I don’t generally make a habit of disagreeing with Peggy Noonan. She is after all, one of the most thoughtful, accomplished and influential wordsmiths of our time. She is also a much-admired friend and colleague.
In an essay published last week in the Wall Street Journal last weekend, however, Peggy offered what amounted to a defense of Scott McClellan’s new memoir of his years in the George W. Bush administration, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception. To be fair, it wasn’t much of a defense; she took the former press secretary to task for writing a cliché-ridden, “lumpy, uneven and… embarrassing” tome.
Still, Ms. Noonan welcomed McClellan’s book as a contribution to a needed “debate on the issues” he addressed – notably, the grounds for the United States going to war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. As everyone knows by now, the one-time Bush press flak came, in the course of writing this book (evidently with considerable help, read “spinning,” from the left-wing publisher of George Soros’ screeds, Public Affairs), to view the invasion of Iraq as “a serious strategic blunder” arising from a decision that was itself “a fateful misstep.”
Peggy Noonan declared that she “believes” McClellan and urged that more people “who work or worked within the Bush White House will address the book’s themes and interpretations.” She adds: “What’s needed now? More memoirs, more data, more information, more testimony. More serious books, like Doug Feith’s. More ‘this is what I saw’ and ‘this is what is true.’ Feed history.”
I confess I have not read Scott McClellan’s book. In fact, I could not even get a copy at my local Barnes and Nobles, as they were sold out and hopelessly back-ordered. So this is not a book review, just an observation, based on the wall-to-wall reporting on the contents of What Happened and the post-publication public statements of its author: With all due respect, I think Peggy Noonan is wrong. The world does not need more such books.
Neither history nor the public’s current need for accurate information about its leaders and their conduct are advanced by more self-aggrandizing, -justifying and -serving memoirs characterized by an almost total lack of discipline.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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