by David Epstein
A few things puzzle me greatly about the publication of and hullabaloo surrounding Scott McClellan's new book, "What Happened." In no particular order, here they are:
1. Why does everyone pay so much attention to the fact that it was Politico.com who got an advance copy of the book and published some key quotes from it? Frank Rich, for instance, in his column today on the topic, makes a point of the fact that Politico "broke" the story.
Now, I believe in giving credit where it's due, but over the past decade or so I noticed that the first organization to announce anything acts as if it's just exposed Watergate. What did Politico do here? They bribed a bookstore employee to give them a copy of a book that was already finished and was scheduled to be released in a few days. They didn't tell us anything we wouldn't have known anyway, and they did nothing remotely approaching investigative reporting to do it. So why treat the organization as if it has suddenly acquired the stature of a major news outlet? Can someone who works in media help me out here?
2. If you look at the video clips of McClellan as press secretary, it's clear that he was one of the people who lied to us, the public, about what was going on. Then he has the nerve to blame the press, in part, for what happened?
The question he needs to be asked is, "Scott, you say that the press were 'complicit enablers' of the run-up to the Iraq War. But you were one of the people who kept spewing the administration line to everything question that reporters tried to raise. So what magical questions could the press have asked you that would have made you stop lying and, instead, tell the truth about what was going on? And if there were no such questions, then what right do you, of all people, have to hector the press on this?" It's almost obscene.
3. The title of the book is "What Happened," and as the editor of Perseus Books, McClellan's publisher, said in an interview, this was the question they pushed McClellan to answer: how could have things gone so wrong?
But why is this an interesting question any more? We know that things went wrong because the people in power sucked. They were mendacious, egotistical, self-aggrandizing bastards who didn't really give a damn about public policy. What would you expect? This is exactly the type of person you don't want in office, and it's why the Republicans are going to be voted out of power decisively in November.
And if McClellan was peripheral to the policy making process he perhaps shares less of the blame for what went wrong, but how could he tell the press with an apparently straight face that he knows Karl Rove is a man of the highest ethical standards, so he couldn't possibly have had anything to do with the Plame affair? No one, and I mean literally no one, in Washington believed Rove was just some innocent nice guy who would never engage in political shenanigans. This crosses the line between being idealistic and being criminally naive.