Today today…

Posted on Thursday 29 May 2008


    Arianna Huffington: In What Happened, Scott McClellan offers withering portraits of George Bush and Karl Rove, confirms we went to war in Iraq under false pretenses, and that we were serially lied to about the outing of Valerie Plame. Interesting stuff, Scott. But about five years too late. How many times are we going to have a key Bush administration official try to wash the blood off his hands — and add a chunk of change to his bank account — by writing a come-clean book years after the fact instead of when it actually could have made a difference?

Having gotten my feelings about Meredith Vieira’s annoying interview style off my chest, I tried to get at what I saw in Scott McClallan in the interview on Today. I wish I could be pragmatic like Arianna, but I can’t bring it off. What kept coming to mind was the criticism pouring out of Washington. The foremost was from Karl Rove the Contemptuous, "Sounds like a Liberal Blogger." To King Karl I would say that he, himself, created Liberal Bloggers. I know that from personal experience. It never occurred to me to write about Washington politics until he came along. And I started writing about it before I knew there were "Liberal Bloggers." We were being fed a story line that was scripted to make us see things a certain way. The more I read, the more it sounded like bullshit. I didn’t even know what the word "spin" meant [I was vaguely aware that there was a sitcom called "Spin City" but I thought it had to do with records, like Detroit or L.A.]. The political polarization of today was brought to my life by Karl Rove in 2000. When all the fringy people were talking about Y2K like in a Science Fiction Movie, I also didn’t get their point. I now see the new century as bringing Karl Rovism into American politics, and I hope we can recover by Y3K. So, I guess I’m in the category of "Liberal Bloggers" that Rove is referring to, a group he created – a term he uses like the Fundamentalist Christians use "Secular Humanism" [One such person said to me, "You Secular Humanists all think …" I went home and looked it up. I didn’t have any idea what she was referring to.]. So, Karl Rove’s comment is his usual – he attacks Scott McClellan, people who he defines as "Liberals" [meaning all people who don’t think what he thinks], and "Bloggers" which I gather are just plain bad people. He in no way addresses what Scott McClellan has to say. Ad Hominem Karl strikes again.

Most of the other critics have focused on McClellan’s betraying his friends, and move out from there to look for his nefarious motives – make a buck, jealousy, envy, vengence, etc. I want him to say, "That’s exactly what I’m talking about! Governing America isn’t about friendship or loyalty, it’s about solving the collective problems of 300,000,000 people." That’s all they can see [loyalty and friendship], so they only understand Scott McClellan in those terms. And they all talk like he’s gone over to the other side. Ari Fleischer said something like he’s dumping his friends to go over to the left wingers, but they’ll soon drop him. From his point of view, McClellan is sleeping with the [evil and capricious] enemy. And his "old friends" are out in force to psychologize about Scotty’s betrayal.

Okay, now to Scott McClellan. He made it clear in the interview that he was raised by passionately political Republican parents with high moral standards. McClellan was not a Bush insider, but he was a loyal trooper. He bought the Bush campaign promises of being a "uniter" and a "compassionate conservative." He thought partisanism was going to diminish onder Bush. Listening to him talk, I completely believe that he believed all of that. So my diagnosis of Scott McClellan is that he was very naive. He saw Bush as embodying his parental ideals. It sounds like they treated him more like a Scotty dog that a Scotty person – loyal, naive, a good guy. His answer to Meredith Vieira’s relentless questions about why didn’t he speak up if he felt that way was unvarying, he didn’t feel that way. He came to feel that way gradually over time. He points to two moments of clarity. The first was finding out that Rove and Libby were the Valerie Plame leakers after being told directly by each of them that they were not involved in any way. The second aha! experience was when Bush told him that he had authorized the leak of the National Intelligence Estimate to Judith Miller. His book is his view after casting off the spell, removing the scales from his eyes, awakening, whatever you want to call it when someone suddenly sees what they’ve been blind to in the past.

He had a message he wanted to talk about over the din of Vieira’s trivial confrontations. It was about the danger and destructiveness of the culture of continuous campaigning, spin, Talking Points, partisanship, personal loyalties, etc. It’s a fine message.  I hope he can be heard above the roar of his critics. He didn’t say but one thing I haven’t already thought. It was about Bush being fixated on being the guy who brought Democracy to the Middle East – a fixation that clouded his judgement. I have attributed other motives or lack thereof to Bush, but McClellan seems to be hitting the nail on the head with that one. I’ll never get the picture of McClellan defending Rove and Libby out of my head. I’m glad to see that he’s having trouble with that image himself, and is setting out to make his amends. I’m still looking forward to seeing him with interviewers who will let him talk…

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