Saturday, May 31, 2008


Deafening Silence On Analyst Story

'Deafening' silence on analyst story

Even with countless media outlets available these days, a Sunday New York Times cover story could always be counted on to send a jolt through the television news cycle.

But apparently that’s no longer the case. Indeed, reporter David Barstow’s 7,600-word investigation of the Pentagon’s military analyst program — whereby ex-military talking heads, often with direct ties to contractors, parroted Defense Department talking points on the air — has been noticeably absent from television airwaves since the story broke on April 20.

While bloggers have kept the story simmering, Democratic congressional leaders also are speaking out, calling for investigations that could provoke the networks to finally cover the Times story — and, in effect, themselves.

On Tuesday, Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.) sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin “urging an investigation of the Pentagon’s propaganda program” to determine if the networks or analysts violated federal law.

FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps, a Democrat, applauded their efforts. “President Eisenhower warned against the excesses of a military-industrial complex,” Copps said in a statement. “I’d like to think that hasn’t morphed into a military-industrial-media complex, but reports of spinning the news through a program of favored insiders don’t inspire a lot of confidence.”

DeLauro said by phone that the Pentagon’s program was “created in order to give military analysts access in exchange for positive coverage of the Iraq war.”

The FCC request follows DeLauro’s April 24 letters to five of the most powerful network executives: NBC News President Steve Capus, ABC News President David Westin, CBS News President Sean McManus, FOX News chief executive Roger Ailes and CNN News Group President Jim Walton.

Only ABC and CNN have responded so far, according to DeLauro, who is not the only member of Congress calling attention to the Times story.

Both Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) have written to the Government Accountability Office, seeking an investigation into whether the Pentagon aided in connecting military analysts with contractors.

“I decided to push this issue hard because ever since The New York Times exposé appeared, the silence has been deafening,” Kerry said in statement to Politico.

Kerry said there needs to be a “thorough investigation” into government contracts and “whether Americans’ tax dollars were being used to cultivate talking heads to sell the administration’s Iraq policy.”

Others involved include Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, who wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), who told Think Progress he’s begun to “distrust the military,” and Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), who said on the House floor that the Times story reflects poorly on the Pentagon, analysts and media organizations.

Congressional outcries alone might not be enough, but if investigations yield any new discoveries or lead to high-profile hearings, the networks would be hard-pressed to continue their de facto blackout.

“We are in a time when stories can have a second life,” said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. A few years ago, if a story did not generate attention after a week, it could be considered dead, said Rosenstiel, who cited the instance of how bloggers revived the U.S. attorney firings story.

Rosenstiel’s organization tracked the mainstream media for a week after the Times story and found that out of approximately 1,300 news stories, only two touched on the Pentagon analysts scoop — both airing on PBS’s “NewsHour.”

Besides being “an important story,” “NewsHour” executive producer Linda Winslow said that following up was necessary because of remaining concerns about information the public was given during the run-up to the Iraq war.

None of the analysts in the Times story appeared on “NewsHour,” according to Winslow, but as Barstow reported, they did appear on NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX and CNN.

Andrew Tyndall, an independent television analyst who monitors the nightly newscasts, said the broadcast networks rarely do “self-criticism stories.” However, he added, “this is really the sort of thing that all of the networks should have addressed online.”

Brian Williams, anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” finally responded on his blog, “The Daily Nightly,” 10 days after the Times article ran. Williams wrote that he “read the article with great interest,” and mentioned working alongside two four-star generals included in the Times piece — Barry McCaffrey and the late Wayne Downing.

“All I can say is this: These two guys never gave what I considered to be the party line,” Williams wrote. “They were tough, honest critics of the U.S. military effort in Iraq.”

While Williams defended the ex-generals and his network, the anchor did not reveal details about NBC’s vetting process. (Nor, as Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald pointed out, did he mention Downing and McCaffrey’s support of the war in 2002 and 2003.) And while Barstow had been told by NBC that there were “clear policies in place,” the network declined to get into specifics.

In Barstow’s original account — which is based largely on more than 8,000 pages of Pentagon documents the Times successfully sued to gain access to — the networks either declined to comment or simply provided terse statements to the reporter.

(Barstow declined a request for comment and told readers on that he may follow up on the story. Five days after the original story ran, he wrote a short piece about the Pentagon’s suspension of the program.)

Unlike many newspapers, the networks do not have ombudsmen or public editors, leaving little room for transparency if they refuse to comment or commit to a follow-up story.

CBS’s “Public Eye” blog, created in the wake of the Dan Rather “Memogate” debacle, was the sole medium for responding to viewer concerns with original reporting and analysis. But it was shuttered in December, following cutbacks.

“This controversy about military analysts would have been right in our ballpark,” said Dick Meyer, former editorial director of CBS News who spearheaded the “Public Eye” project in September 2005.

Meyer, who became NPR’s editorial director of digital media last month, said, “It’s irresponsible for a modern news organization to not have some kind of readers’ advocate, some kind of public editor function.”



Network Execs Killed Stories Critical of White House

May 29, 2008
Categories: White House

CNN's Yellin: Network execs killed critical White House stories

On Wednesday night, CNN's Jessica Yellin talked to Anderson Cooper about Scott McClellan's tell-all memoir and agreed with the former press secretary that White House reporters "dropped the ball" during the run-up to war.

But Yellin went much further, revealing that news executives — presumably at ABC News, where she'd worked from July 2003 to August 2007 — actively pushed her not do hard-hitting pieces on the Bush administration. [UPDATE: Yellin now says it was MSNBC execs, not ABC]

"The press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president's high approval ratings," Yellin said.

"And my own experience at the White House was that the higher the president's approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives — and I was not at this network at the time — but the more pressure I had from news executives to put on positive stories about the president, I think over time...."

But then a shocked Cooper jumped in, asking, "You had pressure from news executives to put on positive stories about the president?"

"Not in that exact.... They wouldn't say it in that way, but they would edit my pieces," Yellin said. "They would push me in different directions. They would turn down stories that were more critical, and try to put on pieces that were more positive. Yes, that was my experience."

UPDATE: TVNewser reports that Jessica Yellin is going to post a blog item shortly on that will clarify her remarks. From what I'm hearing, she'll write that it was MSNBC execs, not ABC that she was referring to last night. Yellin worked at MSNBC during the run-up to war, but then moved on to ABC that summer, where she stayed for four years. UPDATE 2: Yellin confirms this.

See Also



WH Reporters Not Shocked by McClellan- Bush Expose

WH reporters not shocked by McClellan
Scott McClellan
Several of the reporters who jousted with Scott McClellan during his WH tenure say they are not surprised that the mild-mannered spokesman has lashed out.
Photo: AP

Even after Scott McClellan’s publisher released a juicy excerpt from his memoir last November, some of his former combatants in the White House press corps remained skeptical that the longtime Bush loyalist would really open up.

But Newsweek’s White House correspondent Richard Wolffe wasn’t one of them.

“He promised when he first started writing this book that he’d engage in some truth-telling,” said Wolffe, who had spoken to McClellan in recent months. “And that’s what he’s done.”

Since excerpts from McClellan’s forthcoming book, “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception,” were published by Politico on Tuesday evening, most of McClellan’s former White House colleagues have expressed shock at the book’s negative tone.

Those familiar with the inner workings of the Bush White House — from current press secretary Dana Perino to former political guru Karl Rove — have said the book doesn’t sound like the McClellan they knew.

But several of the reporters who jousted with McClellan during his tenure at the briefing room podium from July 2003 to April 2006 — the same group of reporters who McClellan now describes as being “too deferential” in the run-up to invading Iraq — say they are not surprised that the mild-mannered spokesman has lashed out.

Peter Baker, previously a White House correspondent for The Washington Post and now a writer for The New York Times magazine, said McClellan — despite years of loyalty to Bush — has a deep sense of betrayal over unknowingly conveying misinformation as press secretary.

The book is “not surprising after talking to him,” Baker said. “You got a sense that his perspective had changed. You can’t overestimate how the CIA case [in which former operative Valerie Plame was outed] left him burned ... and being pummeled for passing along untrue statements.”

In “What Happened,” McClellan alleges that he was misled by White House aides, including Rove and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, into passing along erroneous information to reporters about the CIA leak case.

In a chapter titled “Revelation and Humiliation,” McClellan writes about a particularly tough briefing in July 2005. At that time, Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff had a scoop about conversations between Rove and reporter Matt Cooper, who was then at Time magazine and is currently at Portfolio.

“I could feel something fall out of me into the abyss as each reporter took a turn whacking me,” McClellan writes. “It was my reputation crumbling away, bit by bit. And the affection for the job eventually followed it.”

Julie Mason, the Houston Chronicle’s correspondent, said that it has long been apparent that McClellan was coming to terms with his role.

“The last story I did about him — when he was leaving — I wrote about how he lied,” Mason said. “I waited for him to call and scream at me.”

But McClellan never did call, leading Mason to assume that he believed he did lie, or at least that he unknowingly misled reporters.

Although McClellan writes in his book about how the press corps hammered away during Plame affair, he also slights the media for not being aggressive enough before the administration’s decision to invade Iraq.

Page 2

“[T]he national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq,” he writes.

McClellan also writes that “the ‘liberal media’ didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”

On this point, White House reporters bristle. “When people say White House reporters weren’t asking the tough questions, that’s false,” said Mason, who contended that White House aides such as McClellan kept reiterating talking points and that reporters “weren’t getting any usable responses.”

When asked about McClellan’s criticism, NBC’s David Gregory responded in an e-mail to Politico: "I think my work speaks for itself and is the clearest refutation of Scott's claim."

McClellan wasn’t press secretary during the invasion but took over as the case for war began crumbling. In one passage, he writes that ABC White House correspondent Ann Compton came to him in June 2003 and — despite his talking points to the contrary — told him that “if there were any [weapons of mass destruction], they would have found them by now."

“She spoke with an air of confidence as someone who had worked in Washington long enough to anticipate a story’s likely end,” he writes. “I was a bit shaken for a moment, but as Ann left my office, the sense of hard-nosed reality she brought with her departed as well.”

Compton said she was surprised by McClellan’s decision to write a blistering memoir. “What stuns me is that Scott McClellan is the last person I can imagine writing a book as witheringly critical as this one,” said Compton, who is also president of the White House Correspondents’ Association.

“I would find it easier to believe that Laura Bush wrote this than Scott McClellan,” Compton added.

The publication of false information in the run-up to the war has been chronicled extensively by press critics, from Greg Mitchell to Michael Massing. Nevertheless, since McClellan’s statement about the “deferential” press leaked out, bloggers have jumped back on the media story — which, as the war enters its sixth year, has faded from view.

However, it’s not only the blogosphere renewing old debates about the media’s pre-war role.

On “Today” on Wednesday, host Matt Lauer brought up McClellan’s “scathing commentary on the press” with the three network news anchors — NBC's Brian Williams, CBS's Katie Couric and ABC's Charlie Gibson — who had assembled to talk about a cancer research television special.

"There was such a significant march to war, and people who questioned it very early on, and really as the war progressed, were considered unpatriotic," said Couric. "And I think it did affect the way — the level of aggressiveness that was exercised by the media. I really do."

Note: This article was updated.


Thursday, May 29, 2008


War - Video

Bush, May his fate be the deepest, most horrible pits of Hell!



Rice Defends Bush's Lies, Incompetence

Rice says Bush clear about Iraq war

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks to employees at the Google Inc. headquarters in Mountain View, California May 22, 2008. (Robert Galbraith/Reuters)
Reuters Photo: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks to employees at the Google Inc. headquarters in Mountain...

By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writer Thu May 29, 10:04 AM ET

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday rejected allegations from a former White House spokesman who says the Bush administration misled the American public into going to war with Iraq.

Rice would not comment specifically on charges made by ex-press secretary Scott McClellan in a new book, but said President Bush was honest and forthright about the reasons for the war. She also said she remained convinced that toppling Saddam Hussein was right and necessary.

"The president was very clear about the reasons for going to war," she told reporters at a news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in Stockholm where she is attending an international conference on Iraq.

Chief among those reasons was the belief, shared widely before the war, that Saddam Hussein had or was developing weapons of mass destruction, Rice recalled, suggesting the international community shouldn't have backed harsh sanctions against Iraq if it doubted the threat.

"I am not going to comment on a book that I haven't read," she said, referring to McClellan's scathing memoir, "but what I will say is that the concern about weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein's Iraq was the fundamental reason."

"It was not the United States of America alone that believed that he had weapons of mass destruction that he was hiding," Rice said, dismissing suggestions that the administration knew the intelligence was incorrect.

"The story is there for everyone to see, you can't now transplant yourself into the present and say we should have know what we in fact did not know in 2001 and 2002," she said. "The record on weapons of mass destruction was one that appeared to be very clear."

Those who were skeptical should have spoken up at the time and argued against U.N. sanctions such as the oil-for-food program, she said.

"The threat from Saddam Hussein was well understood," Rice said. "You can agree or disagree about the decision to liberate Iraq in 2003, but I would really ask that if you ... believe he was not a threat to the international community, then why in the world were you allowing the Iraqi people to suffer under the terms of oil-for-food."

McClellan writes that Rice, who was national security adviser earlier in Bush's presidency, "was more interested in figuring out where the president stood and just carrying out his wishes while expending only cursory effort on helping him understand all the considerations and potential consequences" of war. Rice "was somehow able to keep her hands clean, even when the problems related to matters under her direct purview," according to McClellan, but he predicts that "history will likely judge her harshly."

The heart of the McClellan book concerns Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq, a determination McClellan says the president had made by early 2002 — at least a full year before the invasion — if not even earlier.

"He signed off on a strategy for selling the war that was less than candid and honest," McClellan writes in "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception."

However, McClellan wrote that he did not believe Bush or the White House "deliberately or consciously sought to deceive the American people."

McClellan says Bush's main reason for war always was "an ambitious and idealistic post-9/11 vision of transforming the Middle East through the spread of freedom." But Bush and his advisers made "a marketing choice" to downplay this rationale in favor of one focused on increasingly trumped-up portrayals of the threat posed by the weapons of mass destruction.

During the "political propaganda campaign to sell the war to the American people," Bush and his team tried to make the "WMD threat and the Iraqi connection to terrorism appear just a little more certain, a little less questionable than they were." Something else was downplayed as well, McClellan says: any discussion of "the possible unpleasant consequences of war — casualties, economic effects, geopolitical risks, diplomatic repercussions."

The White House responded with surprise at McClellan's book.

"Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House," said current White House press secretary Dana Perino, a former deputy to McClellan. "We are puzzled. It is sad. This is not the Scott we knew."


Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Governing the People by Spin/Lies

Exposing Washington's spinning permanent campaign

In this April 19, 2006 file photo, President Bush, right, walks with White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, right, at the White House in Washington, after McClellan announced  that he is stepping down as White House press secretary. It's being reported that an upcoming book by McClellan says that President Bush relied on a propaganda campaign to sell the Iraq war in the place of honesty and candor. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)
AP Photo: In this April 19, 2006 file photo, President Bush, right, walks with White House Press...

By TERENCE HUNT, AP White House Correspondent Wed May 28, 5:16 PM ET

WASHINGTON - In a White House full of Bush loyalists, none was more loyal than Scott McClellan, the bland press secretary who spread the company line for all the government to follow each day. His word, it turns out, was worthless, his confessional memoir a glimpse into Washington's world of spin and even outright deception.

Instead of effective government, Americans were subjected to a "permanent campaign" that was "all about manipulating sources of public opinion to the president's advantage," McClellan writes in a book stunning for its harsh criticism of Bush. "Presidential initiatives from health care programs to foreign invasions are regularly devised, named, timed and launched with one eye (or both eyes) on the electoral calendar."

The spokesman's book is called "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception."

Governing via endless campaigning is not a new phenomenon, but it accelerated markedly during the tumultuous Clinton White House and then the war-shaken years of the Bush administration. Bush strategist Karl Rove had a strong hand in both politics and governing as overseer of key offices, including not only openly political affairs and long-range strategic planning but as liaison for intergovernmental affairs, focusing on state and local officials.

Bush's presidency "wandered and remained so far off course by excessively embracing the permanent campaign and its tactics," McClellan writes. He says Bush relied on an aggressive "political propaganda campaign" instead of the truth to sell the Iraq war.

That's about right, says Brookings Institution political analyst Thomas Mann, co-author of a book entitled "The Permanent Campaign."

"It was such a hyped-up effort to frame the problem and the choices in a way that really didn't do justice to the complexity of the arguments, the intelligence," Mann said in an interview. Though all presidents try to "control the message," he said, "it was really a way of preventing that discussion. It just had enormously harmful consequences. I think they carried it to a level not heretofore seen."

Each day, underscoring the daily blend of politics and government, Bush and his administration make an extraordinary effort to control information and make sure the White House message is spread across the government and beyond. The line for officials to follow is set at early-morning senior staff meetings at the White House, then transmitted in e-mails, conference calls, faxes and meetings. The loop extends to Capitol Hill where lawmakers get the administration talking points. So do friendly interest groups and others.

The aim is to get them all to say the same thing, unwavering from the administration line. Other administrations have tried to do the same thing, but none has been as disciplined as the Bush White House.

It starts at the top.

McClellan recounts how Bush, as governor of Texas, spelled out his approach about the press at their very first meeting in 1998. He said Bush "mentioned some of his expectations for his spokespeople — the importance of staying on message; the need to talk about what you're for, rather than what you are against; how he liked to make the big news on his own time frame and terms without his spokespeople getting out in front of him, and, finally, making sure that public statements were coordinated internally so that everyone is always on the same page and there are few surprises."

In September 2002, Bush's chief economic adviser, Larry Lindsey, ran afoul of the president's rules by saying the cost of a possible war with Iraq could be somewhere between $100 billion and $200 billion. Bush was irritated and made sure that Lindsey was told his comments were unacceptable. "Lindsey had violated the first rule of the disciplined, on-message Bush White House: don't make news unless you're authorized to do so," McClellan wrote.

Within four months, Lindsey was gone, resigning as part of a reshaping of Bush's economic team.

While message control has been part of many administrations, Mann said that, "They were just tougher and more disciplined about it than anyone else had been."

As spokesman, McClellan ardently defended Bush's decision to invade Iraq and the conduct of his presidency over the course of nearly 300 briefings in two years and 10 months. Now, two years after leaving the White House and eager to make money on his book, McClellan concludes Bush turned away from candor and honesty and misled the country about the reasons for going to war.

It wasn't about Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction, McClellan writes. It was Bush's fervor to transform the Middle East through the spread of democracy. "The Iraq war was not necessary," writes McClellan, who never hinted at any doubts or questioned his talking points when he was press secretary.

McClellan writes that Bush and his team sold the Iraq war by means of a "political propaganda campaign" in which contradictory evidence was ignored or discarded, caveats or qualifications to arguments were downplayed or dropped and "a dubious al-Qaida connection to Iraq was played up.

"We were more focused on creating a sense of gravity and urgency about the threat from Saddam Hussein than governing on the basis of the truths of the situation," McClellan wrote.

McClellan is not the first presidential spokesman to write a tell-all book, but his is certainly the harshest, at least in recent memory. He says his words as press secretary were sincere but he has come to realize that "some of them were badly misguided. ... I've tried to come to grips with some of the truths that life inside the White House bubble obscured."

White House colleagues were stunned, but not lacking for the day's response. "We are puzzled. It is sad. This is not the Scott we knew," said Dana Perino, the current press secretary who was first hired by McClellan as a deputy.

Later in the day, she relayed the reaction of Bush himself: "He's puzzled, he doesn't recognize this as the Scott McClellan that he hired and confided in and worked with for so many years."

4.3 stars
  • White House calls McClellan's book sour grapes AP
  • Exposing Washington's spinning permanent campaign
  • Labels:


    Harsh Review of Bush

    Front page
    President Bush listens as his press secretary, Scott McClellan, announces his resignation at the White House in April 2006. In a new book, McClellan writes, "I know the president pretty well. I believe that, if he had been given a crystal ball in which he could have foreseen the costs of war ... he would never have made the decision to invade."
    Win McNamee: Getty Images


    May 28, 2008, 12:40AM
    Ex-spokesman McClellan gives harsh review of Bush

    WASHINGTON — In a book due out Monday, former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan offers a blistering review of the administration and concludes that his longtime boss misled the nation into an unnecessary war in Iraq.

    "History appears poised to confirm what most Americans today have decided — that the decision to invade Iraq was a serious strategic blunder," McClellan wrote in What Happened, due out Monday. "No one, including me, can know with absolute certainty how the war will be viewed decades from now when we can more fully understand its impact."

    "What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary," he wrote in the preface.

    The book, which drew a no comment from the White House on Tuesday night, comes from an Austinite picked by the president and paid by the people to help sell the war to the world. The volume makes McClellan the first longtime Bush aide to put such harsh criticism between hard covers. It is an extraordinarily critical book that questions Bush's intellectual curiosity, his candor in leading the nation to war, his pattern of self-deception and the quality of his advisers.

    "As a Texas loyalist who followed Bush to Washington with great hope and personal affection and as a proud member of his administration, I was all too ready to give him and his highly experienced foreign policy advisers the benefit of the doubt on Iraq," McClellan wrote. "Unfortunately, subsequent events have showed that our willingness to trust the judgment of Bush and his team was misplaced."

    McClellan worked for Bush from 1999, when he signed on as a deputy in the governor's press office, until 2006, when he was forced out as White House press secretary.

    "President Bush has always been an instinctive leader more than an intellectual leader. He is not one to delve into all the possible policy options -- including sitting around engaging in extended debate about them -- before making a choice," McClellan wrote. "Rather, he chooses based on his gut and his most deeply held convictions. Such was the case with Iraq."

    In an interview Tuesday, McClellan said he retains great admiration and respect for Bush.

    "My job was to advocate and defend his policies and speak on his behalf," he said. "This is an opportunity for me now to share my own views and perspective on things. There were things we did right and things we did wrong. Unfortunately, much of what went wrong overshadowed the good things we did."

    He said the Bush administration fell into the "permanent campaign" mode that can cripple a White House and has tainted much of Washington.

    In the book — subtitled Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception — McClellan said that Bush's top advisers, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, "played right into his thinking, doing little to question it or cause him to pause long enough to fully consider the consequences before moving forward," according to McClellan.

    "Contradictory intelligence was largely ignored or simply disregarded," he wrote.

    In Iraq, McClellan added, Bush saw "his opportunity to create a legacy of greatness," something McClellan said Bush has said he believes is only available to wartime presidents.

    The president's real motivation for the war, he said, was to transform the Middle East to ensure an enduring peace in the region. But the White House effort to sell the war as necessary due to the stated threat posed by Saddam Hussein was needed because "Bush and his advisers knew that the American people would almost certainly not support a war launched primarily for the ambitions purpose of transforming the Middle East," McClellan wrote.

    "Rather than open this Pandora's Box, the administration chose a different path -- not employing out-and-out deception, but shading the truth," he wrote of the effort to convince the world that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, an effort he said used "innuendo and implication" and "intentional ignoring of intelligence to the contrary."

    "President Bush managed the crisis in a way that almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible option," McClellan concluded, noting, "The lack of candor underlying the campaign for war would severely undermine the president's entire second term in office."

    Bush's national security advisers failed to "help him fully understand the tinderbox he was opening," McClellan recalled.

    "I know the president pretty well. I believe that, if he had been given a crystal ball in which he could have foreseen the costs of war — more than 4,000 American troops killed, 30,000 injured and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis dead — he would never have made the decision to invade, despite what he might say or feel he has to say publicly today," McClellan wrote.

    In a summation, McClellan said the decision to invade Iraq "goes to an important question that critics have raised about the president: Is Bush intellectually incurious or, as some assert, actually stupid?"

    "Bush is plenty smart enough to be president," he concluded. "But as I've noted his leadership style is based more on instinct than deep intellectual debate."

    McClellan also expresses amazement that Bush seemed flummoxed by a query by NBC's Tim Russert in February 2004 as to whether the invasion of Iraq was "a war of choice or a war of necessity."

    "It strikes me today as an indication of his lack of inquisitiveness and his detrimental resistance to reflection," McClellan wrote, "something his advisers needed to compensate for better than they did."

    McClellan tracks Bush's penchant for self-deception back to an overheard incident on the campaign trail in 1999 when the then-governor was dogged by reports of possible cocaine use in his younger days.

    The book recounts an evening in a hotel suite "somewhere in the Midwest." Bush was on the phone with a supporter and motioned for McClellan to have a seat.

    "'The media won't let go of these ridiculous cocaine rumors,' I heard Bush say. 'You know, the truth is I honestly don't remember whether I tried it or not. We had some pretty wild parties back in the day, and I just don't remember.'"

    "I remember thinking to myself, How can that be?" McClellan wrote. "How can someone simply not remember whether or not they used an illegal substance like cocaine? It didn't make a lot of sense."

    Bush, according to McClellan, "isn't the kind of person to flat-out lie."

    "So I think he meant what he said in that conversation about cocaine. It's the first time when I felt I was witnessing Bush convincing himself to believe something that probably was not true, and that, deep down, he knew was not true," McClellan wrote. "And his reason for doing so is fairly obvious — political convenience."

    In the years that followed, McClellan "would come to believe that sometimes he convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment." McClellan likened it to a witness who resorts to "I do not recall."

    "Bush, similarly, has a way of falling back on the hazy memory to protect himself from potential political embarrassment," McClellan wrote, adding, "In other words, being evasive is not the same as lying in Bush's mind."

    And McClellan linked the tactic to the decision to invade Iraq, a decision based on flawed intelligence.

    "It would not be the last time Bush mishandled potential controversy," he said of the cocaine rumors. "But the cases to come would involve the public trust, and the failure to deal with them early, directly and head-on would lead to far greater suspicion and far more destructive partisan warfare," he wrote.

    The book also recounts Bush's unwillingness or inability to come up with a mistake he had made when asked by a reporter to do so.

    "It became symbolic of a leader unable to acknowledge that he got it wrong, and unwilling to grow in office by learning from his mistake — too stubborn to change and grow," McClellan concluded.

    A page later, he recounts what he perceived as a moment of doubt by a president who never expresses any. It occurred in a dimly lit room at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a room where an injured Texas veteran was being watched over by his wife and 7-year-old son as Bush arrived.

    The vet's head was bandaged and "he was clearly not aware of his surroundings, the brain injury was severe," McClellan recalled. Bush hugged the wife, told the boy his dad was brave and kissed the injured vet's head while whispering 'God bless you' into his ear.

    "Then he turned and walked toward the door," McClellan wrote. "Looking straight ahead, he moved his right hand to wipe away a tear. In that moment, I could see the doubt in his eyes and the vivid realization of the irrevocable consequences of his decision."

    But, he added, such moments are more than counterbalanced by deceased warriors' families who urge him to make sure the deaths were not in vain.

    McClellan's criticism of Rice — who he pegs as "hard to get to know" — is blistering.

    "I was struck by how deft she is at protecting her reputation," he wrote. "No matter what went wrong, she was somehow able to keep her hands clean, even when the problems related to matters under her direct purview, including the WMD rationale for the war in Iraq, the decision to invade Iraq ././. and post-war planning and implementation of the strategy in Iraq."

    McClellan predicts a harsh historical review of Rice.

    "But whatever her policy management shortcomings, Rice knew public relations well. She knew how to adapt to potential trouble, dismiss brooding problems and come out looking like a star," he wrote. "Few performed better under the spotlight, glossing over mistakes with her effortless eloquence and understated flair."

    McClellan brands Vice President Cheney as "the magic man" mysteriously directing outcomes in "every policy area he cared about, from the invasion of Iraq to expansion of presidential power to the treatment of detainees and the use of surveillance against terror suspects."

    "Cheney always seemed to get his way," McClellan wrote.

    The book is so critical that it becomes difficult to imagine a future scene that Bush predicted on the day that McClellan's forced resignation was announced.

    "One of these days," Bush, with McClellan at his side, told reporters that day, "he and I are going to be rocking on chairs in Texas, talking about the good old days and his time as the press secretary. And I can assure you, I will feel the same way then that I feel now, that I can say to Scott, 'Job well done.'"



    Saturday, May 24, 2008


    Memorial Day 2008

    News Home > 60 Minutes > Newsmakers > Memorial Day
    Wednesday, May 21, 2008

    Memorial Day: American Heroes

    This Memorial Day, we pay tribute to the men and women who have fought and died for our country. We honor the fallen from the plains of Iraq to the jungles of Vietnam, the mountains of Afghanistan to the beaches of Normandy. Here is a roll call of stories from the last 40 years of "60 Minutes."

    Memorial Day: American Heroes
    4.6 stars


    Fallen friends>> Watch Clip

    Aboard a B-17 over occupied Europe >> Watch Clip


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