Scott McClellan Speaks About Skepticism Of Intelligence On Iran, Negative Campaigning And Partisanship
You know, I guess it's a matter of "in for a penny, in for a pound" because Scott McClellan's publicity spree and book tour is pretty much not only laying to waste the current administration, but everything that got them there and anything they may do in the future as well. The thing that kills me about the media's newest darling is that while they clamor to get him on for that interview, few of the media seem to look at themselves internally and seek to change dynamics that allowed McClellan to be part of a system that steamrolled over the media. Nor do they wonder why they keep having on the same talking heads that have lied to them over and over again, versus, say, liberals who were RIGHT from the beginning and scorned or drummed out of jobs.
In the final moments of the interview, Scott McClellan takes a skeptical eye about the beating war drums against Iran as well as admitting to the power and value of negative campaigning and partisanship that surrounded the Bush administration. Hmmm....who has been saying all those things all along?
Transcripts below the fold
OLBERMANN: And now we'll conclude Scott McClellan's first primetime interview by looking ahead. All that is in the book, as I have already described it, kind of a Rosetta Stone for the Bush administration, about Iraq, you wrote, "But today as I look back on the campaign we waged to sell the Iraq war to the American people, a campaign I participated in, though I didn't play a major role in shaping it, I see more clearly the downside of applying modern campaign tactics to matters of grave historical import. Reflecting on that period has helped crystallize my understanding of the permanent campaign, with its destructive excesses and how Washington, in its current state of partisan warfare, functions on mutual deception. The picture isn't pretty." Scott, are they doing that now about Iran?
MCCLELLAN: I certainly hope that that is not the case. But we don't know; I don't know. I should say it that way. But they are still in this permanent campaign mode. They haven't backed away from that. I can't speak specifically to what the intent is in some of the people's heads there. I think that our options are certainly limited with all of our commitments right now, but I hope that when people look and read this book, that they will learn some of the lessons from Iraq and that we won't make some of the same mistakes that we've made elsewhere.
OLBERMANN: So knowing what you know, if Dana Perino gets up there and starts making noises that sound very similar to what you heard from the administration, from Ari Fleischer in 2002, from other actual members of the administration and the cabinet, you would be suspicious?
MCCLELLAN: I would be. I would be. I think that you would need to take those comments very seriously and be skeptical.
OLBERMANN: Some thing in here about the campaign ahead that actually touches on the campaign in past years -- from page 68 -- "No campaign was more single-mindedly centered on bringing down an opponent than that of George Herbert Walker Bush. The campaign was by most objective accounts, full of distortions, misrepresentations and zero-sum politics accusing Michael Dukakis of everything from embracing furloughs for dangerous criminals to disliking the Pledge of Allegiance, the innuendo being that he was unpatriotic. The Pledge of Allegiance -- that sounds a little familiar. Why 20 years later is that still being used against a candidate for the president of the United States?
MCCLELLAN: I don't know. I think that that it is how our politics has gone over that -- since that was very much a turning point election. I think that George Bush, George Bush 41, George Herbert Walker Bush, is a decent individual and a man that really believes in civility. But he and his advisers around him knew that the only way that they could win was bring down his opponent and go fully negative and paint Michael Dukakis completely to the left. A guy that had painted himself -- that had a record of trying to work to the center in a lot of ways. And that legacy continues to this day. And Senator McCain says that he's going to speak out against that and not let that happen. I think that would be good for the country if that is the case. But, there's certainly plenty of groups on the Republican side that are going to go forward with that kind of strategy.
OLBERMANN: A truce would be nice. I guess this is the final question, I'm going to go back to the idea of loss of bipartisan opportunity. I have always thought that the moment at which Mr. Bush missed that opportunity, the last moment where he could have seized it and said, no, this is bigger than just Republican versus Democrat -- the day the buzz started about how he was going to fill this new position of the homeland security director. And it was -- he's thinking outside the box. And I sat there and I had this little flutter in my heart, and I thought, he's actually going to do what Roosevelt did in the Second World War, to some degree what Lincoln did during the Civil War, he's going to put a Democrat in the cabinet. Maybe not in charge, maybe it's a token. Maybe it's a couple of them. Maybe it's Al Gore. Would something like that have made that bipartisan dream a reality? And was that really the point of no return for him?
MCCLELLAN: I think it would have helped certainly to have a cabinet that was more diverse in terms of party affiliation. There was only one, that was the transportation secretary, Norm Mineta, a good person. But I think it's a lesson for whoever is going to be the incoming president. That they really ought to reach out, if they want to change the way things work in Washington, and bring a number of people from the -- maybe three or four key people into their administration and the cabinet would be a good place to do that--to show that they are going to govern to the center and govern in a bipartisan way.
OLBERMANN: I have 30 seconds left as it turns out. Have you decided who you're voting for, supporting in the presidential election this year?
MCCLELLAN: I have not made a decision. I am thinking very carefully about that, but I've been so focused on the book that -- I want to take my time and hear what the candidates have to say. I'm intrigued by what Senator Obama has been running on, about changing the way Washington works. I've had respect for Senator McCain, as well for the way he has worked across the aisle with Democrats. But I'm going to take my time and think it through.
OLBERMANN: Scott McClellan, I don't want to get too fulsome on you, I don't think you're going to be dining out on the book for the rest of your life, but I think this is a primary document of American history. I'm very impressed with it and I thnk at some point, people will be teaching history classes based on it.
MCCLELLAN: Well thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thanks for having me on.
OLBERMANN: And thanks for all your time.