Posted on Thursday 29 May 2008

Richard Clarke accused the Bush administration of ignoring warnings on terrorism.
    "I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he’s done such great things about terrorism," Clarke said in a "60 Minutes" interview on the book with CBS. "He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11. Maybe, we’ll never know."
Scott McClellan provided the White House response.
    "Let’s remember why we are having this conversation, because Mr. Clarke made assertions that we have said are flat-out wrong," McClellan said. Moreover, in his book, "Mr. Clarke certainly decided on his own to go ahead and reveal conversations that were considered private previously," the spokesman said.
And Scotty didn’t stop there.
    McClellan pointed to the timing of Clarke’s book.

    "If Dick Clarke had such grave concerns, why wait so long? Why wait until the election?" Instead, McClellan said, Clarke "conveniently" released a book in the middle of the campaign season.
When Paul O’Neill said the Bush administration was planning to attack Iraq all along and only used 9/11 as a justification.
    Former US Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill has provided the grist for an unflattering tell-all book about the Bush White House called "The Price of Loyalty". … Mr O’Neill said President Bush was disengaged, "a blind man in a room full of deaf people," and said the administration was hatching plans to invade Iraq from the day Mr Bush entered office.
Scott McClellan provided the White House reply.
    White House spokesman Scott McClellan brushed off O’Neill’s criticism.
    "We appreciate his service, but we are not in the business of doing book reviews," he told reporters. "It appears that the world according to Mr. O’Neill is more about trying to justify his own opinion than looking at the reality of the results we are achieving on behalf of the American people. The president will continue to be forward-looking, focusing on building upon the results we are achieving to strengthen the economy and making the world a safer and better place."
When it was Scott’s turn at the plate, it was up to Dana Perino to deliver the smackdown.
    Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House. For those of us who fully supported him, before, during and after he was press secretary, we are puzzled. It is sad – this is not the Scott we knew.

    "The book, as reported by the press, has been described to the President. I do not expect a comment from him on it – he has more pressing matters than to spend time commenting on books by former staffers."
Positively McClellan-esque.
Devilstower at Daily KOS has done a great job of ferreting out Scott McClellan’s statements as Press Secretary when he had to deal with people like Paul O’Neill and Richard Clarke who wrote exposes of the Bush Administration early on. Irony is powerful, and Devilstower’s version is particularly poignant. The similarity of McClellan’s comments about others to Dana Perino’s comments about him is chilling.

Irony is usually a discredting technique, "If you said this in the past, how can you now say …" It puts people immediately on the defensive. It’s like being strangled with one’s own words. There’s some idea that one should be consistent for all times over time. I’m certainly not. Most of my friends aren’t. People ‘change their minds., make mistakes, take trips down garden paths, etc.

But in this case, the irony might be the opposite – something that strengthens what McClellan is saying.  If he said those things before, it speaks to what he’s describing as being "in the bubble." We’ve all been there in our lives, and looking back on it, we can see that we were dead wrong [if we can tolerate the shame one feels in those situations]. On the interview this morning, McClellan handled that pretty well. He would have been best placed to say, "I was wrong, to put it simply. I believed what I said at the time, but I was insufficiently reflective to see that we thought we were going down one path, and we were really on a very different trajectory. It’s hard to see those things when you’re in the middle of the fray. That’s one reason I wrote this book. It’s what psychologists cause cognitive dissonance to wake up and suddenly see the recent past in a very different light. That’s what happened to me. I certainly wished I hadn’t discounted Clarke and O’Neill. But that’s what I did." But he did say something vaguely like that in softer ways.

The irony of these statements is lost on none of us. The most important thing is whether Scott McClellan can fully embrace that irony and explain it in non-defensive terms. It’s at the center of his whole point about the downside of loyalty and friendship. As O’Neill said before him, it’s the "Price of Loyalty"…

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