Book Retort

May 30, 2008

Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's new Bush administration expose, What Happened, has prompted a chorus of dismissive responses from Bush loyalists and critics. In the book, Mr. McClellan (above left, with the president in 2006) claims President Bush waged a "propaganda campaign" to sell the Iraq war, which he called unnecessary and a strategic blunder. He called the president stubborn and isolated and suggested that presidential adviser Karl Rove conspired with I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on the leak of a CIA official's name, among other revelations. Here's how the Bush loyalists and others answered:

"This doesn't sound like Scott, it really doesn't, not the Scott McClellan I've known for a long time. ... It sounds like somebody else; it sounds like a left-wing blogger."

- Karl Rove, former Bush adviser

"Maybe McClellan's own podium-based incompetence might have been a pretty good window into the reality of the administration as a whole, so on that level maybe he was the most truthful press secretary in history."

- Jim Mills, Washington TV producer and columnist

"I think his view is limited and some of this may be misunderstanding on his part of what he saw and heard."

- Frances Townsend, former homeland security adviser

"It was misguided for him to make these kinds of broad accusations and draw these big conclusions about the president."

- Dan Bartlett, former White House counselor

"All you can do is scratch your head when you see how far he's turned."

- Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary

"McClellan's book is neither right nor wrong. It is just ill-informed. ... To grasp the limitations on the role of the White House press secretary, think of him as the media's ambassador to the White House, rather than as the president's ambassador to the media. Thinking of the job this way reveals how much of an outsider the typical press secretary usually is."

- Dick Morris, independent political consultant

"He appears to be dancing on his political grave for cash."

- Trent Duffy, former McClellan deputy

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