Former spokesman rips White House

May 27, 2008 7:40:13 PM PDT
Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's memoir about his time at the Bush White House turns out to be far more scathing than predicted, Politico's Mike Allen writes. In his "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception" (Public Affairs, $27.95), McClellan writes about the war in Iraq that President Bush "and his advisers confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war. ? [I]n this regard, he was terribly ill-served by his top advisers, especially those involved directly in national security."

The White House "spent most of the first week in a state of denial" after Hurricane Katrina, McClellan writes. "One of the worst disasters in our nation's history became one of the biggest disasters in Bush's presidency. Katrina and the botched federal response to it would largely come to define Bush's second term. And the perception of this catastrophe was made worse by previous decisions President Bush had made, including, first and foremost, the failure to be open and forthright on Iraq and rushing to war with inadequate planning and preparation for its aftermath."

He hammers former senior presidential advisers Karl Rove and Scooter Libby for having "at best misled" him about their roles in the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's name as retaliation to a negative op-ed against Bush from Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson. "(T)he top White House officials who knew the truth -- including Rove, Libby, and possibly Vice President Cheney -- allowed me, even encouraged me, to repeat a lie," McClellan writes. "I had allowed myself to be deceived into unknowingly passing along a falsehood. It would ultimately prove fatal to my ability to serve the president effectively. I didn't learn that what I'd said was untrue until the media began to figure it out almost two years later."

UPDATE: ABC News' Senior White House correspondent Martha Raddatz reports that the book jacket includes these words from McClellan: "As press secretary, I spent countless hours defending the administration from the podium in the White House briefing room. Although the things I said then were sincere, I have since come to realize that some of them were badly misguided." He also says: "History appears poised to confirm what most Americans today have decided -- that the decision to invade Iraq was a serious strategic blunder...What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary , and the Iraq war was not. Waging an unnecessary war is a grave mistake. But in reflecting on all that happened during the Bush administration, I've come to believe that an even more fundamental mistake was made -- a decision to turn away from candor and honesty when those qualities were most needed."