Thursday, May 29, 2008
As presidential spokesman until 2006, Scott McClellan had the task of defending some of the administration's most unpopular decisions. But his new book reveals what he really thought of his master
By Rupert Cornwell
"......What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception is no falsely touted insider memoir, jazzed up with a few titillating anecdotes to boost sales. It is a 341-page disquisition on Mr Bush, on his misbegotten war in Iraq, and on his entire conduct of the presidency, which Mr McClellan says was built on the use of propaganda, and on the technique of government as permanent campaign.
"History appears poised to confirm," he writes in arguably the most damning paragraph of a book full of them, "that the decision to invade Iraq was a serious strategic blunder. No one, including me, can know with absolute certainty how the war will be viewed decades from now ... What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary."
And those are not the words of a disgruntled outsider, summoned to the colours and then casually tossed aside. Mr McClellan largely owes his career to Mr Bush. He was spokesman for Mr Bush and part of the "Texas Mafia" along with the likes of Karl Rove and Karen Hughes.......
For the 43rd President, a decision once taken is always right. The approach reflects not only Mr Bush's ingrained stubbornness but his ability to deceive not only others, but also himself......
Blame does not belong with Mr Bush alone. What Happened delivers tough criticism of the President's once vaunted national security team. One member of it of course was Dick Cheney, referred to by Mr McClellan as "the magic man" who somehow "always seemed to get his way" on every issue that mattered to him, be it the war, boosting the executive power of the presidency, or the harsh treatment of detainees.
Even more damning is his verdict on Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser in the run-up to the invasion. Her main talent, Mr McClellan suggests, was a Teflon quality. Whatever went wrong, "she was somehow able to keep her hands clean," even when the problems related to areas for which she was responsible, such as the WMD rationale for war (including the infamous "16 words" in the 2003 State of the Union address about Saddam seeking uranium in Africa, that led to the CIA/Valerie Plame affair) and the planning for post-war occupation. History, he predicts, will not be kind to Ms Rice. But "she knew well how to adapt to potential trouble, dismiss brooding problems and always come out looking like a star"......"