' 'manipulation,' and 'deception' to market the Iraq war to the media and the American people.

Now in his memoir about his White House years, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception (New York: Public Affairs, 2008), Mr McClellan, a Texan who had befriended the former governor of the state, is admitting that he, indeed, had lied to and manipulated the press.

'We set up a massive political operation that was aimed at really continuing the permanent campaign way of governing,' he explained to a radio interviewer last Thursday.

In his book, Mr McClellan argues that Mr Bush and his top advisers deceived the American public about their reasons for going to war in Iraq. Mr Bush had hoped that the war would help launch an historic campaign to democratise the Middle East and that his success in transforming the region would help secure his legacy as a great American president. The former White House aide criticised Mr Bush on a very personal level and in blunt terms. Mr Bush was 'a leader unable to acknowledge that he got it wrong, and unwilling to grow in office by learning from his mistake - too stubborn to change and grow,' Mr McClellan writes. He attributes that problem to Mr Bush's 'fear of appearing weak' and 'personal pain he would have suffered if he'd had to acknowledge that the war against Saddam (Hussein) may have been unnecessary.'

And he concludes that Mr Bush 'was not one to look back once a decision was made. Rather than suffer any sense of guilt and anguish, Mr Bush chose not to go down the road of self-doubt or take on the difficult task of honest evaluation and reassessment.' Mr Bush was determined at winning 'the political game at virtually any cost.'

So it's not surprising those who continue to support Mr Bush and his policies are also asking: 'What Happened?' What happened to the Bush loyalist Scott McClellan, that is? Dan Bartlett, a former colleague from the White House was 'puzzled and bewildered'. 'We are puzzled,' said current White House press secretary, Dana Perino, adding that President Bush was also 'puzzled'.

Mr McClellan's predecessor at the White House, Ari Fleischer speculated that Mr McClellan's publisher 'tinkered' with the original copy of the book and added all that bad stuff about Mr Bush. This was 'a different Scott from the Scott I knew,' he said, which is exactly what former White House political operator (that Mr McClellan accuses of lying to him) was saying: 'This doesn't sound like the Scott McClellan I knew.' Yes, it was 'not the Scott we knew,' agreed Ms Perino.

And Mr McClellan responded to the attacks on him by saying that he was also 'puzzled, very puzzled' by the behaviour of his former colleagues from the White House. And there is one thing that you can be certain of: Scott McClellan won't be receiving a Christmas Card from President George W Bush this year. More to the point, the Iraq war remains a running sore that undermines the Republican party ahead of November's election season.

Copyright © 2007 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.


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