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McClellan Defends Controversial Account of White House Years

Scott McClellan reflects on his new memoir about his time as White House press chief, which has stoked controversy for its pointed criticism of the Bush administration. Then, analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks weigh in on McClellan's book.

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    Now to our conversation with former White House insider Scott McClellan. Jeffrey Brown talked with him a short time ago.


    Early in his new book, Scott McClellan writes that he will tell a, quote, "story in which I played a minor role, the story of how the presidency of George W. Bush veered terribly off-course."

    McClellan served President Bush in several positions in Texas and Washington, including three years as White House press secretary before he left the administration in 2006.

    The book is called "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception." Scott McClellan joins us now from New York.

    Scott, I'd like to start with a constant theme in the book, that the Bush administration was in what you call a "permanent campaign mode." What exactly do you mean by this? And how did it help get us into what you now call an unnecessary war in Iraq?

  • SCOTT MCCLELLAN, Former White House Press Secretary:

    Sure. I'm glad you asked that question. This is something that I cover in some detail in the book and provide examples of in the book.

    I give a little bit of history. Over the course of time, particularly with the advent of polls and public — you know, the expansion of cable news networks and so forth, the permanent campaign, it goes back years, but it has evolved into some potentially more destructive excesses these days, where the whole focus used to be on more just winning over public opinion to your side.

    It has now become more about manipulating those various sources of public approval — media outlets and so forth, the overall media narrative — to one side's advantage. And both parties get caught up in this game.

    It's more about power and influence than it is about, you know, honest deliberation and compromise and trying to solve things, solve problems for the American people.