Dee Dee Myers Weighs in on 'What Happened'

Former Clinton administration Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers weighs in on the controversy surrounding Scott McClellan's new memoir, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception. Since leaving the White House, Myers has also written a book.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. We're going to continue our look at the week in politics. We just heard from two political insiders about the controversial memoir of former White House Press Secretary McClellan. Dee Dee Myers was a White House press secretary during the Clinton administration. Earlier this year, she released her own book, "Why Women Should Rule the World." She joins us now to talk about the art of the memoir and the big Democratic Party meeting this weekend. She's with us by phone from her phone in Washington. Hi, Dee Dee.

Ms. DEE DEE MYERS (Political Consultant, Former White House Press Secretary for President Bill Clinton, Author, "Why Women Should Rule the World"): Hi, Michel.

MARTIN: Well, you've looked through the McClellan book. I'd like to get your take on it.

Ms. MYERS: I have looked through it. It's fascinating for those of us inside Washington and particularly for me as a former press secretary to, you know, take a look at his experience, to compare it to my own, to think about it in the broader context. That said, you know, it's a very tough book. It's a very cleared eyed from a distance look at the Bush administration and Scott's role in it, and boy, it sure has kicked up a lot of dust in Washington and around the country.

MARTIN: Well, I think you just heard me to talk to Anna Perez and Michael Steele about this. They're both Republicans, and they seem to think that it's a net wash. That it confirms your existing view, if you feel that the administration was less than honest with the public, it confirms that view, if you don't believe that then you're not going to believe it now. It's sort of a net wash in the end. What do you think?

Ms. MYERS: Well, I think that's probably more true than not, but I think there are some people in the middle who wanted still to believe that the president had acted in a more straight forward way, that the administration had been more about, you know, doing what they thought was right as opposed to spinning, you know, pushing the country in a direction that it didn't want to go that still more people inside, when all was said and done, would believe had been the right thing to do, and for Scott to come out and really be the first inside official to say the war was a big mistake, is significant. Again, I think they're right. I don't think it changes the dynamic dramatically, but I do think it just puts one more stone on the scales that suggests this administration will not be viewed favorably with time and distance.

MARTIN: What's your take on my question of whether - the criticism that many of his former colleagues are making is that if he had these objections he should have raised them at the time. Having been in his job, is that something you would do? I mean can you raise questions internally about a policy about which you have doubts about the way it's being sold to the public if you will, if I can use that term.

Ms. MYERS: You know, the answer to that is really only around the margins. When you're in the White House, you're either in and you're on the team and you can raise some objections to particular policy issues, but you're either on the team or you're off the team. You're either pushing towards the objectives and maybe trying to fine-tune the approach, or you're not. And I think that for almost every person that I've ever met and spoken to after they've left a job in the White House in the white hot center of action, it takes a little time, it takes a couple of years, but your perspective changes.

It changes for a lot of reasons. One because as Scott said, sort of the partisans - you're not in the battle everyday and the partisan scales kind of fall away from your eyes. And I just think it's very emotional to be there. To be there, to be on the front lines every day, to be in the battle, and to kind of cool off and to look back over the experience more broadly, your role in it, the president's role in it, there's nobody I know whose perspective hasn't changed somewhat after leaving. And so here Scott's former colleagues, most of whom are still there, say that they don't see it that way is not the least bit surprising to me.

MARTIN: OK. Let's look ahead for a minute. This weekend, the Democratic National Committee will be meeting to discuss whether delegates in Florida and Michigan should be counted, as of course we all know that Senator Clinton was the only candidate on the ballot and both the other candidates at the time declined to campaign in both of those places.

Ms. MYERS: Although Obama was on the ballot in Florida.

MARTIN: He was on the ballot in Florida, but he didn't actively campaign there.

Ms. MYERS: Right. Neither of them did.

MARTIN: Do you care to predict what you think will happen this weekend? What do you think should happen?

Ms. MYERS: Well, certainly the, you know, from what I hear from committee members and others who have been, you know, closely involved with the process is that there'll be some resolution that they think that the committee members will settle on some resolution and whether one or the other campaign chooses to challenge that we won't know, but I think it'll include two things. Some configuration of those two delegations will be seized, but there will be some penalty. I think the Democratic National Committee feels very strongly that there has to be some penalty for those states jumping the gun, for violating DNC rules and scheduling their primaries earlier than the DNC had allowed.

At the same time, you got to have those delegates there, so I think we'll see some resolution. You know, there's going to be a lot of action outside. There's going to be a lot of people protesting, you know, count every vote and, you know, those appear to be more learning toward Clinton's objectives than Obama's, and Obama has asked people not to go outside, not to demonstrate, not to create chaos, and so - but I think there will be some chaos. But at the end of the weekend I think we'll know a little bit more about what the actual number of delegates required to win the nomination is and what those two delegations from Florida and Michigan will look like.

MARTIN: And I think it's fair to mention that you've donated some money to Hillary Clinton's campaign, but you haven't endorsed her. Would that be accurate to say?

Ms. MYERS: That's true.

MARTIN: That would be an accurate statement. Do you think that this fight which has been going on, you know, for months now, has any lasting repercussions for the party?

Ms. MYERS: You know, I think the next week will be very telling in that. You know, I think there's always some bad blood and a little bit of bitterness in the weeks and immediately surrounding the end of one's campaign. It's very hard to let go of the dream of winning the nomination, of being part of that effort, people get very emotionally involved and it's very hard to let it go. And so I think in the short term there are going to be a lot of people who are very disappointed, but I think...

MARTIN: Somebody said to me that it's easier to keep going than it is to quit. Do you think that's true?

Ms. MYERS: Yeah. In some ways I think it is. As counterintuitive as that might seem to people who aren't involved in the process and they go, oh, just quit and go home, wouldn't that be a lot easier and more fun? But the truth is you've already committed almost two years of your life to this if you're the candidate and many of the supporters who've been with, say Senator Clinton from the beginning. You know, you've been out there emotionally invested in it every day fighting for every delegate and every vote, and it's very hard to let go of that, and I think that's what we're seeing.

And I think, you know, I think Senator Obama's done a very good job of stepping back and letting Clinton and her supporters go through the process of figuring out how do they want to end this, what do they want out of the, you know, look, she got almost half the votes and almost half the delegates. She has, you know, she's had an amazing campaign in almost every respect. So, but, you know, these people have to figure out how to wind this thing down in a way that they can feel good about.

MARTIN: OK. Dee Dee Myers, first who was the White House press secretary during the first two years of the Clinton administration. She's now a political consultant. Her latest book is "Why Women Should Rule the World." She joined us from her home in Washington, D.C. Thank you, Dee Dee.

Ms. MYERS: Thank you.

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