ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

McClellan - Worst Press Secretary Ever?

Is this thing on? Wow... Will we make it through this year?

Great OpEd in the WSJ about McClellan which echoes many of the sentiments of this blog over the years. Here's an intro:

Did Scott McClellan Miss the Surge?
June 3, 2008; Page A19

In the media week that has been Scott McClellan, my former colleague has had his motives questioned, his character impugned, and his own book dismissed as something he could not possibly have written himself.

Yet in the midst of the storm, the press has largely skipped over what is at once Scott's central claim, and his silliest argument: that the president's big mistake was to embrace the "permanent campaign" and that this led to a strategy that meant "never reflecting, never reconsidering, never compromising. Especially not where Iraq was concerned."

The decisions on Iraq that followed Scott's departure tell a much different story. Whether you agree with the surge or not, that decision was one of the defining acts of his presidency. And what Scott apparently still has not recognized is that his own heave-ho was the prelude to exactly the kind of reconsideration he says was impossible in the Bush White House.

Exhibit A is the sacking of Don Rumsfeld immediately after the 2006 elections that gave the Democrats control of Congress. The "after" is critical, because the president was blasted for his timing by many in his own party. Arlen Specter complained that he would still be chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee if the president had made the move before the elections. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said that the president's timing probably cost Republicans control of the Senate and 10 to 15 seats in the House.

These men had a point. But the timing also said something about George W. Bush: A president who makes a decision knowing that it could cost his party control of Congress can be accused of many things, but subsuming all his decisions to the "permanent campaign" cannot seriously be one of them.

The president's decision to replace his Defense secretary was followed by an even more thorough rethink of his war policy. Anyone who has spent time in government knows that changing a major policy midstream is like trying to make a U-turn with an aircraft carrier. And anyone who was in the White House in late 2006 knows that the dramatic shift in Iraq that we now almost take for granted was the result of one man: George W. Bush.

Scott and the other critics accuse the president of stubbornness. In my experience, when the pundits accuse you of being stubborn, often all it means is that you don't accept the conventional wisdom of the Beltway establishment – and that you are unwilling to run up the white flag and bow to their superiority.
Bush has many faults, but his willingness to fight the conventional wisdom was not one of them.

Bush's inability to communicate his strategery is the biggest fault of his presidency - a fault which Scott McClellan played a big part in. The deer-caught-in-the-headlights look that McClellan delivered each day made the nightly news regularly.

Thank God Bush saw the error of his ways and decided to change course when it came to his press secretary.

Is McClellan the worst press secretary ever? Perhaps... I'd have to say that Joe "I'm a Sleezebag Flack" Lockhart of the Clinton Administration has to be up there, although the time period in which he served certainly gave him some of the most....ummmmm.... sensitive questions.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler