Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Book Review (#3 of 2009)

What Happened: Inside the White House and Washington's Culture of Deception by Scott McLellan.


(The audio book is read by McClellan-- the best way to read/listen to a book).
McClellan worked for Bush from his days as Texas' governor. He was White House Press Secretary from 2003-2006 and was fed to the wolves in the middle of the Valerie Plame scandal.

McClellan reminds me of too many people I went to school with-- someone with a who thinks they know something, particularly about good policy, because they grew up around politics (his mom is Carol Keaton Strayhorn). The first couple chapters are autobiographical, as if I care about his elementary school days...

But it gets more interesting as you get into the White House. McLellan decries the Permanent Campaign mentality as what derailed Bush's presidency. In his conclusion, he offers advice to future administrations on how to govern with bipartisanship.

Bush loves his workers, he cried and hugged McLellan when he was asked to resign. He even called McClellan's wife to smooth things over. But Bush also lied to McLellan and left him on the hook defending Karl Rove and Scooter Libby who both also lied to McLellan. This made McLellan look like a liar to the national media and helped ruin the credibility of the White House.

Press Secretaries are intentionally left out of the loop fairly often. So, McLellan writes about what knowledge he had and what meetings he attended.

The author paints a picture of the White House where no debates about policy were engaged in (especially after the re-election), most of the policies catered to The Base, and Dick Cheney and Karl Rove were always working behind-the-scenes to run the show.

He points out some of the glaring mistakes they made in regards to selling the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina, and more.

By the time this book was published nobody cared anymore. McLellan's account only confirms what everyone else was already writing-- except it puts a more human and deeply emotional face on Bush.

3 stars out of 5.

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