Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

What Happened. . .

. . . to Scott McClellan? I’m not going to waste a single minute reading his book looking for insight, but it does prompt reference to a great one-sentence summary: "This is the book of a smart-aleck, seemingly devoid of any sense of honor."

While that sentence fits McClellan, it was actually written in 1986 by James Q. Wilson to describe David Stockman’s anti-Reagan book The Triumph of Politics. Therein lies a lesson in the insubstantiality of McClellan’s book and the wider controversy surrounding it. At least Stockman’s dishonorable book dealt with serious questions of policy. Stockman’s problem was his "intellectual promiscuity" (Wilson again); no one doubted his intelligence and ability, though some of his weaknesses have apparently persisted in his business career and landed him in serious legal trouble today. McClellan has merely confirmed his lightweight status. Stockman merely showed that for all his brilliance he didn’t really understand politics very well, as the thesis of his book was that he was "shocked, shocked" that politics would intrude on his admirable budget-cutting designs. That said, there is much to be learned from Stockman’s disreputable book. McClellan is now "shocked, shocked" that a president would resort to persuading the American people through political rhetoric (a less pejorative term than "propaganda") to support his foreign policy. The difference here is that, unlike Stockman, McClellan doesn’t even rise to the level of "smart-aleck."

Discussions - 5 Comments

From what I recall, Stockman somehow got the idea that he had carte blanche to cut the budget. But when his budget cutting proposals were put forward, on domestic and defense spending, his proposals went nowhere. Because Reagan saw it as more important that Cap Weinberger restore America's military than Stockman succeed in trimming the budget. And as for social cuts, Reagan didn't have the political muscle to get those through. That being the case, Stockman was left with little more to do than trim along the edges. But Stockman had a much bigger idea of what his role was going to be.

Stockman said that Reagan's budget would lead to deficits as far as the eye could see. He was right in that regard. But America's military needed a major overhaul, personnel, training and equipment, right across the board, and in all branches. Reagan and Weinberger knew it, and wouldn't be swayed from spending the dollars to make it happen, regardless of its impact on the federal budget.

There's nothing that can be said for McClellan, because he's been such a disaster that we need to find out how was it possible that he landed a job in The White House.

Well said, Steve.

That's classic. A writer of fawning hagiographies takes a cheap shot at McClellan for daring to utter a few critical, and truthful, words about the prez.

Uhhhh ... it is clear that the book that McClellan initial proposed and wrote was not a Bush hit piece.

It is also clear that his main editor, Peter Oros, was not interested in a book that defended Bush.

So, you can conclude that Oros's guidance was to make the typical press secretay book into an anti-Bush smear.

You can call that truthful, but it is not.

". . . we need to find out how was it possible that [McClellan] landed a job in The White House."

I'll tell you how it was possible: we nominated an airhead for president, who thought Jesus was a political philosopher, and who believed that a cockroach named Vladimir Putin has a soul. McClellan is just the most extreme case of the many vacuous careerists whom Bush elevated to high positions in the White House or elsewhere in the federal government: Alberto Gonzales, Karen Hughes, Harriet Miers, Michael Brown, Gen. Sanchez, Jerry Bremer.

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