Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Candor liberated

A soon-to-be-released memoir by former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan confirms what many of us already know -- that the Bush administration employs a “permanent campaign approach” to paper-over its incompetence.

The book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception, chronicles more than just a disengaged President.
"I still like and admire President Bush. But he 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. In this regard, he was terribly ill-served by his top advisers, especially those involved directly in national security.”
Another excerpt.

"The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

"There was one problem. It was not true.

"I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President's chief of staff, and the President himself."

McClellan knows that incompetence and propaganda cannot flourish unless given permission to do so, and he acknowledges the absence of scrutiny.

"If anything, the 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.
“The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. In this case, the ‘liberal media’ didn't live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”

Is McClellan's book a scathing indictment of the Bush administration? Absolutely. Does it paint an embarrassing picture of the news media? Sure.

If that's all we see, however, we miss the point. This chain of evidence leads past the President and his cronies, past the press, and lands in a pile at our feet.

The empty suit that occupies the Oval Office wasn't self-appointed -- he was elected (and re-elected).

His propaganda campaigns? They've worked. His policies, along with hundreds of billions in funding, have been rubber-stamped by legislators that we don't hold accountable.

And as long as the media serves us a steady diet of Britney Spears and Anna Nicole Smith, we don't much care what else they do.

We truly do get the government we deserve.