Betrayal by Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, Scott McClellan viewed as ultimate betrayal. Yes, Bush and Cheney had prevaricated their way into a war with Iraq, which upset him, but not to the extent of the treasonous behavior by his bosom buddies. Former Bushies, McClellan had observed, can achieve revenge and atonement by writing a book. (What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception).
McClellan, the innocuous former Bush Press Secretary — July 2003 to April 2006 — joins a growing group of deserters cum authors who felt disillusioned or betrayed by Bush and Cheney. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill shook his head in amazement – in print – at Bush’s astonishing ignorance about the economy and hubris on Iraq. Richard Clarke angrily denounced the Bushies – and particularly Condi Rice when she served as National Security Adviser – for their complacency and downright inaction on terrorism before 9/11.
Each of them emerge as modern versions of Tom Lehrer’s Irish girl who slew the rest of her family members. But “when at last the police came by, Her little pranks she did not deny, To do so she would have had to lie, And lying she knew was a sin.”
For the Bushies, lying constituted the principle method of communicating with the public, the press and Congress. But when Rove and Libby lied to Scotty about their roles in leaking former CIA official Valerie Plame’s name to the media, they committed the unpardonable sin. Not lying to start an illegal war in Iraq, or institutionalize torture. “We do not torture,” Bush said after he had approved torture.
McClellen knew that Bush had promised to fire anyone who leaked a classified name. Didn’t Scotty understand that when Bush made such promises he didn’t include Rove and Libby? Indeed, their jobs were leakers, not plumbers. Imagine, poor Scotty, the frat boys deceived him, he reported their deceptions as facts to the press and then he finds out that Bush himself authorized leaks that could help him politically – such as the name of Valerie Plame, wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson who exposed the Bush-Cheney lies about Saddam Hussein trying to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger.
The wrath of the disillusioned pours forth in a book, from which McClellan not only gets even but makes a pile of money and will get high paid speaking gigs for several years. He warns of the “culture of deception,” the only means of operating that the Bushies have used to pollute the already deeply contaminated environment in which US politics operates
He tells us the obvious: “Washington has become the home of the permanent campaign.” He described what we read and see daily on “news” shows as “a game of endless politicking based on the manipulation of shades of truth, partial truths, twisting of the truth, and spin.” Real hot stuff, Scotty, even if it’s been said and written hundreds of times before!
The Bushies now feign surprise over McClellan’s revelations as if the deceivers have been deceived, a level of treason higher than that practiced by the gang who deceived their way into war. Fraternity, loyalty and trust became insider values on the road to imperial power. But once achieved, power dictates devotion, never to principal or to “we the people,” but to keeping power, increasing and consolidating power.
Some academics and ideologues still cling to phrases like “spreading democracy,” as a historic mission of the American nation. What McClellan’s book shows, once again, is that Bush spreads words like excess mayonnaise on his sandwich. He swore we had to invade Iraq to prevent Saddam Hussein from sharing his WMD with Al Qaeda – a lie. Then he claimed that the WMD were not relevant, but the world was better off without the despot. And don’t forget democracy – as he began to systematically destroy its meaning at home with warrantless wiretaps and institutionalizing torture.
Bush, like his aspiring follower, John McCain, insists that an immediate or even short range US departure from Iraq would hand victory to Al Qaeda even as his intelligence reports that Al Qaeda has been deeply weakened in Iraq and never really represented the great challenge to US occupiers. Like Henry Kisssinger, Bush will say anything. Unlike Kissinger, who fabricated in order to manipulate, Bush apparently does not allow truth to enter his mind when he speaks. That would be too difficult a multitasking job for him.
Poor McClellan realized that Bush and the other bros in the power frat had toyed with him, probably giggled as they watched him repeat their fibs to the press and public.
Scotty had no reason to believe Bush except his gut, which clearly ruled his intellect. He attributes Bush’s gut use to his policy mistakes, rather than attributing any base motives to the worst president in American history, a man who took office with the shadow of fraud cast over him, who led the nation into two stupid and bloody wars that will prove difficult to end, not matter who wins in November, directed the economy into debt, deficit and chaos and failed to respond to the most obvious challenge any leader would have to face: when Katrina hit New Orleans it took him five days to fly over it.
McClellan claims Bush’s big mistake was not firing the treacherous Karl Rove for leaking Plame’s name – not for orchestrating the public deception campaign Bush and Cheney used to steer the nation to war.
Neither McClellan nor most of the major press celebrities pose the larger questions – ones that might bring doubt onto the maxims that guide US politics. The obscene size of the defense budget, meaning the priorities of the nation, passes without careful scrutiny by the press secretary and the press. The assumption we all learn in grade school and high school – “we are a government of law, not of men” – begets little scrutiny from the media or the White House’s liaison to the media who is supposed to tell the truth.
The Defense Department and its inflated budget have not defended us since World War II, the last time a nation attacked the United States. The major media have not educated the citizens since – well, you all can figure that out.
When Bush claims to spread democracy few in the media scoff. Democracy means respect for the will of the people — including those of Gaza when they elect Hamas, Iran and Venezuela when they choose Ahmadinejad and Chavez.
The remnants of Bush’s old guard now call McClellan names. This “sore loser” is confused. True. In his book, poor Scotty whines about being deceived, instead of mourning for the dead and wounded in Iraq and the millions of Americans who will pay for generations for the deceit and folly of an Administration for whom he was official mouthpiece.
SAUL LANDAU received the Bernardo O’Higgins award from Chile. He is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and author of A Bush and Botox World (AK/CounterPunch).