Presidential History

"This is not the Scott we knew"

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The White House has issued a non-response response to former press secretary Scott McClellan's blockbuster tell-all about just how fucking in the dark he was during those years in which he was, you know, the president's spokesman. If nothing else, McClellan's book, titled What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception, is arguably the most colonically challenged political memoir in recent history (certainly he has added to the great tradition of bad punctuation around his titular phrase; for earlier examples, see The Byrds' song "What's Happening?!?!" and the TV show What's Happening!!). According to press reports, McClellan says that the Bush administration lied to him about everything, all the time. Which sounds about right, though one gets to wondering either just how clever McClellan is or how dumb he is that it took him so long to figure that out.

Anyhoo, here's the official Bush line for now and probably forever:

"Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House. For those of us who fully supported him, before, during and after he was press secretary, we are puzzled. It is sad—this is not the Scott we knew," Dana Perino, one of his successors at the podium, says in a statement to reporters.

"The book, as reported by the press, has been described to the president. I do not expect a comment from him on it—he has more pressing matters than to spend time commenting on books by former staffers," she says.

More here.

What has Bush been up to lately? According to the White House website, he's toured a cable company and met with NCAA football coaches, among other things. So he really does have a full plate.

Via Romenesko.

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  1. I always sort of liked Scott McClellan.

    He got this adorable deer-in-the-headlights look when he lied. His eyes would open real wide, his eyebrows would go up, and his mouth would start working. He heart rate must have been 200 bpm.

    It was like he still had a vestigal conscience in there somewhere.

  2. To be fair, isn’t it the press secretary’s job to lie to the disbelieving and cynical White House press corps? I thought everyone understood that all Washingtonians lie all the time. Maybe I’m naive.

  3. How busy is the president that he has to have someone “describe” the book to him? Something tells me that the “description” told to him will be about how great Bush is as president.

  4. ed,
    That’s what is so hard to credit. It isn’t that the press secretary’s job is to lie, it’s his job to repeat the lie he’s been told with conviction and express indignation at being called a liar. Everybody does indeed know this, especially the poor schmuck they pay to do it. Maybe he got so good at that indignation thing, he thought he’d freelance it.

  5. Dana Perino is a hottie. Anybody know if she can weld?

  6. Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House.

    No, Scott, as we know, is the latest rat who left the sinking ship, found that no one was really in the mood to hire someone with the stink of Bush on them, and opted to cash out.

  7. The book, as reported by the press, has been described to the president.

    “It has a bunch of pages. Lots of words. There are no pictures.”

  8. Nick,

    I’d expect an English major to be able to recognize that a correlative clause can function as a noun, as in

    I know what happened.

    Tell me about what happened.

    What happened is none of your business.

    etc.

  9. Caption Contest!

    “If you think I look good now, wait until I publish MY book. There will be pictures.”

  10. this is not the Scott we knew

    You mean, they didn’t know that a press secretary was in the business of trading credibility for money? WTF?

  11. “It has a bunch of pages. Lots of words. There are no pictures.”

    Sorry Mr. President it is not about My Pet Goat or Curious George.

  12. OK, he’s disgruntled. But is he wrong?

  13. It’s interesting that the administration hasn’t challenged the veracity of a single fact in Scott’s book. It’s all ad hominem attacks. That’s always been the Bush/Cheney way – never respond to the attack directly, just discredit the messenger.

  14. Nick, Nick, Nick…

    You completed forgot Wha’ happened?.

  15. It’s interesting that the administration hasn’t challenged the veracity of a single fact in Scott’s book.

    The current administration didn’t and probably won’t. Just like when David Frum was asking for a statement from them righ after he left.

    However, Karl Rove has made a few direct statements about the facts. Might want to google that up if you have not caught them, or have any interest in the differing views.

  16. Most likely, Scott is just another Washingtonian who thought to himself, “This is going to be great when I write my book!”, and then continued to kiss ass until he quit. He didn’t want to get fired before he had enough for a full book.

  17. “This is not the Scott we knew.”

    Maybe ol’ Scottie was lying to you, even as you were lying to him.

  18. This’ll be a nice little golden parachute for him.

    Some become lobbyists, others write salacious books.

  19. It isn’t that the press secretary’s job is to lie, it’s his job to repeat the lie he’s been told with conviction and express indignation at being called a liar. Everybody does indeed know this, especially the poor schmuck they pay to do it.

    I don’t think this is the case, and it’s helpful to remember that “they” don’t pay him–we do. It’s no surprise the many “public servants” actually serve the politicians who put them on the payroll rather than the public that foots the bill. But we’re entitled to demand that if taxes are used to fund the position of press secretary, it’s the interests of the citizens, not the President, that he should serve.

  20. Marcvs wrote – “Most likely, Scott is just another Washingtonian who thought to himself, “This is going to be great when I write my book!”, and then continued to kiss ass until he quit. He didn’t want to get fired before he had enough for a full book.”

    The book may have been written by a ghost-writer, with Scott being paid merely for providing his name on the cover.

  21. most colonically challenged

    I am the only one who read this phrase and thought polyps and/or poop?

    The complete cynic in me says that if he wrote a book about how dull his job was and how he’d rather be watching internet porn, it wouldn’t sell many copies.

  22. It could have been written by “The Real Sir Scott Thomas” and the cover artist was confused about who to put on the cover . . .

  23. it’s his job to repeat the lie he’s been told with conviction and express indignation at being called a liar

    IIRC from reading Spin Cycle years ago, and also All the President’s Men, the general position of press secretary’s is that they do not expect to be outright lied to by their superiors. They expect to be either told the truth, or be kept in the dark. They understand full well that they are responsible for reshaping the truth to fit the requirements of their employer, but they take offense at having to present an outright fiction to the public, or being told an outright fiction.

  24. Parse,

    I never thought of that. Why are “we” paying for a press secretary for the president? Why can’t he take care of the cost?

    *shakes fist in direction of Washington*

  25. I never thought of that. Why are “we” paying for a press secretary for the president? Why can’t he take care of the cost?

    Because the Congress has said that it will be so.

  26. So the guy who got paid to lie for the president told a bunch of lies about how he wasn’t lying, but rather misinformed, and the new person who gets paid to lie for the president is lying about the president not having time to tell some lies about the staffer’s lies.

    Is that a fair summary of this article?

  27. most colonically challenged

    I am the only one who read this phrase and thought polyps and/or poop?

    Nooooo. Everyone thought that, because that’s what the phrase is alluding to. Nick is putting his English Lit background to work by coining new synonyms for constipated, which he then uses with license.

  28. I think MP’s take is accurate. I know a couple of flacks (former hacks) working for state office-holders. I think that would be their honest assessment of their “spokesman” jobs.

  29. “This is not the Scott we knew.”

    Does anyone else hear Paul Reiser in Beverly Hills Cop saying, “This is not my locker!” every time they read this?

  30. OK, here’s my question: if a spineless hack like McClellan can openly defy the. Bushites in order to make a quick buck, why are the Republicans in Congress still following orders?

  31. Danny K

    I think it’s because they are following Franklin’s dictum: “We must all hang together on this, or we will all hang separately.”

    That, plus the fact that they know that even a lame duck President can do enormous damage to a Congressman’s electibility.

  32. Danny K,

    A defeat turns into a rout when the infantrymen break ranks. It makes it impossible for the retreat to be carried out as a unit, and allows the pursuing enemy to break into what used to be a formation, and destroy it piecemeal.

  33. joe

    True. But there is a limit. Remember what happened to the Old Guard at Waterloo.

    In more contemporary terms, there came a point when the GOP decided to throw Nixon to the sharks. Six years later, Reagan won the White House.

  34. Aresen and Joe are correct.

    They are more concerned with themselves than us.

  35. To be fair, isn’t it the press secretary’s job to lie to the disbelieving and cynical White House press corps? I thought everyone understood that all Washingtonians lie all the time. Maybe I’m naive.

    Apparently, some members of the press don’t see it that way. Check out this Q & A with Anne Kornblut:

    SW Nebraska: Will any future president be able to do the job on the press, Congress and the public that George Bush has been able to do? What about the politicization of the Justice Department, science, etc? It seems that McClellan has taken the press to task in his book. Will the press be so cooperative with a President again or has the media been reminded that they actually have an important, difficult job to do?

    Anne E. Kornblut: I haven’t read McClellan’s book yet, but really look forward to it, especially on the point you raise. My immediate reaction upon hearing he’d said that was, “Wait, what!? Isn’t it the job of those employed at the White House to be straightforward in the first place?” In my experience, reporters do know the importance of the job, and face many obstacles in trying to get information (especially from this administration). But I also do think all of our efforts have been redoubled over the last few years. I’m so proud of my colleagues at the Post who covered Walter Reed for that very reason.

  36. More insight into the mind of the press from Kornblut:

    Potomac, MD: McClellan needs to get over himself. The nerve of blaming the media for their failures in the run-up to the War. Elisabeth Bumiller so eloquently explained how things work the night before the Iraq War started, 4,000 dead American soldiers ago: “it’s live, it’s very intense, it’s frightening to stand up there. Think about it, you’re standing up on prime-time live TV asking the president of the United States a question when the country’s about to go to war. There was a very serious, somber tone that evening, and no one wanted to get into an argument with the president at this very serious time.”.

    Anne E. Kornblut: That’s a good point. (I’m a huge Bumiller fan)…..

  37. There was a very serious, somber tone that evening, and no one wanted to get into an argument with the president at this very serious time.

    Bullshit. The only reason the media didn’t challenge GWB is because they knew they’d get shunned by the Administration. The right time to ask POTUS “Are you sure you know what the fuck you’re doing?” is before a war, not after. I have no use for this “serious time” crap.

  38. The only reason the media didn’t challenge GWB is because they knew they’d get shunned by the Administration.

    They didn’t challenge him because he was only saying what everyone thought was true, including what Clinton had been saying for eight years. They didn’t challenge him when he went into Afghanistan after Al Qaeda either.

    Anyways, I applaud Scott’s business sense. I’m sure he’s laughing all the way to the bank on this. He certainly picked a better target market than Feith.

  39. Will the press be so cooperative with a President again or has the media been reminded that they actually have an important, difficult job to do?

    Chris Matthews on Obama: “I get a shiver, down my leg, when I hear this guy speak.”

  40. Strange…I wasn’t anywhere near Washington or Iraq before the war, but I knew Iraq didn’t have any WoMD’s that could hit the US. I’ve always been baffled by all the folks who, at least at first, really believed it.

    I guess when you wanna have a war, your mind sort of shuts down.

  41. McClellan may be a ninny, but he sure rattled the cages of Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw on NBC tonite.

    Would we say the person who said, “The emporor has no clothes,” was a ninny? Maybe “ninniness” bestows credibility?

  42. It is sad-this is not the Scott we knew

    Yes

    The Scott we knew would regurgitate whatever the Admin told him without asking a single goddam question about it’s veracity.

    And sure…he “wasnt at those meetings”.

    Like, Press Secretaries are NEVER present when debating how to spin an issue. They just read the cards!

    Thats so fucking silly a defense that it insults the intelligence of all Americans. And Americans are already pretty fucking dumb!

    TALLDAVE

    what about the stuff NO ONE thought was true? a la, no one knew who leaked Plame info etc?

    Yes yes, the admin is pure as driven snow, and all the people who were fired or resigned for refusing to play ball (*like the DOJ people)…. oh, they’re all just self serving.

  43. Guy Montag | May 28, 2008, 2:08pm | #

    Karl Rove has made a few direct statements about the facts

    And thats a man who will never, ever, ever lie to America

  44. They didn’t challenge him because he was only saying what everyone thought was true

    Maybe on the single issue of WMD, although there were plenty of people who didn’t think that was true, like Ron Paul for example.

    I’d like to hear what McLellan has to say about the other lies he was sent out to repeat, like the various denials about abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo, or the denials of the CIA secret prison program. I’m sure he was sent out to make statements about the Abu Ghraib scandal wherein he asserted that the administration would fully and fairly investigate the various abuses there, and that was a lie. Oh, there are lots of lies we could stand to hear more about.

  45. They didn’t challenge him because he was only saying what everyone thought was true, including what Clinton had been saying for eight years.

    Yes, clearly everyone in 2003 thought that preventative war with Iraq over WMDs was a necessary step.

    Clearly.

  46. The White House Iraq Group (WHIG) has been exposed years ago as the pathetic propaganda machine it was. The media was 100% complicit — like when Cheney would leak a story to the NYT about mobile weapons labs or some other such bullshit – and then go on meet the press two days later and say, “I read in the NYT (a known liberal rag, right Dick?) that it was reported that Iraq had mobile weapons labs.” Rinse and repeat on every major network primetime news show – and then send out Condi Rice, Rumsfeld, Bush himself, a few other lackeys and repeat repeat repeat. The echo chamber was in full hum. Whats the old German Reich saying, “The bigger the lie, the more you need to repeat it?” And despite A LOT OF INSIDE MAJOR MEDIA PEOPLE KNOWING THIS WAS 100% BULLSHIT they remained silent. And hundreds of thousands of people died. Thousands of our men and woman are dead and we have billions and billions wasted in a shit hole in the middle east.

    Fuck ’em all. Silence in that situation was complicity. Same with the author of this book. He cannot atone for what he helped create with this too litle too late patheic attempt to score some $ before the whole ship goes down. Karma has a long memory, Scotty – even if the American people do not.

  47. There were some members of the press who didn’t buy the bullshit, and did quesiton McClellan and the rest of the administration very intensively over their lies.

    Helen Thomas, for example.

    Remember the crap she got for it? Hell, MSNBC took their top-rated political chat show, one of the top rated such shows on any network – Phil Donoghue’s show – off the air purely because they didn’t want to be painted as unpatriotic.

    So, not so much with the “everyone believed the administration, and no one felt bullied into going along” thing.

  48. “What has Bush been up to lately? According to the White House website, he’s toured a cable company and met with NCAA football coaches, among other things. So he really does have a full plate”

    Because as we all know, what he does with a miniscule fraction of his day is indicative of his full work load.
    If this magazine ever replaced smartass jokery with actual commentary, it might actually become relevant for once.

    As for whether Bush lied or not, it is amazing how some jackasses on this site, namely joe, are willing to believe anyone idiot who claims Bush “lied” but when multiple commissions state there is no evidence to support that bullshit charge, they just disregard those findings.

  49. McClatchy, or whatever it was called back the was reporting the dissenting evidence. America was not in lock step with the adminstration as to the justification of the war. Remember all those who disagreed with Bush and co were called unpatriotic, and there was much name calling back then.

    Some people must believe that Americans were in lock step to make themselves feel better.

    The propaganda campaign that used retired generals to support the Prez’s assertions was recently suspended.

    http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5j3DVm_ZYhHa_s_nzHkcKmtK81gkA

    There is a episode of Frontline called “Buying The War” that’s interesting.
    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/btw/watch.html

    Bottom line, Bush and co knew they had to sell the war to the American public, facts and truth be damned. They felt that was the lesson from Vietnam, keeping the people behind the war at all costs is necessary to win. The Internet makes that more difficult.

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