I was actually one of Scott McClellan’s few defenders when he was still White House press secretary. The crew over at NRO’s The Corner, the high church of conservative blogs, happily waved good riddance to him when he left the job. My argument in return was that he did all right playing an everyman in the face of the press jackals in the briefing room. That he made, for instance, the whining ass David Gregory of NBC look precisely like a whining ass.
Given the choice between McClellan as humble White House interlocuter and the hubris of the White House press corps, everyday folks would have an easy choice in the everyday everyman press secretary.
That said, McClellan never did seem to do much to advance the public’s understanding, but in a hostile environment where the other side wasn’t interested in that anyway, McClellan worked the room to a stand-off or better.
Now he has written a book that apparently demonstrates (it’s not out yet, but all of the “good parts” have probably been reported) that one of the reasons he didn’t advance the public’s understanding is that he had no understanding of what was going on himself. He appears to have gone into the White House with a set of stick figures, went through a few years there arranging them for the jackals, and then left with the stick figures intact and unencumbered by any particularly clear insights.
In being offered a book contract to write about his experiences, he was given a back rub by his publisher and urged to arrange the stick figures so that they mirrored the views paraded 24/7 in the liberal media, and then sent out to talk to the liberal media in the effort to sell the book, but mainly so that the liberal media could say “so, Scott, you’re saying that we were right all along.”
That’s pretty funny, if you think about it.
One of McClellan’s moments of disillusionment came when he realized that the White House was trying, I think these are his words, “to discredit” Joe Wilson and his CIA wife, Valerie Plame. McClellan seems to be nonplussed that the White House would fight back against those two, and seems to be positively oblivious to the fact that they needed to be discredited because they had made the whole thing up! My complaint about the White House vis a vis the Wilson-Plames was that it did such a poor job countering and discrediting them. In the Clinton White House, where the “truth was whatever you want it to be,” even if the Wilson-Plames had been telling the spot-on real truth, which they were not, they would have been run sixteen times through a juicer and poured out in tiny paper cups in front of Tim Russert on Meet the Press.
The Bushies need not have gone that far, but they barely lifted a finger to go after that revolting duo. The President himself should have taken after them with a trowel and seen to it that Plame was suspended from the CIA the very day her husband’s miserably self-aggrandizing and lying op-ed piece appeared in The New York Times. But the Bush White House never had much stomach for fighting back on that score. And McClellan’s long Cub Scout presence in the briefing room is fairly good proof of that.