Robert Novak

McClellan writes, "I don't know" whether the leaker -- he does not specify Armitage -- committed a felony. He ignores that Fitzgerald's long, expensive investigation found no violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, if only because Plame was not covered. Nevertheless, McClellan calls the leak "wrong and harmful to national security" -- ignoring questions of whether Plame really was engaged in undercover operations and whether her cover long ago had been blown.

A partisan Democratic mantra began earlier in the book. McClellan writes George H.W. Bush's 1988 campaign "acquiesced to certain advisers, including Roger Ailes and the late Lee Atwater," who opposed Bush's "civility and decency." (McClellan, then 20 years old, played no part in that campaign.) McClellan contends that thanks to Rove in 2002, "the first cracks appeared in the facade of bipartisan comity."

McClellan's fellow Bush aides do not remember him ever saying anything like that. At senior staff meetings discussing policy, they recall, he was silent. His robotic performances from the White House podium seemed only to disgorge what he had been told, and "What Happened" has the similar feel of someone else's hand.

The book so mimics the Democratic line that Ari Fleischer, McClellan's predecessor as press secretary, asked him last week whether he had a ghostwriter. "No," Fleischer told me that McClellan replied, "but my editor tweaked it." (McClellan did not return my call.)

The bland book proposal McClellan's agent unsuccessfully hawked to publishers early in 2007 is not the volume now in bookstores. How and why McClellan changed is a story so far untold.


Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.
 

 
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