Monday, June 02, 2008

Everybody Hates Scott

I came across Scott McClellan on PBS's NEWSHOUR Friday night. After a solid week of reactions to his new book, he seemed like the old Scott again - dodging questions, answering in vague generalities, defensive and sweaty. The whole interview went a little like this exchange:

JEFFREY BROWN: You use terms like "shading the truth." Is that a euphemism for lying or purposely misleading?

SCOTT MCCLELLAN: Well, I think that this is the example that there are many good people that come to D.C. for the right reasons, to get things done for the American people and make a positive difference, but they get caught up in this permanent campaign culture that exists and they lose sight of some of the more important objectives of working across the aisle.

He held onto that "permanent campaign culture" talking point like a Titanic survivor holds onto a floating steamer trunk. What he was trying to avoid, apparently, was singling out George Bush. Maybe he feared it would make him look like a disgruntled former employee. Maybe he feared a sheaf of death threats left at his hotel room. Speculation of course, because he didn't say ANYTHING definite at all.

I wouldn't blame him if he were disgruntled, by the way. He insists that he didn't know he was lying to the American people as press secretary, but on some level he must have known. You can see it in the panicked whites of his eyes. He was too easy to read. Therefore he made a lousy press secretary, and they let him go. But if I were him I'd be angry that they ever put me in that position in the first place.

Now of course, the criticism levelled against him from the right is that he is disloyal, and that he's making it all up now, but he was telling the truth while he was press secretary. Strikes me as an unlikely scenario (the practical definition of press secretary has never been "teller of the truth") but they're running with it anyway. As for disloyalty, it goes both ways. But McClellan, spinning his book to keep the president out of it, showed so much loyalty on Friday that you'd think the interview was on Fox News.

By the way, have they sat him down on Fox yet? That would be a pretty interesting 45 seconds. 30 if they give him to O'Reilly.

--Amendment, 6/3: Lookie there! McClellan appeared on O'Reilly last night! I'm tempted to assume that the administration concluded that putting that 'tude in mild-mannered Bob Dole's mouth just didn't work and they decided to bust out the big gun. In any event the substance was the same - "how dare you say those things, and show disloyalty!" The substance was not "you're lying!" When you can't kill the message, destroy the messenger.

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