When Ari Fleischer’s book, Taking Heat, was released in 2005, was there much fanfare? Did he get an invitation to spoon with Keith Olbermann? No. Mainstream journalists didn’t seem to particularly like it.
I understand that part of the media attention is merely that “controversy sells”. But another aspect is anti-Bush bias on the part of a lazy media, that’s already written the narrative that “Bush lied, people died”.
Those who already have it in for the Bush Administration, want to make more out of Scott McClellan’s perspective than is probably warranted, when he talks of how the Iraq War was sold to the American people with a sophisticated “political propaganda campaign” and aimed at “manipulating sources of public opinion” and “downplaying the major reason for going to war.”
I am not automatically arguing that Scott McClellan is lying; he may well believe what is written in his book, and reflects his feelings accurately. But are facts shaping his perception and perspective? Or are his perspective and perception shaping the facts?
The problem is that Mr. McClellan presents no major new detail to support his conclusions about Iraq, or even about the Administration’s deliberations about how to sell the war. This may be because he was the deputy press secretary for domestic issues during the run-up to war and thus rarely attended war strategy sessions.
Someone else who recently saw his book release with moderate fanfare (namely, because it’s not an anti-Bush “tell-all”), is Douglas Feith‘s “War and Decision“. As Undersecretary of Defense for Policy from July 2001 to August 2005, and one of the architects of the War in Iraq, Douglas Feith’s book should carry more weight on matters related to the run-up to war.
This weekend, I will go down to the bookstore and peruse McClellan’s memoir. From the sounds of it, McClellan’s book reads like a 30-pieces-of-silver-store gossip novel, filled more with opinions and impressions, than with concrete facts (apparently, no footnotes).
I haven’t read all of Feith’s book; but it is a serious work, well-sourced with a rich, detailed appendix. Anyone who downright dismisses its scholarly relevance and historical importance out of partisan prejudice, does themselves a disservice.
I admit that my partisanship makes me knee-jerk suspicious of McClellan’s book; but it also seems to contradict information that I know to be well-documented (not just right-wing spin, but from actual intell documents, Senate Intell Committee hearings, etc.). Seth Leibsohn sums it up:
The evidence I’ve seen does in fact show that the administration had different justifications for the liberation of Iraq — but we saw them plainly and in the open before as well as after the invasion. The president, the secretary of state, the VP, and many others gave lots of reasons for the invasion of Iraq. There were international legal cases, there were public policy cases, there were national security cases all to be made. And they were. The idea that the press didn’t do its job and was too soft on the president — as McClellan writes — is, frankly, laughable. Raise your hand if you have any evidence that the press was too soft on the administration.
Also, from the WSJ editorial I linked to earlier:
His talking points are merely the well-trod claims that the Administration oversold the evidence about WMD and al Qaeda.
Three independent investigations have looked into these claims, and all of them concluded that political actors did not skew intelligence to sell the war. These include the Senate Intelligence Committee report of 2004, the Robb-Silberman report of 2005, and Britain’s Butler report. They explain that U.S. – and all Western – intelligence was mistaken but not distorted. Saddam Hussein himself told U.S. interrogators that he kept the fact that he lacked WMD even from many of his own generals.
If one wants a serious “insider’s account” on what happened after 9/11 to bring us into concluding the war against Saddam Hussein which began in 1991, start with the book written by the number 3 civilian war architect in the Pentagon.
Another contrast between the two books? ALL of the revenue to Feith’s book is going to charities that help veterans and military families.
Just one more reason to purchase a serious book of history over a frivolous personal gossip memoir, if one only had $30 to slap down on the table.
Previous posts on Scott McClellan:
A former fetus, the “wordsmith from nantucket” was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1968. Adopted at birth, wordsmith grew up a military brat. He achieved his B.A. in English from the University of California, Los Angeles (graduating in the top 97% of his class), where he also competed rings for the UCLA mens gymnastics team. The events of 9/11 woke him from his political slumber and malaise. Currently a personal trainer and gymnastics coach.
The wordsmith has never been to Nantucket.