The Scott McClellan Affair

I can offer no substantive critique of Scott McClellan. He did work for an administration that produced a complete litany of blunders and errors.

But given the flap he’s started with his new book, as a former press secretary myself, I can’t but help to weigh in with a couple points.

1. I stand by what I said when McClellan was last in the news. Back in November, I wrote: “Pity poor Scott McClellan. Mr. McClellan, who served as the White House press secretary between 2003 and 2006, has a problem with timing…When the leak was exposed was when Mr. McClellan’s sense of timing got in the way. He had a couple of options, but muffed them both. First, he could have played tough with the administration prior to October 7, 2003, when he unequivocally told reporters that Mr. Rove and Libby were not involved in the leak. At that very point, it is the press secretary’s professional duty to, in political parlance, ‘push back.’ Most political operatives don’t like to push back because they are either habitual people pleasers or deathly afraid of their employer or other members of the administration being angry with them.

Yet if Mr. McClellan had better thought through the situation he may have saved himself and the administration from grave trouble. If after going to Mr. Rove and Libby, he was not satisfied with their answers, he still had an ability to save his boss, to whom his fundamental duty is owed, and himself. He could have given some form of a no comment answer, as he later did.

Or he could have resigned as soon as the indictment came down, the moment at which his credibility, the most important tool for a press secretary, vanished. It’s imperative that press operatives maintain their own credibility so that they can do their jobs.”

2. I find McClellan infuriating. I mean, where was his outrage back in August of 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans? That’s when he could have made a difference. Now he’s only covering his behind. Part of the press secretary’s duty is to keep his or her principal aware of news reports. The president doesn’t like to be disturbed, the Bushies say? The reason they pay people like McClellan money is to disturb Bush with the news that there’s a problem down by the Bayou.

3. Larry King featured a Bushie new to the airwaves tonight, some prepster named Reed Dickens. I’ve got to say, Dickens, who formerly worked for McClellan, made some good points. He went so far as to say that McClellan didn’t get the job back in 2002 because he was the most talented candidate; McClellan got it because he was loyal. He also stated that two former Bush operatives who have turned against W — McClellan and Matt Dowd — had no separate political identity outside of Bush.

Bottom line: McClellan just wasn’t strong enough or smart enough to keep himself or his administration out of trouble. He was too dense to realize that part of loyalty is making sure that the president averted problems before they arose.

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One Response to “The Scott McClellan Affair”

  1. Robert Anthony “Tony” Snow, 1955 - 2008 « Dispatches from Seth Gitell Says:

    […] that extremely difficult job as well as it can be done — even following after the buffoonish Scott McClellan. This is how Fox’s news account put it: “In his year-and-a-half at the White House, […]

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