Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ah, Scotty...

From the Post:

Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan writes in a new memoir that the Iraq war was sold to the American people with a sophisticated "political propaganda campaign" led by President Bush and aimed at "manipulating sources of public opinion" and "downplaying the major reason for going to war."

McClellan includes the charges in a 341-page book, "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception," that delivers a harsh look at the White House and the man he served for close to a decade. He describes Bush as demonstrating a "lack of inquisitiveness," says the White House operated in "permanent campaign" mode, and admits to having been deceived by some in the president's inner circle about the leak of a CIA operative's name.

It would be utterly inconsistent to praise McClellan for his revelations, now that he needed to find something sensational from his anxiously subservient, painful-to-watch tenure as Press Secretary, which at best could only evoke sympathy for his agonized predicament. It might have helped in eliciting such praise if these revelations had emerge at some point between the end of his tenure and the beginnings of promotion for the book.

Ironically, in now falling to the likely demands of his current masters for something to add spice and sales power to an otherwise agonizing episode, one might posit that he is repeating the same pattern that occurred during his work in the Administration. Nevertheless, this is a man who has demonstrated beyond doubt his characteristic fear of censure. That he comes forward with these accusations, despite putative motive, is of considerable note.

The claims that McClellan makes have the benefit of being supported by numerous contemporary and highly confirming reports (Woodward, Suskind et al). Now, the fact that even McClellan, the truest of camp followers, endorses them, gives them an additional bottom line power--the fearful, sweaty, anxious party line stalwart, who was also among those closest to the action, now confirms what all but the most deluded now must know.

McClellan, like other Press Secretaries before him, could have downplayed, soft pedaled, or diffused these critiques--as they did, in their books, which also had sales imperatives. He does not. Instead, he emphasizes and confirms the critical through-line narrative--a war, driven and unvetted by a lack of necessary curiosity regarding likely effects on our nation, our citizens and the world; a sales campaign yoked to this poorly vetted effort in the most cynical ("one doesn't unveil new products in August") fashion, and, overall, a brutal narrowness of vision, combined with the excitedly combative anti-intellectualism, masked by a shallow pose of ideological self-certainty (i.e. half-blindness) that characterized this administration.

Now, we are seeing the counterattack, the essential message being that they are "puzzled" that this does not "seem to be the Scott" they knew.

Presumably, this "Et tu, Scotty?" translates as an attack on his unwillingness to continue to faithfully toe the party line, in the face of significant evidence to the contrary--to maintain the fantasied walls of the court dominion--a change to be welcomed.

His willingness to express, in print, Bush's tendency to convince himself of what he wanted to believe, and this Administration's embrace of secrecy is a genuinely noble and a brave act.

But, ah, Scotty. The wreckage.