What is it about MCClellan’s book that is causing such a stir? It has not yet been released, but this week it has been a feature story. There is very little in the snips of information that is really news. People who read Paul O’Neil’s book or followed his interviews about it, know that at the first cabinet meeting nine months before 9/11 a map of Iraq was brought out and attack strategies were discussed. Most people in the cabinet seemed to know what was going on but no one explained it to O’Neil. We know that Cheney would tell Bush to stay on point at cabinet meetings. The utter confusion and in fighting that marked the beginning of the invasion of Iraq, as well as its occupation, has been written about at great length.
There are several lists and accounts of the statements by various administration spokespeople regarding the war and their conflicting and errant explanations for it. There is little about the administration’s handling of Katrina that is unknown. McClellan’s admonishment of the press for being so malleable is now well trod ground.
Nonetheless, the media acts like this book is a bombshell. This appears to be because of McClellan’s special relationship with the media, not so much the content of what he has to say. This is the guy who told them that the war was justified, who said no one in the White House was involved with any Plame leaks or coverup, who justified the response to Katrina.The media carried this to its readers, listeners and watchers without comment when much of the free world (as well as other parts) knew these statements to be fabrications.
The media’s treatment of this book as sensational puts the media’s obdurately uncritical presentation of what McClellan said in a better light than it deserves. This sensational treatment presupposes that what was going on was not obvious, that anyone would have believed what he said. The truth is that very few people with independent sources of information accepted the administration’s disjointed explanations of events.
To me the interesting thing about this memoir is the media’s self-justifying treatment of it, even when it points to the blinders that were on the media.