Friday, May 30, 2008

As poor Scotty talks to Keith, Richard Clarke reminds us that poor Scotty used to merrily dish out the abuse that's being heaped on him now


It was interesting last night seeing poor Scotty McClellan spend most of the Countdown hour with Keith Olbermann. (There's a complete transcript on the Countdown website.) The rest of the hour was filled out with an instructively complementary interview with onetime Nixon White House Counsel John Dean.

It was also interesting, later in the evening, to see counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke (flogging his new book, Your Government Failed You: Breaking the Cycle of National Security Disasters) with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show recalling how when he published his 2004 book Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, which accused the Bush administration of screwing up the anti-terrorism effort, he had been attacked with almost exactly the same talking points that McClellan is hearing now: disaffected former official, was totally out of the loop, never said those things while he was here, is just trying to sell books in an election year.

Of course back then Clarke heard the talking points from White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan.

I still don't hear much news in the "revelations" in poor Scotty's book, or for that matter in the interview. I think I got the circumstances pretty much right yesterday. The discovery that both Karl Rove and Scooter Libby had just plain lied to him when they told him unequivocally that they had not leaked Valerie Plame Wilson's CIA identity seems to have gotten the poor boy's attention like being thwacked over the head with a two-by-four. After that wake-up call, he began to see the people around him rather differently.

The poor sap had entered the service of George W. Bush believing him to be what he had pretended to be as governor of Texas: a bipartisan uniter who could bring people together. Of course he wasn't really that in Texas either, but it was still possible for simple souls -- or complex ones with devious agendas -- to believe it. That's who he thought he was following to Washington, and even after 9/11, he really believed in, and was inspired by, Chimpy the Prez's supposed plan to bring freedom and democracy to the Middle East, and any other damned place that got in his way.

I just don't think poor Scotty has much more to tell us about the Bush regime. Is he really telling us anything we didn't know about the regime's singleminded and ruthless pursuit of its vicious partisan agenda? The significance of his witness is that it comes from someone that close to the center of power.

John Dean also suspects that poor Scotty doesn't have much more to tell us, for the obvious reason that press secretaries really don't know very much about policy-making or the inner workings of an administration. In fact, the nature of the job dictates that the less they know, the more effectively they can sell what they do know to the media they service. The press secretary is briefed to know exactly what the administration wants him/her to pass on, and nothing more. This way he/she isn't put in the position of having to hide or lie about things he/she isn't supposed to talk about. (Conspicuously, when Keith tried to press the discussion beyond the few matters that have already been discussed, it usuallly turned out that it was an area poor Scotty had never been briefed on.)

Nevertheless, Dean agreed with Keith's suggestion that with the passage of time, Scotty may find that he has more to tell us. In his own case, once he had absorbed the beating he took from his former colleagues and friends over his congressional testimony laying bare some of the Nixon administration's grubbier secrets, he began to realize that other things he had witnessed and taken for granted might actually have larger significance.

The difference, of course, is that Dean as White House counsel really was often part of the policy-making (or at least policy-enforcing) apparatus. Poor Scotty was thought of and used as a tool. In that capacity he had the misfortune, as I suggested yesterday, of having a shred of decency that was both (a) absent from his regime predecessor and successors and (b) unsuspected by his regime overlords.


Just to be clear on this matter of White House press secretaries being basically out of the policy-making loop, it seems reasonable to assume that while this model applied to poor Scotty's dismal predecessor, Ari Fleischer, and to the incumbent, Dana Perino, it was probably not the case with poor Scotty's immediate successor, the unspeakable Tony Snow. I doubt that he would have taken the job under those conditions.

Snow brought conservative movement cred of his own to the job, and I suspect was permitted rare access and input for a press secretary. After all, since he had already established himself as one of the most accomplished liars and propagandists in the modern communications business, he could be trusted to bamboozle the docile White House press corps.

Even so, I doubt that our Tony would have lasted much longer in the job even without his health considerations. I suspect that the regime policy-makers were coming to find him a bad fit for the job. The last thing they needed or wanted was more opinions. They had all the opinions they needed, thank you very much.

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At 9:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What does Scotty know? Years ago a corporate attorney asked me, "How do know this information? Who do you know? Who is your source?" I just smiled and remained mute. Who did I know? I knew the Fax machine. In large organizations there are a multitude of these machines and one would be surprised how many people send documents or correspondance to the "wrong number." I also found it quite helpful to learn how to scan and speed read upside down. People are always leaving important papers on their desks. It's amazing how many people will take a phone call in the middle of a meeting and turn around to talk. So, I guess it all depends on curiousity and self preservation.

At 9:45 AM, Blogger TSop said...

As a side note, it was pure joy watching the once mighty Karl Rove wear a pained look as Falafel BillO 'interviewed' him on the Factor last night. One can imagine Rove's thoughts as he reflects on how low he has sunk to be forced to field the imbecilic O'Reilly's questions. Known not to suffer fools lightly, Rove sat there as BillO treated him with the same ignorant 'this is my show' manner that he does all his 'guests.' Rove has gone from the Puppetmaster to the Puppet on Faux News...Hahaha!

At 9:53 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

(1) Fair point, anon. We don't really know what poor Scotty knows. There was a lot of stuff happening all around him while he was in the White House.

(2) And tsop, while I make it almost a religious habit not to watch Bill-O (I usually get to see the good stuff on The Daily Show and Countdown, I'm kind of sorry I missed that appearance by our Karl. Anything that makes him squirm is entertainment in my book.



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