Politico’s Mike Allen reports that “a few reporters were offered advance copies” of Scott McClellan’s memoir “with the restriction that their stories not appear until Sunday, the day before the official publication date.” Politico, however, “purchased [the book] at a Washington bookstore” and produced last evening its “exclusive,” excerpt-filled report.
Per Politico, here is McClellan, the former Bush White House press secretary, writing about the press:
“McClellan repeatedly embraces the rhetoric of Bush’s liberal critics and even charges: ‘If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq.’”
“The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. In this case, the ‘liberal media’ didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”
“I think the concern about liberal bias helps to explain the tendency of the Bush team to build walls against the media,” McClellan writes in a chapter in which he says he dealt “happily enough” with liberal reporters. “Unfortunately, the press secretary at times found himself outside those walls as well.”
Another now frequently-quoted (though not directly media-related) bit:
“I still like and admire President Bush,” McClellan writes. “But he 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. In this regard, he was terribly ill-served by his top advisers, especially those involved directly in national security.”
How are reporters reacting to all of this? Particularly the parts about them?
Of quotes like the last one above, Time’s national political correspondent, Karen Tumulty,
writes on Time’s Swampland blog:
It would have been nice if [McClellan] had told us some of this at the time, back when it was his job to keep the public informed.
Meanwhile, on Time’s Tuned-In blog (“a blog about television”), TV critic James Poniewozik weighs in on what he thinks “would be nice”:
It would be nice to believe that the shame of being called too wimpy by the guy whose job it was to keep the media in line would give the press more backbone during the next war or after the next terrorist attack. I’m not betting on it, though. It’s easier for the press to get courage, and for press secretaries to get scruples, after the fact.
Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.