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the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Thanks, Scott, but We Knew It Already

Tony Norman

Why is it that former members of the Bush administration would rather be considered stupid than evil by the time they get around to writing self-serving memoirs about their White House years?

Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan is the latest ex-Bush partisan to admit the obvious -- that much that came out of the White House in the run-up to the Iraq war was lies, damned lies and propaganda. He, of course, didn't know it at the time.

In "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception," Mr. McClellan systematically recounts the various ways in which the Bush administration "sold the war" to a credulous Washington press corps and a gullible American public still reeling from the trauma of Sept. 11.

Former White House counselor Dan Bartlett called his former colleague's charges "total crap" and questioned his motives.

Ari Fleischer, Mr. Bush's first press secretary, wondered aloud about his successor's sudden attack of morality: "If Scott viewed what the White House was saying [as] so irresponsible or wrong that it rose to the level of propaganda for him, it's not a job he should have accepted. He should on principle have declined it."

Dana Perino, the hapless apparatchik who currently holds the job, dutifully repeated the talking point that Scott McClellan is a disgruntled employee who suddenly hates America: "For those of us who fully supported him, before, during and after he was press secretary, we are puzzled. It is sad -- this is not the Scott we knew."

Once again, the White House claims it is "mystified" by something that is pretty obvious to the rest of us -- Scott McClellan is tired of lying about the biggest military boondoggle and unnecessary loss of military and civilian life since Vietnam.

If Mr. McClellan ever hopes to get a cushy job in the media he once showered with contempt, he'll have to become this administration's version of former "Clintonite" George Stephanopoulos and put some distance between himself and the cult that once nurtured him in its duplicitous bosom.

"I have a higher loyalty than my loyalty to my past work," Mr. McClellan told Meredith Viera on NBC's "Today Show" yesterday with a straight face. No wonder the Bushies are furious at him. In his self-righteousness, he comes across as a gasbag.

In a way, Scott McClellan reminds me of a wheel man who, after a successful bank heist, suffers from robbers' remorse after pulling the getaway car safely into the gang's hideout.

During the bank robbery itself -- i.e., the time Mr. McClellan spent as a mouthpiece for the Bush administration -- he wasn't about to express his misgivings about the heist while Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and Donald Rumsfeld were toting shotguns in the back seat.

Like every expendable wheel man, Scott McClellan was kept in the dark regarding many important details of the caper and told only what he needed to know to do his job. Still, he wasn't blind. He must have had an inkling he was driving some pretty bad men around town.

That's why I don't buy his self-serving argument that he was simply an honest guy trying to put the pieces of a vast conspiracy together. According to him, he's just a more dull-witted version of Fox Mulder from "The X-Files."

If Scott McClellan was as out of the loop when it came to divvying up responsibility for the Iraq fiasco as he claims, then one has to wonder where he came up with the details for his explosive narrative -- especially those involving the other players.

I suspect Scott McClellan has been reading Bush administration exposes in his down time and "stumbled" upon a more coherent understanding of what his time in the White House was all about.

Either Scott McClellan had an epiphany after he left the White House or he knew these things at the time and did nothing, which would make him complicit in evil.

For the sake of his own dignity and place in history, Scott McClellan should have gone the evil route and left the "stupid" dodge to Mr. Bush.

If only the supporting players in the administration would admit they knew all along what they were doing was wrong -- and that they did it anyway because they could.

For once, I wish former administration insiders would admit they knew they were vessels for the darkest impulses in our civilization when they launched this war. Somewhere there must be digital photos of them drinking each other's blood and summoning Beelzebub while dancing naked on the White House lawn.

The sheer waste of lives that is the Iraq war and the corruption of our politics is nothing short of satanic. Do we really need Mr. McClellan's book to tell us that?

Tony Norman can be reached at

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