Wednesday, May 28, 2008

YOUR EXCEPTION IS NOTED. A lot of Bush people and their supporters are royally pissed at former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan and his new tell-all book. At NewsBusters, Rich Noyes complains that when Ari Fleischer issued a book that was far more complimentary to Bush than McClellan's, nobody wanted to cover it.

Noyes implies this is due to liberal media bias. Well, baby, you gotta gave a gimmick. Dee Dee Myers wisely chose to write a women's-empowerment book instead of a straight Clinton-era retrospective. Of course, if that former Press Secretary's tome had instead been all about how her boss was full of shit, I suppose that would have worked too. Dog bites man can be a story if the man is its master. Ask Louis Freeh.

But that just has to do with the stink McClellan's book has made and the copies it may sell. In political terms I don't expect much of a long-term impact from it. If Richard Clarke couldn't move the needle, what chance has Scott McClellan?

This got me thinking about David Stockman, first of the great celebrity White House apostates of the contemporary age -- that is, the age of Reagan, which we're still in. William Greider's Atlantic Monthly story in which Stockman spilled his guts about the Reagan Administration's economic malfeasance, and Stockman's own tell-all book, made him the most famous OMB Director in history (excepting, perhaps, Bert Lance).

Some people considered Stockman a hero, and praised his later experiments in enlightened capitalism. That's as may be, his recent criminal indictment on fraud and conspiracy charges notwithstanding (an auto-parts company he was running, and its employee pension fund, went bankrupt). But it's worth noting that Stockman's public disillusionment with the Reaganites gave him more stature than a quiet slinking-away would have accomplished. And other than a blip of bad publicity, it didn't do much harm to Reagan, either, nor to the policies he favored. Everybody won except the governed.

This isn't to suggest bad intent on Stockman's part, or McClellan's, but the way Washington works. No one is obliged to retain loyalty to a cause one has decided is corrupt. But no one can expect to make much of a difference by renouncing it, either. Not having read McClellan's book, I can't judge it as confessional literature or as dish. As a political artifact, it would seem, from the rumblings its digestion by the commentariat have caused (noisy but not clinically significant), to be pretty typical of its kind.

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