It didn’t take long for the White House to join in the diversionary tactic of attacking Scott McClellan rather than addressing the substance of what he’s said:
The White House reacted angrily today to scathing criticisms of President Bush and members of his inner circle that appear in a new memoir written by Scott McClellan, the former White House press secretary who was forced out in 2006 after three tumultuous years.
In excerpts from the book, set to be published next week, Mr. McClellan writes that President Bush “convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment,” and has engaged in “self-deception” to justify his political ends. He calls the decision to invade Iraq a “serious strategic blunder,” and says that the biggest mistake the Bush White House made was “a decision to turn away from candor and honesty when those qualities were most needed.”
But Dana Perino, the current White House press secretary, had harsh words for Mr. McClellan, calling him “sad” and suggesting that he mischaracterized his years in the West Wing to sell books.
“Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House,” she said. “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.”
She said that President Bush was told of some of the excerpts but would not be commenting on them because “he has more pressing matters than to spend time commenting on books by former staffers.”
Perino’s line mirrors that of the President’s former chief political advisor:
Karl Rove, a principal target of many of Mr. McClellan’s charges and the former deputy chief of staff for President Bush, reacted immediately on Tuesday night. Speaking on Fox News, where he is now a commentator, Mr. Rove said Mr. McClellan was not even present at many of the meetings he describes and suggested that he was not writing truthfully.
“First of all, this doesn’t sound like Scott. It really doesn’t,” he said. “Not the Scott McClellan I’ve known for a long time. Second of all, it sounds like somebody else. It sounds like a left-wing blogger.
“If he had these moral qualms,” he added, “he should have spoken up about them.”
This is something I’ve heard repeated by several commentators today. The fact of the matter is that, unlike some previous Press Secretary’s McClellan didn’t have the access to the the types of meetings where Iraq policy was being discussed so, he didn’t have the opportunity to speak up in the first place.
Second, the fact that he remained loyal to the President while employed by him but has decided to speak up now that he has left public service is not all that unusual; it’s something we’ve seen in former members of Administrations from Reagan to Bush I to Clinton.
What was McClellan supposed to do ? Get up in front of the press corps and denounce his boss publicly ?
If he’d done that, the same people criticizing him for not speaking up back then would be denouncing him as a traitor, which is, incidentally, a word I’ve heard several times today from some of Limbaugh’s listeners. If McClellan is telling the truth, he’s not a traitor.
For the increasingly small numbers of true believers, the efforts of the Bush Administration, Fox News, and the right wing radio talkers to focus on attacking McClellan personally while ignoring the reality of what he’s saying, especially about Iraq, will no doubt be enough, but it’s unlikely to work for the rest of the public:
So he’s disguntled (which means unhappy, which must mean happy employees are gruntled..).
And a “former staffer” which indicates he really doesn’t matter anymore.
The problem for the White House is that there is now a large volume of media material documenting the fact that the Bush adminsitration has a credibility gap problem for traceable reasons.
Unless, of course, you drink the Kool-Aid.