Rich Lowry

McClellan is more compelling when he complains about his treatment during the Valerie Plame case. He maintains that Karl Rove and "Scooter" Libby made categorical denials to him of involvement in the leak. Whether that was the case or he missed subtleties in what they told him, McClellan said things from the podium about the controversy that were untrue, and no one bothered to correct him.

That would have been grounds for resigning, but McClellan stayed. It wasn't until a new White House chief of staff arrived and wanted a better press secretary that McClellan was forced out. The deep-think (and entirely commonplace) theme of his book is that Washington has a poisonous culture of the "permanent campaign." But people fighting for what they believe is more admirable than rank, unprincipled careerism.

When McClellan first met with Bush in Texas for a job interview, Bush asked why he wanted to work for him. "Because I believe in you," McClellan said. What about Bush's agenda? McClellan hastily added he believed in that, too. But he didn't in any meaningful way. He writes of the death penalty, which he defended in Texas: "I do feel significant doubts about it, much as I would later feel about the necessity of war in Iraq." But he swallowed them: "I was called on, as official spokesman, to defend a position despite inner qualms about it."

Lo and behold, here is Scott McClellan, ever the mouthpiece, spouting views that happen to suit the interests of his New York publisher and betray his foolishly loyal former boss. If he has any inner qualms, we'll never know.


Rich Lowry

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years .
 
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