Friday, July 18, 2008

"What Happened" to Scott McClellan?

Nothing; that’s just it! Scott had his 15 minutes of fame, preceded by 2 ½ years of ignominy. He’s back to being a nondescript nonentity. He’s on a book signing tour, but receiving no publicity.

No matter what he wrote about the inner workings of the Bush Administration, of which he knew little in fact, he did not receive the star treatment of Richard Clarke, Joe Wilson, Valerie Plame, or even Cindy Sheehan.

McClellan possibly could have been a historically valuable source of information on the Bush Administration, which had notoriously kept a tight rein of secrecy on the workings, thoughts, and deliberations of the inner circle throughout the Administration. He had precious little to reveal tough because he was kept outside the loop. Much of his book is based on speculation, conjecture, and frustration over his insignificance.

He testified before Congress on June 20. His statements did not even get Page 1 attention in the press. Instead, they were buried somewhere on an inside page. McClellan’s testimony and presence would have no creditability with the public, so Congress and the Media dumped him.

Was McClellan simply naive or stupid in writing “What Happened?” The answer is both.

He was upset because he was fired as Press Secretary to President Bush, but wasn’t even told by the President. Instead, an emissary, Chief of Staff Josh Bolton, delivered the news. He was chagrined, but that’s how Washington works. The Bush Administration implemented a long needed reorganization; McClellan was worthless in getting out the Administration position. He wasn’t the only failure (Treasury was a running soap opera), but clearly the most visible.

The irony is that anyone who watched any of his press conferences wondered how he could have held the position, much less have been promoted to it. He constantly had the “deer in the headlights” look, or as liberals would have called it 18 years ago, “The Dan Quayle” look, although the former Vice President is in fact very intelligent. McClellan was in over his head from Day 1.

All we have to do is compare videos of his predecessor, Ari Fleischer, or successor, Tony Snow, who died all too young last Saturday. Many press secretaries have distinguished careers after office. Ike’s Press Secretary, James Haggerty, became the first President of ABC News. JFK probably did not need a press secretary because of his skill with the press, but Pierre Salinger served with distinction prior to a media career. Bill Moyers of PBS fame, an ordained minister, and green lighter of the Daisy Ad, held the position for LBJ. George Stephanopoulos, Chris Matthews, and Pete Williams (technically press secretary for the Defense department) currently have successful careers. The odds are no network will offer a position to McClellan.

The cynical theory is that he kept the job because of the Bush Administration’s contempt for the media. They knew he wouldn’t say a thing because he couldn’t.

He got the job and kept it because of loyalty, one of Bush’s attributes. He was with Bush since 1999, and his mom was a powerful Republican in Texas. She lost the race for Governor in 2006, which caused bitterness in the broad McClellan family.

McClellan faces a problem in the future. People don’t like whistle blowers or traitors. Our society and civilization depend on trust. McClellan breached the trust of his political family.

McClellan’s problem is that those he betrayed will never trust him again, and those he benefited will never trust him in the future. Even the British never fully accepted Benedict Arnold. The ancient Greek Alciabides fled his Athenians for the Spartans, and then, when he wore out his welcome with the Spartans, had to flee to the Persians. No Greek would have him.

Our treatment for betrayers in our society is shown by the treatment received by Dr. Mark Whitacre, the President of an Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). The executive informed the Justice Department in 1992 that his unit was engaged in a price fixing scheme with competitors. The FBI had him wear a wire for 2 ½ years. His identity, which was supposed to be kept secret awhile longer, was revealed in 1995 when the conspirators were arrested.

ADM then accused Whitacre of embezzlement. Hw was forced to plead guilty to both price fixing and fraud. He was sentenced to ten years ij jail, a longer prison term than any of the price fixing conspirators. He spent 8 ½ years in jail. ADM even sued his parents for conspiracy, conversion and fraud for the $100,000 he gave them and then sought another $500,000 in punitive damages from them.

The message sent from the Justice Department was twofold: we encourage in theory, but penalize in reality, whistle blowers, and don’t come to us.

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