In his first public comment on former White House press secretary Scott McClellan’s book, former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card calls the book “tawdry.”
While Card has not yet read “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception,” he tells Newsmax, “I don’t think it’s appropriate for people who are assistants to the president to do that, to write these kind of books.”
Card says, “I’m sad, because it has created a climate that makes it more difficult for a president to get unvarnished counsel if he has to think — or other people on the staff — have to think that what they talk about could show up in a book contemporaneous to their service.”
Card adds, “It’s troubling that a trust was broken. So I view the book as tawdry; the fact of the book is tawdry.”
McClellan served under Card for most of his tenure in the White House. After Josh Bolten took over as chief of staff in April 2006, he fired him. While McClellan claims he was already planning to leave, his wife Jill was so upset that both Bush and Bolten called her to console her.
McClellan’s point is hard to discern. On the one hand, he complains in the book that Bush engaged in the same “permanent campaign” that his predecessor did, a game of “endless politicking based on the manipulation of shades of truth, partial truths, twisting of the truth, and spin.”
On the other hand, he says much of this campaigning is “barely noticeable and seemingly harmless” and “most of it is done unconsciously or subconsciously with no malicious intent other than to prevail in the increasingly destructive game of power and influence.”
Moreover, he says it not possible to divorce campaigning from governing.
“Should it be a crime to try to manipulate the sources of public approval for governing as the permanent campaign requires?” he asks. “I don’t think so. That would be a dangerous road to travel. Our political leaders must be aware of popular opinion, and to govern effectively they need to appeal for the citizens’ support. In that sense, campaigning and governing go hand in hand, and pretending otherwise would be folly.”
Fraud and deliberate deception are something else, he says. He claims Bush and his advisers “confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war.”
But then he says that Bush, genuinely believing that Iraq was a threat, was “determined to act before potential threats fully materialized.” He says Bush’s “manner is authentic, his beliefs sincere.”
Finally, he says, “I still like and admire George W. Bush. I consider him a fundamentally decent person, and I do not believe he or his White House deliberately or consciously sought to deceive the American people.” Instead, without explaining how he got inside Bush’s head, he says Bush engaged in “self-deception.”
If McClellan seems confused, the secret to his conversion to Bush basher is not. As outlined in the Newsmax article “Scott McClellan Gave in to Greed, Liberal Pressure,” McClellan got no takers after writing a book proposal that defended Bush and knocked the press. But Peter Osnos of PublicAffairs Books agreed to publish his book after making it clear he did not want “just a defense of the Bush administration.” Instead, Osnos told The Washington Post that he wanted a book that would “pass our test of independence, integrity, and candor.”
In other words, by definition, a defense of the Bush administration would lack integrity and candor. If McClellan wanted his book published, he would have to change the theme to a negative one.
Since McClellan was not at the sensitive meetings where the war was discussed, he cites no specifics to back up his book’s contradictory claims. Rather, he delivers a retrospective critique of decisions made in 2003. Undercutting that critique, in a remarkable development, Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of The Washington Post, takes issue in an Op-Ed today with the idea that Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
In fact, as reported in my book, "The Terrorist Watch: Inside the Desperate Race to Stop the Next Attack," after his capture, Saddam Hussein told FBI Agent George Piro that while he was bluffing about having WMD, he planned to resume his WMD program — including developing a nuclear device — within a year.
[Editor's Note: Get Ron Kessler's book — FREE. Go here now.]
McClellan sides with many in the press who say they should have asked tougher questions of the Bush administration prior to the invasion of Iraq. It is testimony to the arrogance of the press that they would presume to think that by asking questions at press conferences, they could have found out that Saddam had no WMD when even his own generals thought he did. As the invasion unfolded, the generals were asking in intercepted conversations where their chemical weapons were.
Taking issue with McClellan’s main point, Card says the presidency is not a “permanent campaign. There may be aspects within the role of being a president that require that. He’s also the leader of the party. But the decisions the president makes in the oval office are not political decisions.”
Contradictory and superficial though it may be, the book debuts as the No. 1 New York Times hardcover non-fiction best seller this coming Sunday.
Rumsfeld Starting His Book
At a book party given by Fred and Marlene Malek, Donald Rumsfeld told me he has started on his memoirs by dictating chapters into a recorder.
Besides going into his role as President Bush’s secretary of defense, he said the book will recount his earlier years serving in the Nixon and Ford administrations as well as being a member of Congress. He has not decided whether to write the book himself or to engage a professional co-author.
Asked if he has read Scott McClellan’s book, Rumsfeld replied with his usual feistiness that he has not read any books by former administration officials.
The party, at the Maleks’ McLean, Va., home overlooking the Potomac, was for James Rosen’s The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate. Rosen, Washington correspondent for Fox News, spent 17 years researching the book. He does a remarkable job of revealing new, eye-opening information about the break-in and subsequent cover-up.
An official in the Nixon administration, Fred Malek is chairman of Thayer Capital Partners and a co-chair of John McCain’s national finance committee.
Others at the party were former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, former Freedom’s Watch CEO Brad Blakeman, Fox News Washington Bureau Chief Brian Wilson, and Politico Chief Political Correspondent Mike Allen.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.
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