As you've surely heard, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan is publishing a memoir next week that paints a very unflattering portrait of the Bush administration. There are plenty of criticisms — like of the run-up to the Iraq war and the war’s consequences, and the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina — that have been voiced by Bush’s liberal opposition for years. But even better, there are the revelations about President Bush himself.
Looking at an excerpt in today's Wall Street Journal and commentary on political blogs with copies of the book, we can see that McClellan variously portrays Bush as:
Dependent on politicized advisers: Bush “had been deceived” about the Valerie Plame leak by Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, “and therefore became unwittingly involved in deceiving” McClellan. He relied on propaganda instead of candor in a time of war, and “was terribly ill-served by his top advisers, especially those involved directly in national security.”
Self-deceptive: McClellan remembers being puzzled by Bush’s assertion that he honestly couldn’t remember whether he had ever done cocaine, an episode that demonstrated Bush’s tendency to “convince himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment.”
Uninquisitive: Bush didn’t even grasp the debate as to whether the war in Iraq was one of necessity or choice. “It strikes me today as an indication of his lack of inquisitiveness and his detrimental resistance to reflection,” McClellan writes.
Slow to act: McClellan says Bush “spent most of the first week [after Hurricane Katrina] in a state of denial,” and that the “botched federal response” to the disaster “would largely come to define Bush’s second term.”
Insecure: Had Bush been “a more self-confident executive” he would have been “willing to acknowledge failure” and trust he would be forgiven. But he was focused on “accomplish[ing] what his father had failed to do by winning a second term in office,” and adopted a “permanent campaign approach,” which included “never reflecting, never reconsidering, never compromising. Especially not where Iraq was concerned.” Bush’s unwillingness, when asked by a reporter, to admit a single mistake he made in office is “symbolic of a leader unable to acknowledge that he got it wrong, and unwilling to grow in office by learning from his mistake.”
McClellan will surely be lambasted on the right for betraying his old boss "just to sell books" or to secure his own place as an innocent onlooker in a failed presidency. But ultimately it seems that McClellan goes easier on Bush than he could have, inasmuch as the deception and politicization in the White House is often attributed to scheming aides — or Bush’s defects as a leader, as opposed to his “consciously set[ting] out to engage in these destructive practices.” He might not be so good at his job, McClellan seems to say, but he's not a bad guy. Really. —Dan Amira
Scott McClellan's Confession [WSJ]
Exclusive: McClellan whacks Bush, White House [Politico]
Ex-Press Aide Writes That Bush Misled U.S. on Iraq [WP]
McClellan On Bush's Version of the Truth: From Cocaine Rumors to Destructive Partisan Warfare [Political Punch/ABC News]
Bush misled U.S. on Iraq, former aide says in new book [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]