May 29, 2008

At first blush, Scott McClellan’s criticism of the Bush White House wouldn’t necessarily have anything to do with the 2008 presidential race. McClellan hasn’t had anything to do with John McCain, and most of the people McClellan calls out are not part of McCain’s campaign.

But perhaps that’s an unimaginative approach. McClellan’s book apparently has quite a bit to say about the war in Iraq — clearly, a key campaign issue this year — including charges that Bush relied on “propaganda” to sell the war. The former White House press secretary added that the president failed to be “open and forthright on Iraq” and worse, “rushed to war” with inadequate planning and preparation for its aftermath.

What does this have to do with McCain? Chief Obama strategist David Axelrod knows:

“What does all his experience get us?” asked Obama’s strategic guru. “What do all those visits [to Iraq] get us?”

He continued: “The fact that he goes to Iraq and gets a tour apparently does little to provoke the kinds of questions that should be asked, and what Sen. Obama has been asking since the beginning. So it is not a question of longevity in government. It is a question of judgment, it is a question of a willingness to challenge policies that have failed. And he seems just dug in.” […]

“We are talking on a day where the president’s press secretary released a book where they frankly acknowledged that they engaged in deception and propaganda to essentially lead America to war. Senator Obama saw through that and raised the appropriate questions. Sen. McCain didn’t,” he said.

In this sense, the timing of the McClellan book is pretty helpful — it offers the Obama campaign a chance to reinforce the fact that when the White House was making a bogus argument, McCain bought it and Obama didn’t. McClellan was, to borrow a phrase, catapulting the propaganda. McCain embraced it from the outset, and never let go.

McClellan helps put all of this on the front page, right where McCain doesn’t want it.

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