Ex-aide Scott McClellan says Bush misled the U.S. on war
Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan writes in a memoir that the Iraq war was sold to the American people with a sophisticated...
WASHINGTON — Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan writes in a memoir that the Iraq war was sold to the American people with a sophisticated "political propaganda campaign" led by President Bush and aimed at "manipulating sources of public opinion" and "downplaying the major reason for going to war."
McClellan, 40, includes the charges in his book, "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception," that delivers a harsh look at the White House and the man he served for close to a decade. He describes Bush as demonstrating a "lack of inquisitiveness," says the White House operated in "permanent campaign" mode and says he was deceived by some in the president's inner circle about the leak of a CIA operative's name.
He accuses former White House adviser Karl Rove of misleading him about his role in the CIA case. He describes Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as being deft at deflecting blame and calls Vice President Dick Cheney "the magic man" who steered policy behind the scenes.
McClellan, who was a tight-lipped defender of administration aides and policy, stops short of saying Bush purposely lied about his reasons for invading Iraq, writing that he and his subordinates were not "employing out-and-out deception" to make their case for war.
But in one chapter, "Selling the War," he alleges that the administration repeatedly shaded the truth and that Bush "managed the crisis in a way that almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible option."
McClellan resigned from the White House on April 19, 2006, after nearly three years as Bush's press secretary.
A White House spokeswoman declined to comment on the book, some contents of which were first disclosed by Politico.com. The Washington Post acquired a copy of the book Tuesday, in advance of its official release Monday.
The criticisms of Bush in the book are striking, given that they come from a man who followed Bush to Washington from Texas.
Bush is depicted as an out-of-touch leader, operating in a political bubble, who stubbornly refused to admit mistakes. McClellan defends the president's intellect — "Bush is plenty smart enough to be president," he writes — but casts him as unwilling or unable to be reflective about his job.
The former aide describes Bush as a willing participant in treating his presidency as a permanent political campaign, run in large part by his top political adviser, Rove.
"The president had promised himself that he would accomplish what his father had failed to do by winning a second term in office," he writes. "And that meant operating continually in campaign mode: never explaining, never apologizing, never retreating. Unfortunately, that strategy also had less justifiable repercussions: never reflecting, never reconsidering, never compromising. Especially not where Iraq was concerned."
He charges that the campaign-style focus affected Bush's entire presidency. The ill-fated Air Force One flyover of New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina struck the city, was conceived of by Rove, who was "thinking about the political perceptions" but ended up making Bush look "out of touch," McClellan writes.
McClellan admits to letting himself be deceived about the unmasking of CIA operative Valerie Plame, which resulted in his relentless pounding by the White House media corps over the activities of Rove and Cheney aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby in the matter. He also suggests that Rove and Libby may have worked to coordinate their stories about the Plame leak.
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