Tuesday, June 3, 2008

What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception

by Scott McClellan
PublicAffairs Books
Hardcover, $27.95
358 pages
ISBN: 978-1-58648-556-6

Book Review by Kam Williams

“How did we screw up so badly? The problem wasn’t lack of information. The potential seriousness of the storm had been clearly conveyed to us in advance by Max Mayfield, the director of the National Hurricane Center… The President appeared detached and powerless, unable even to comprehend how he might use the government to help his own people...
It was a failure of imagination and initiative. And when the storm hit and the damage proved worse than anyone expected, our inability to adjust bespoke a failure of responsibility…
Katrina and the botched federal response to it would largely come to define Bush’s second term… The incompetence and blindness exhibited in the response to Katrina would soon become the lens through which many Americans… would come to view Bush and his administration’s management of post-Saddam Iraq.”
n Excerpted from Chapter 15, “Out of Touch” (pages 279-291)

Scott McClellan served under George Bush for seven years, starting out
as his Traveling Press Secretary in 1999 until he was appointed Deputy Press Secretary soon after the 2000 presidential election. In 2003, he was promoted to White House Press Secretary, a position which made him part of the inner circle comprised of infamous characters like Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Andy Card, Scooter Libby and Condoleezza Rice, and thus privy to the shady and deceitful shenanigans going on inside the Administration.
And as Bush’s primary mouthpiece, it fell to McClellan to address the media daily and to put the best possible spin on the series of scandals, cover-ups and failings which would unfold, events including but not limited to the War in Iraq, the outing of CIA Agent Valerie Plame and the government’s woeful response to Hurricane Katrina. But because he had come to politics more as an idealistic, compassionate Conservative than a power-hungry neo-con, it was not long before he found himself at odds with superiors who expected him to manipulate the public with bald-faced lies.
To this casual observer, McClellan never really looked comfortable up at the podium while being besieged with prodding questions from the White House press corps. So, I wasn’t exactly surprised when he resigned from the job prematurely in the Spring of 2006.
What is amazing is that he would be so consumed with guilt about the pivotal role he played in advancing the Administration’s toxic, top secret agenda that he would come clean in a tell-all book even before his former boss had a chance to leave office. What Happened is a revealing memoir which names names and indicts a plethora of Republican insiders with impunity, pretty much confirming all the worst suspicions that the most rabid left-wingers have long been speculating about but without any proof.
Now we know definitively. Yes, the White House deliberately lied about why we were going to war in Iraq, blew Valerie Plame’s cover and simply sat on its hands in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. While most political pundits have been quick to label Scott McClellan a traitor for publishing such a damning expose’, history will undoubtedly deem him a patriot who in the wake of a crisis of conscience rightly opted to put his country ahead of partisan politics.

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