Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan has startled Washington by slamming the Bush administration in a new memoir.
In What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception, McClellan levels harsh criticism at the Bush administration for its handling of Iraq, charging that it manipulated public opinion with "propaganda." He also attacks the administration's response in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Mike Allen, chief political correspondent for Politico, says what stands out to him after rushing through the book is that "a member of the president's political family ... says that the administration went badly off course, that the war was sold based on propaganda, not facts, and that some of the things that [McClellan] was saying from the podium turned out to be badly misguided."
In the book, McClellan says he was asked to say things as press secretary that turned out not to be correct, thereby eroding his credibility.
"Scott knew that he was going to lose friends over this," Allen tells Alex Chadwick. "A lot of his former friends thought that he was basically selling out and that he was using the president's reputation to do it."
Allen says he thinks McClellan wrote the book "because he took off his flack hat and put on the historian's hat."
Ari Fleischer, President Bush's first press secretary, is not convinced.
"There is just something about it that doesn't make any sense to me," he tells Chadwick. "Scott was always a great deputy to me, very reliable, trustworthy, and never once did he come up to me and express any misgivings that he had — or to anybody else that I know of — about the war or the manner in which the White House prepared for the war. ... There are parts of this book that just don't sound like Scott. ... I don't know what could have led him to have such a dramatic change of heart."
In the book, McClellan uses the word propaganda to describe the White House press machine.
"If Scott thought it was propaganda, then Scott should not have accepted the job of White House press secretary," Fleischer says.