Some of the latest buzz coming from Washington surrounds former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan and his new tell-all memoir "What Happened" where he offers a candid account of his time as the spokesperson for one of the most controversial, disliked presidents in our nation's history. Spending three long years of his life being left in the dark, tossed into the shark-infested waters of the Brady Press Briefing Room, and being forced to destroy his own credibility by protecting the President's blunders, McClellan undoubtedly had the the hardest job in America. That said, I suppose that I shouldn't be suprised by McClellan's recent breakdown. After being subjected to that type of treatment, it was only a matter of time that he would crack. And McClellan is only the latest of former administration officials who have become turncoats (included in the group are people like former Chief of staff Larry Wilkerson, Senior Executive Service member Richard Clarke, National Intelligence Officer Paul Pillar, and Deputy Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives David Kuo). Still, his book -- an expression of repressed guilt for his role in peddling Dubya's policies on the rest of us -- comes at a suprise to many; none more shocked that the White House themselves.
It was no secret that McClellan was pretty upset when Karl Rove and Scooter Libby essentially set him up to take the bullets they deserved for the now infamous White House version of Spygate. He's made that abundantly clear in his book. But I would have never thought -- in a million years -- that he'd use a publication to terminate his relationship with the same people for whom he claims he frequently lied. Even as he stands to make a fortune off this book, I would've assumed that a tell-all of this magnitude would have been reserved for a near-death bedside confessional. McClellan unleashes attacks all over the place and about virtually every controversial aspect of the Bush Administration; from 'complicit' agents in the media, to mishandling Katrina, to the Iraq War.
After listening to some of his interviews (yes I admit that I've been following this guy way more than I should), it seems like McClellan is also protecting Bush in some ways. He defends Bush on his intelligence (or lack thereof) and often releases him from any deliberate role played in the Valerie Plame case. But that's not to say that the President has been off the hook completely. In fact, in other circles I can't seem to tell whether or not they were ever friends the way he attacks Bush for being delusional, misguided, deceptive, and confusing (my favorite example was when McClellan cites how Bush "forgot" whether or not he used cocaine when he was the Govenor of Texas).
Said McClellan in his book:
As I worked closely with President Bush, I would come to believe that sometimes he convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment. It is not unlike a witness in court who does not want to implicate himself in wrongdoing, but is also concerned about perjuring himself. So he says, 'I do not recall.' The witness knows no one can get into his head and prove it is not true, so this seems like a much safer course than actually lying. Bush, similarly, has a way of falling back on the hazy memory defense to protect himself from potential political embarrassment. Bush rationalizes it as being acceptable because he is not stating unequivocally anything that could be proven false. If something later is uncovered to show what he knew, then he can deny lying in his own mind.
All of that notwithstanding, I must admit that I have a certain level of sympathy for McClellan. From some of the exerpts I've read, his book seems to portray a person who is indirectly convicting himself for some of the more regrettable aspects of his time as Press Secretary. I haven't read the entire book yet, but I get the feeling that he's not painting himself out to be a victim; though the situation could very well have made him one. I can only imagine how hard it must be to find yourself neck high in political turmoil while trying to remain loyal to a person and an office. Doing the right thing may not be as easily discernable as it would be after introspection later on down the road.
But ultimately even in the face of that possibility, I'm not as open-armed to McClellan as many liberals seem to be. Where my sympathy goes away is when I refuse to believe how McClellan -- who was confused about how Bush "forgot" about his drug use -- failed to see the difference between right and wrong himself. That said, my message to right-wingers is simple: go after McClellan without cease. If it is indeed his intention to get rich by purging his demons and the demons of others, I say make him earn every cent.