By Ben Johnson
FrontPageMagazine.com | 6/4/2008
Blake Dvorak recently wrote on Real Clear Politics, “The ruckus that Scott McClellan’s book has created – or reintroduced – will probably play out like previous ones in that it will add relatively little to the debate but will cause both sides to come out swinging at each other.”
McClellan’s memoirs certainly added little – because he had little to add. Gerald Ford famously quipped he was “a Ford, not a Lincoln.” As a White House spokesman, McClellan was a drip, not a Snow.
Unlike Douglas Feith, he was not a policy insider; according to administration officials, McClellan prepped for his wooden briefings by holding silence during nearly every meeting. During those conferences about the War on Terror, which might give his book legitimacy, McClellan’s contributed not merely his silence but his absence. Hardly the Left’s decorated whistleblower, White House colleague Mark Hemingway suspects McClellan harbors “delusions of adequacy.”
If it Doesn’t Fit, You Must Omit
In becoming the Left’s most celebrated chronicler of the Bush White House, McClellan had to ignore a hefty share of inconvenient data, especially about those areas he claimed caused his growing rift with the president: the Valerie Plame leak and the declassification if the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq.
McClellan’s mendacity has been covered by the very journalist who reported Plame’s identity: Robert Novak. As Novak indicates, McClellan’s newfound pursuit of “my truth” insinuates Karl Rove and Lewis Libby conspired to obstruct justice on the leak case, almost totally omitting the fact that the actual leaker, Richard Armitage, opposed the war and Bush’s foreign policy. Hence, Novak writes, “On page 173, McClellan first mentions my Plame leak, but he does not identify Armitage as the leaker until page 306 of the 323-page book – then only in passing. Armitage, anti-war and anti-Cheney, cannot fit the conspiracy theory that McClellan now buys into.” As I have written extensively, the Plame leak – and her husband’s lies about the “14 words” – refuse to die in leftist mythology, and McClellan’s fables give soothing reassurance to these campfire tales.
So did McClellan’s second cleavage from Bush, which “was in early April 2006 when I learned that the president had secretly declassified the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq for the vice president and Scooter Libby to anonymously disclose to reporters.”
If ever one needed proof that McClellan was not merely a poor historian but incompetent at his White House post, this quotation should suffice. To begin with, McClellan personally cited the NIE on four separate occasions between July and September 2003. President Bush declassified portions of the CIA’s National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq in October 2002. (Competent) White House Press Secretary and McClellan friend Ari Fleischer fielded questions about its content on October 9, 2002. White House brass announced the declassification of the NIE’s Key Judgments in a July 2003 press release. That month McClellan himself told the press corps allegations of Iraq seeking uranium from Niger were “based on the national intelligence estimate, which was coming out during the drafting of the October speech.”
The NIE infuriates leftists, as it was produced at the request of Sens. Durbin, Levin, Graham, and Feinstein and compiled by a man who opposed the war. As David Horowitz notes in today’s lead article, few Senate Democrats bothered to read it. Learning the lesson of Desert Storm, they largely voted in favor of the war. Then, months into the effort, they accused the president being a liar, declared war on the war they supported, and demanded American defeat. (The entire sad story is related in the book I wrote with David Horowitz, Party of Defeat.) To defend himself, the commander-in-chief released portions of the NIE, which provided verification for his claims and refuted these assaults on his credibility. Even after former CIA Director George Tenet took into consideration all the caveats and equivocations that he should have put into the NIE, he revealed:
Given what we knew then, the NIE should have said: “We judge that Saddam continues his efforts to rebuild weapons programs, that, once sanctions are lifted, he probably will confront the United States with chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons within a matter of months and years. Today, while we have little direct evidence of weapons stockpiles, Saddam has the ability to quickly surge to produce chemical and biological weapons and he has the means to deliver them.”
More compelling yet, the Silbermann-Robb Commission judged the intelligence the CIA gave to President Bush in his Presidential Daily Briefings more extreme than the intelligence Bush gave Congress.
If anything, he undersold the war.
Embarrassed antiwar Democrats chose to fight back by lying. Since the declassification became public during the Scooter Libby trial, left-wing partisans falsely asserted that, by this act, Bush had declassified Valerie Plame’s name.
McClellan both lends credence to these fantasies and reasserts that Bush inflated Iraq’s WMD threat by raising concerns over nuclear weapons. However, as Jacob Laksin has demonstrated, the Clinton White House first leveled such allegations.
Audacity Beyond Belief
Despite the bitter partisan battle the Left had waged, McClellan dares to accuse the Bush White House of operating in “perpetual campaign mode.” The opposition party literally refused to allow the campaign to end, dragging the 2000 election to the Supreme Court and blocking the Bush administration from implementing the CIA’s plan for securing the nation against al-Qaeda – a report that landed on Bush’s desk too late to stop the destruction of the Twin Towers.
Bush, who had tried to reach across the aisle on issues like education and stem cell research, hoped the war would bind the wounds bitter leftists had inflicted. Following 9/11, Bush invited the party leadership of both houses of Congress to regular briefings on the War on Terror. Then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle’s staff promptly leaked that the president was uninformed and disengaged, undermining confidence in the commander-in-chief precisely on his role as wartime leader. Soon, Hillary Clinton would take to the Senate floor brandishing a newspaper proclaiming, “BUSH KNEW” about 9/11.
Relying on Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV’s testimony – ultimately proven fraudulent by the Senate Intelligence Committee – Ted Kennedy would indict Bush of “politicizing intelligence and falsifying facts to justify resort to war” two months into that war. Similarly, in July 2003 Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-CA, told a crowd at the University of California at Berkeley, “This administration took part fact and part supposition…and they shaped it to reach a preconceived conclusion for the use of force, something that they had determined to do sometime well before March of this year.”
The Left’s hate campaign has never ended. Despite all his braying about “transpartisanship,” Scott McClellan’s new book has made sure its noxious lifeblood continues to flow.
Party of Defeat is available from the FrontPage Magazine Bookstore for $15, a 30 percent discount and less than Amazon.com. Autographed and personalized copies are also available; details are on the Bookstore webpage. Please call your local bookstores and ask them to stock the new book Party of Defeat by David Horowitz and Ben Johnson, if they don’t already have it in stock.
Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and author of the book 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry’s Charitable Giving.