McClellan's Book Agent Speaks

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Jun 20, 2008 12:00 PM
As Matt noted below, Scott McClellan is going to testify today before Congress.

In one of those weird coincidences, McClellan's book agent, Craig Wiley, was also my book agent for Prude (and, incidentally, was very effective in that capacity).   He spoke to me a little bit, on the record, about McClellan and his role in the book process.

For the record, Craig tells me that he wasn't involved in the creation of the book proposal or McClellan's "evolution" to Bush critic.  And all of that makes sense.  Similarly, for me, he simply found an excellent publisher for my book proposal -- where, likewise, he had no involvement with the substance or tone of the book (besides offering some marketing advice before shopping it around).

In Craig's estimation, however, McClellan was personally hurt by having been kept out of the loop in the Plame matter, and that's what spurred his desire to have his say about the Bush administration.  He was never "that concerned about the money," and, in fact, was will to entertain lower offers if the publisher was willing to let him write freely.  

When Craig first worked with McClellan, he had the sense that McClellan was grappling with what he wanted to say.  His book proposal -- the one that was sold --  was very general.  He spoke in a "cryptic manner" and initially, he wasn't willing to reveal a lot.  Then, it seems, he looked back over his notes of his White House tenure and saw things "through a different lens."

It's Craig's belief that McClellan did what he wanted to do, and that the book is "totally him."  What's interesting is that "Scott claims to be a centrist," Craig told me. 

If Craig's impressions are correct, it strikes me that McClellan was probably bitter at having been left out of the loop -- and about the general impression throughout the political world that he was an unworthy (and incompetent) successor to the very effective and talented Ari Fleischer.  That's plenty to sting the ego and help one bring a "different lens" to the review of notes, especially under the guidance of an anti-Bush publisher. 

No doubt he did say what he wanted to say -- at least during the period he was writing the book.  But the influence of publishers can be real, though subtle, and I suspect the role of his left wing publisher was encouraging and supporting every anti-Bush sentiment Scott was harboring, so as to make the book as damaging as possible.

Sadly for McClellan, the reputation that's been most damaged by the book is his own.