Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Permanent Spin

As expected, the Scott McClellan story is all over the place today, even if the man himself is nowhere to be found. But we shouldn’t let the (thoroughly enjoyable) denunciations of McClellan’s lying past obscure the importance of the truths he is now telling.

This is from The Associated Press:
Each day, underscoring the daily blend of politics and government, Bush and his administration make an extraordinary effort to control information and make sure the White House message is spread across the government and beyond. The line for officials to follow is set at early-morning senior staff meetings at the White House, then transmitted in e-mails, conference calls, faxes and meetings. The loop extends to Capitol Hill where lawmakers get the administration talking points. So do friendly interest groups and others.

The aim is to get them all to say the same thing, unwavering from the administration line. Other administrations have tried to do the same thing, but none has been as disciplined as the Bush White House.

It starts at the top.

McClellan recounts how Bush, as governor of Texas, spelled out his approach about the press at their very first meeting in 1998. He said Bush "mentioned some of his expectations for his spokespeople — the importance of staying on message; the need to talk about what you're for, rather than what you are against; how he liked to make the big news on his own time frame and terms without his spokespeople getting out in front of him, and, finally, making sure that public statements were coordinated internally so that everyone is always on the same page and there are few surprises."
Talk about yer talking points! Bush's role should be the focus of lengthy investigations into McClellan's revelations. This is from HuffPo:
McClellan says the president was "insulated from the reality of events on the ground and consequently began falling into the trap of believing his own spin."

... McClellan ticks off a long list of Bush's weaknesses: someone with a penchant for self-deception if it "suits his needs at the moment," "an instinctive leader more than an intellectual leader" who has a lack of interest in delving deeply into policy options, a man with a lack of self-confidence that makes him unable to acknowledge when he's been wrong.
Look at how Bush describes his own job:
See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.
Bush is just a front man, a glorified cheerleader. And he knows that perfectly well, because that's how the job was offered to him in the first place. That's why he doesn't bother "delving deeply" into any matters of substance.

Sure, he has some involvement in the decision-making process (far too much, in fact, given his unsuitability for the job) but basically it's Dick Cheney (with help from other "invisible" people like Stephen Hadley) calling the shots.
McClellan calls Vice President Dick Cheney "the magic man" who "always seemed to get his way" and sometimes "simply could not contain his deep-seated certitude, even arrogance, to the detriment of the president."
Magic? It might have looked that way to poor, innocent Scotty, who (if you believe him) did not know what was going down. The WSJ has an excerpt from McClellan's book, and he now seems to think that everybody is wrong but (of course: zero accountability) nobody is to blame:
My friends and former colleagues who lived and worked or are still working inside that bubble may not be happy with the perspective I present here. Many of them, I'm sure, remain convinced that the Bush administration has been fundamentally correct in its most controversial policy judgments, and that the dis-esteem in which most Americans currently hold it is undeserved...

Most of our elected leaders in Washington, Republicans and Democrats alike, are good, decent people. Yet too many of them today have made a practice of shunning truth and the high level of openness and forthrightness required to discover it. Most of it is not willful or conscious. Rather, it is part of the modern Washington game that has become the accepted norm...

The permanent campaign also ensnares the media, who become complicit enablers of its polarizing effects... Finally, it becomes much more difficult for the general public to decipher the more important truths amid all the conflict, controversy and negativity.