Scott McClellan shows what happens when the White House trashes honest two-way communications with the media, a core tenet of PR, in favor of “spin.”
Deception, distrust, misinformation, political propaganda and ultimately a book like McClellan’s “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception” are ultimate results when the press is viewed as just one of the “special interest” groups that needs to be fed an occasional scrap to keep it in check.
The former White House Press Secretary claims his book is “not about settling scores,” but that is exactly what he does in his 323-word work published by PublicAffairs. [This blogger has read reams about McClellan's book, but has decided to review it from a PR angle.]
Vice President Dick Cheney, Cheney aide Scooter Libby, Secretary of State Condi Rice and White House Counselor Karl Rove are among the juicier targets. They deserve everything that McClellan dishes out.
The book, however, is an unsuccessful effort by McClellan to salvage his own reputation, which was tarnished by `03-`06 service as White House “spokesman.”
Though McClellan depicts the media as “complicit enablers” of the Bush Administration’s push to invade Iraq, he was among chief cheerleaders of the White House’s march to war.
McClellan also was part of the “permanent campaign” that he now so roundly criticizes in print. He blindly supported the President’s demand to “stay on message” on topics such as Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, even though the rest of the world knew that was not the case.
“So generally speaking, I not only understood and respected the Bush Administration’s emphasis on staying on message, but supported it and worked to help shape it and spread it as part of my job,” wrote McClellan.
Bless me father, for I have sinned, should be words from McClellan, who now takes responsibility for his war promotion role. “But today, as I look back at the campaign we waged to sell the Iraq war to the American people—a campaign I participated in, though I didn’t play a major role in shaping it—I see more clearly the downside of applying modern campaign tactics to matters of grave historical import.
“Reflecting on that period has helped crystallize my understanding of the permanent campaign, with its destructive excesses and how Washington, in its current state of partisan warfare, functions on mutual deception.”
Instead of a high-profile resignation by McClellan, America now gets a self-serving book in which he attempts to regain a portion of his professional dignity that was lost by serving as the mouthpiece for the Bush Administration’s deceptions.
John Adams, America’s second President, had it right when it said: “Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war.”
McClellan is as guilty for selling the war in Iraq as the rest of the members of the Bush Administration.