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McClellan's Book Club

Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, set the tone with his first words:

"Welcome, everyone, to the Judiciary Committee's first Book of the Month Club meeting," he declared. "Today, it's Scott McClellan's 'What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception.' I propose that next time we consider Ann Coulter's book, 'How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must).'"

Throughout the hearing, Republicans worked feverishly to discredit the former White House press secretary who had turned against his patron and former boss, President Bush. Liberal Democrats tried to use him as a pawn in their bid to impeach Bush. Thus did the hearing serve to prove the very point McClellan makes in his book.

"The larger message of my book is bigger than any person or party," McClellan said in his opening statement. "It is about restoring civility and bipartisanship and candor to our national political discourse. It is about putting our nation's interest above partisan goals."

But rising above party was anathema to the lawmakers on the panel. Putting the nation's interest above partisan goals? Yeah, right.

"Do you recall if you've ever used illegal drugs?" inquired Ric Keller (R-Fla.).

"Scott McClellan alone will have to wrestle with whether it was worth selling out the president and his friends for a few pieces of silver," lectured Smith.

Among Smith's many complaints: that one of McClellan's editors "has written venomous statements about the president, for example, calling him a, quote, 'clearly horrible person.'"

Turns out it was the editor's daughter who wrote that.

"A political book launched in a most political time!" thundered Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).

"Couldn't you have taken this to the grave with you and done this country a favor?" complained Steve King (R-Iowa).

"Can you give me a rough estimate of the number of TV shows that you appeared on?" demanded Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.). "Did this particular publisher offer you the most money?"

The attacks on McClellan were conspicuously short on substance. And the lawmakers proved no match for the former press secretary, who had handled worse than this in his years behind the lectern in the White House briefing room.

When Goodlatte charged that McClellan's allegations were "hyped to sell this book," McClellan's reply was calm.

"Which specific allegations?" he inquired.

Goodlatte was stumped. "Well, there are many allegations," was his weak reply.

McClellan simply smiled.

By Dana Milbank  | June 20, 2008; 2:25 PM ET
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Posted by: JBE | June 20, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

You repugs keep right on defending the indefensible and you will never win another election.

Posted by: jh | June 20, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Your Republican party, ladies and gentlemen.

Posted by: Billy | June 20, 2008 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Rep. Goodlatte (R-VA), bless him, has a surname no Democrat could get away with.

Thank you, Dana, for knowing keenly what your colleague Michael Gerson has yet to fathom in his continually mistaking the ideal of nonpartisanship for centrism.

Scott McClellan is my hero.

Posted by: jhbyer | June 20, 2008 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Precisely why is USED to vote for Republicans. In MN I will have to hold my nose and vote for Franken and that's saying a lot.

Posted by: Mike | June 20, 2008 3:58 PM | Report abuse

This is absurdly funny. The Repubs are as predictable as the aliens in INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (Donald Southerland version). The second they catch on that you are not "one of us, one of us, one of us," their screeching personal attacks begin. It reminds me of the final scene in the movie, when Donald Southerland's formerly close friend discovers he's still human. Point and howl, point and howl.

Posted by: Gasmonkey | June 20, 2008 4:17 PM | Report abuse

I don't think I've ever been just ticked off at Congress as today between McClellan and the wiretapping bill. They really just need to clean house and get all new people.

Things like:
"Couldn't you have taken this to the grave with you and done this country a favor?" complained Steve King (R-Iowa).

Whenever I hear someone say they'd rather not know something, they need to be ushered aside and hidden away so we never have to hear from them again either since obviously they don't care to learn the facts and actually analyze a situation.

In that documentary Bigger Stronger Faster* about steroids it was amazing how many people were told the facts and then simply ignored them or chose not to believe them or just spout out whatever and then when questioned have no idea what they were talking about. (Waxman in the doc. He didn't even know what the drinking age is.
So please congress stop being stupid and look at what you are actually doing.

Posted by: Robbo | June 20, 2008 4:18 PM | Report abuse

For his 15 minutes of fame and a book which will quickly find itself on the reminder desk at Books-A-Million, Scott will find himself without a friend in town, an ebola virus veneer and a job as a night watchman in Bozeman. Great career move; all to be before John Conyers and a fleeting C Span appearance. Soon to be forgotten.

Posted by: jedrury | June 20, 2008 4:31 PM | Report abuse

"A political book launched in a most political time!" thundered Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).

Issa accusing someone of being political a week after turning Russert's rememberance into a rant on oil drilling. Priceless.

And once again we get a long round of GOP criticism of Scott McClellan without once addressing the actual substance of his claims.

The GOP has nothing. The well is dry.

Posted by: BB | June 20, 2008 4:48 PM | Report abuse


This congressional commentary trumps anything I read in your book Homo Politicus. These folks are living testimony to your thesis that it is not about being right, but might makes right. Power for Power's sake. While the stock market swoons again, the credit crisis continues to bubble underneath waiting for the next eruption, inflation eats away at the incomes of the lower and middle classes; these boobs can do nothing more than attack disloyalty...personal disloyalty. We have mafioso for government representatives.

Are you working on your next book? The Late Great United States or perhaps the Decline and Fall of ......?

Posted by: WPB | June 20, 2008 5:14 PM | Report abuse

"Take it to the grave."

That's the mentality they don't even try to hide anymore. Show me a republican politician, and I'll show you a corrupt mofo; show me what passes for a republican these days, and I'll show you a fool too stupid to realize when he or she is being played like a fiddle.

Posted by: KAckermann | June 20, 2008 6:36 PM | Report abuse

They may be getting their dimishing base pumped up with this vapid negativity. But they are also enlarging the appreciation of Scott McLellan, formerly despised as a hack and now coming off as a hero, with their aid.

There is such a thing as winning a battle and losing a war. They are losing both, winning no new supporters tactically and driving away formerly undecideds. They were probably carrying out yet another self-destructive plan hatched in the White House.

Posted by: Prozrenie | June 20, 2008 10:13 PM | Report abuse

How very interesting that the GOP pack on the hill illustrates so clearly what those of us involved in animal rescue have long known and seen: that when the pack is threatened, they will turn on their own and ravage him.

Posted by: Cymric | June 21, 2008 9:05 AM | Report abuse

I listened to the whole hearing on C-Span, and was incredibly impressed by Scott's unwillingness to do the things he deplores in his book. Given myriad opportunities to trash people, he took the high road, gave everyone the benefit of the doubt, refused to speculate on people's internal state of mind, and spoke only to events and conversations he personally participated in.

I think the guy is real: disillusioned and disappointed in people, from the President on down, that he believed in.

I once thought he was just a hack, and couldn't believe him standing at that podium. Now, I have a lot of respect and admiration for the man.

If only there were more consciences like his in the administration....

Posted by: warriorgrrl | June 21, 2008 2:56 PM | Report abuse

jedrury writes: [begin quote] "For his 15 minutes of fame and a book which will quickly find itself on the reminder desk at Books-A-Million, Scott will find himself without a friend in town, an ebola virus veneer and a job as a night watchman in Bozeman. Great career move; all to be before John Conyers and a fleeting C Span appearance. Soon to be forgotten." [end quote]

If you actually read books, you'd know that's "remainder desk." As for the implicit substance of your message, it's typical Republicanism: do the right thing and find yourself broke and without friends; keep your mouth shut and who knows? you might get a big-bucks career later as a corporate lobbyiest.

Posted by: Tokyo2nite | June 21, 2008 11:12 PM | Report abuse

Ah, Dana Milbank, back with more snakeoil. Thanks Dude! I was almost out!

Poor befuddled Dana had nothing but hysterical contempt and school yard for McClellan back when he was saying things Pooba Dana didn't like.

Now Scotty is one "cool" customer since he panders to the likes of Dana. Right.

Dana how can we miss you if you won't go away?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 23, 2008 1:27 AM | Report abuse

yes, McClellan's books does spread a message of putting aside personal interest for the good of the country, standing up for what is morally correct, and having the guts to tell someone in the Bush administration what's right and what's wrong. He accuses the administration for not doing that.

Yet that's exactly what HE didn't do while he was in the White House. It's easy to say these things now, with a big book deal, but its hypocritical to preach the things you don't do yourself.

Posted by: concerned ref | June 23, 2008 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Well good for Mr. McClellan, he has a conscience, and even better, he does something about it rather than just feeling bad.

Over the next few years, it's all going to come out: the lying, the invention of "facts", the deliberate attempts to subvert the executive branch into an arm of the Republican party: the huge giveaways to "Christian" mercenaries, KBR, Haliburton et. al., and stoking the flames of homophobia, racism, and fear to keep themselves in power. The Bush administration will "live in infamy".

The irony? The Republican party will have to oust these people and expose the malfeasance, otherwise they'll be irrelvant for decades.

Meanwhile, John McCain courts the very slimeballs who bankrolled Geo. W. Bush: not just the worst president ever, but the worst person ever to be president.

Posted by: DanPatrick | June 23, 2008 11:40 AM | Report abuse

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