Posts Tagged ‘Bush’

The Scott McClellan Affair

May 29, 2008

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.

The Bush-Israel Contretemps

May 16, 2008

The blogosphere and prominent Democrats are going crazy in the aftermath of President Bush’s remarks to the Israeli Knesset.

The meme here is that Bush was trying to make political points in Israel by likening Democrats to the appeasers of the Hitler Era. I have a few comments.

1. At this point in his lame duck presidency Bush poisons everything he touches. Notwithstanding the merits or lack thereof of his comments, his brand is so low, the president only hurts the cause he was purportedly helping — support for Israel. At this point, Bush should be winding things down and preparing to ride off into the sunset, not making comments easily construed as political attacks.

2. Having said that, an argument can be made that Bush was saying exactly what he believes. After all, a common refrain from Bush’s critics he is that he is too resistant to negotiations to solve problems and too quick to select the military option. But within the context of that critique, it would be wrong to somehow suggest at the same time that Bush doesn’t truly believe what he is saying. I thought that’s a big reason people don’t like him.

3. Observing the vitriol of Keith Olbermann last night, a heavy-handed performance which prompted me to change the channel, I couldn’t help but wonder where Olbermann’s anger was at the actual acts of terrorism that emanate from Hamas-controlled Gaza and into Israel, which, it should be remembered, withdrew from the coastal plain unilaterally in 2005.

4. Finally, why is it completely verboten to discuss the possibly existential threats Israel faces today from Iran? We can quarrel over the extent of danger posed by Iran and the true intentions of the Iranian regime. But there are certain facts on the record. Ahmadinejad has, after all, vowed “to wipe Israel off the map.” It is probably true that the position of Iran’s presidency does not hold exclusive authority in that country, and debates do exist about Iran’s progress at constructing a nuclear weapon. On the merits, too, it’s never a good idea for a sitting U.S. president to launch a political attack, particularly in a foreign land. At the same time, it suggests something pernicious about our culture when a ham-handed political attack from a president on his way out engenders more anger than a maniac’s promise to destroy another sovereign, democratic state.