Ex-spokesman McClellan sours on Bush in tell-all book

The ex-aide describes the administration as engaging in a 'political propaganda campaign' to sell the Iraq war to the US public.

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

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    EARLIER : Scott McClellan worked for President Bush as White House press secretary from 2003 until 2006.
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Whoa – it looks like Scott McClellan won't be getting a White House Christmas card this year. The former Bush press secretary is being shunned by administration officials from the president on down in response to his new tell-all memoir.

"This is not the Scott we knew," said current Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino on Wednesday – perhaps implying that this was another Scott McClellan, constructed in the secret basement lab of Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean.

But as Mr. McClellan fires back in kind – maybe he'll burn his White House pass live on CNN's "The Situation Room" – let's stop and look at one of his most substantive criticisms: that the Bush administration's strategy for selling the Iraq war was "less than candid and honest."

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McClellan's not really the only ex-insider saying that. In important ways, this statement mirrors points made in a recent book by a former official who's otherwise supportive of the administration: Douglas Feith, ex-undersecretary of Defense for policy.

The similarities deal with prewar marketing. Both books say that the administration overemphasized the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and played down other reasons for invading Iraq.

In his book "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception," McClellan dubs the effort a "political propaganda campaign to sell the war to the American people."

Bush and his team tried to make the dangers of Mr. Hussein's biological, chemical, and nuclear programs "appear just a little more certain, a little less questionable than they were," McClellan writes.

Over at the Pentagon, Undersecretary Feith saw aspects of the same thing. Not that he opposed the invasion: To the contrary, he remains a strong supporter of the decision to topple Hussein, whom he considered an overall very scary guy.

But Feith points a finger of accusation at Colin Powell. In preparing his memorable Feb. 5, 2003, speech to the United Nations, Mr. Powell chose to focus on secret intelligence info on alleged mobile poison labs and such, he recounts in his book "War and Decision."

"He did not have to focus so dramatically on specific CIA findings on WMD.... Instead, the case he made relied heavily on intelligence-based particulars – leaving us open to devastating attacks if those particulars turned out to be wrong," Feith writes.

Of course, Feith probably did not envision that those attacks might come from a certain oval-faced press secretary who'd known George W. Bush since his Texas days. He was probably thinking more along the lines of ... France. Or maybe John Kerry.

Meanwhile, in Sweden, where she's traveling, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday that she wasn't going to comment on a book that she hadn't read, meaning McClellan's.

Then she commented that McClellan was wrong in insisting that the administration wasn't forthright about the reasons for the war. "The concern about weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein's Iraq was the fundamental reason [for the invasion]," she said.

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