Editorial: What happened, indeed?
You could say Scott McClellan burned some bridges, at least over the Potomac, last week.
The former White House press secretary alleged, both in a memoir hitting the nation's bookstores and in televised comments, that the Bush administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify its invasion of Iraq -- which he now calls a "serious strategic blunder" -- ignored evidence that conflicted with its preconceived world view, then decided to "turn away from candor and honesty" when events turned sour.
Seemingly reluctant to bash George W. Bush specifically, McClellan nonetheless described a "gut player" who "convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment," all too willing to be deceived by a Karl Rove or Dick Cheney. Bush wanted to attack Iraq immediately after 9-11, indicated McClellan. Beyond that he depicted a White House that was sometimes incompetent -- Hurricane Katrina -- and always political, in "permanent campaign" mode.
Predictably, these allegations have not been warmly received in and around 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Indeed, McClellan is getting blowback as one, a bitter former employee and greedy Judas pitching a book ("What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception"); two, a vindictive wannabe pathetically embracing his 15 minutes; or three, someone sadly brainwashed by liberal New York publishers.
Whatever the case, this is significant because it marks the first defection from the Bush inner circle. Otherwise there's not much earth-shattering here, as McClellan is stating what many if not most Americans already suspect. Bush & Co. fudged the facts in the run-up to Iraq? Well, obviously.
This is a far different McClellan than the true believer who chastised the White House press corps for nearly three years for daring to question his then-beloved boss. Interesting that he now calls them "complicit enablers." Sorry, but he can't have it both ways, carping about the big, bad media being grotesquely unfair to his do-no-wrong employer then, while faulting them for gullibly believing the "falsehoods" and "propaganda" McClellan now says he was telling them, if unknowingly at the time. What McCllellan describes as his epiphany is also a mighty convenient kiss and tell.
Actually, Americans should be far more concerned about the "enablers" inside a White House than the "enablers" outside of it. They should want leaders who surround themselves with people who have the guts to speak truth to power, not the Scott McClellans who looked the other way when it mattered. Apparently the Bush White House hasn't had that, to this nation's regret.
Peoria Journal Star