Sunday, June 1, 2008

Culture of Deception

By Scott McClellan

PublicAffairs. 341 pp. $27.95

"I still like and admire George W. Bush," writes Scott McClellan, who served Bush for two years and nine months as White House press secretary.

"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." Yet the entire brunt of McClellan's book is precisely the opposite: that Bush and "his top advisers," by whom he was "terribly ill-served," systematically deceived the American public about their reasons for going to war in Iraq and about the effort to discredit a critic of the war, Joseph Wilson, by making public his wife's position at the Central Intelligence Agency.

McClellan says the "defining moment in my time working for the president, and one of the most painful experiences of my life," occurred in July 2005, when he discovered that what he had told the press two years earlier -- that Karl Rove and Lewis Libby were not involved in "the leaking of classified information" about Valerie Plame, Wilson's wife -- was untrue. "I had unknowingly passed along false information," he writes. "And five of the highest-ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, Vice President Cheney, the president's chief of staff Andrew Card, and the president himself." Upon learning this, he felt "constrained by my duties and loyalty to the president and unable to comment. But I promised reporters and the public that I would someday tell the whole story of what I knew."

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