McClellan's Inconvenient Truths: Media And GOP Flacks Pile-On

As we are reminded again this week: you don't get in trouble in D.C. for lying, covering up and stonewalling, but you catch hell for telling the truth-- even if it's the least-surprising truth ever.
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You don't get in trouble in the nation's capital for lying, covering up and stonewalling, even on the most serious issues of the day, like sending over 4,000 US soldiers to their deaths and another 30,000 wounded home sans legs and arms.

What you can count on is getting your nuts handed to you on a platter for is telling the truth, as Scott McClellan is discovering since he launched his promotional tour for his blockbuster tell-all book -- it has climbed to the top of the best-seller list on Amazon within 48 hours -- What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and What's Wrong with Washington.

Watching the mainstream media cover their butts after the former White House spin-meister exposed Bush and his henchmen of rushing into an "unnecessary war" and using propaganda to do it has been the best part of observing the opposition pushback on McClellan.

It's hysterical to watch those high-priced celeb 'nattering nabobs' of television fame cuddling up with former GOP flacks -- notably, Ari Fleischer, Karl Rove, and Dan Bartlett -- as they seek to discredit McClellan while at the same time trying desperately to redeem their sinking credibility in answer to McClellan's assertion that "The White House press corps probably was too deferential to the White House when it came to the choice of invading Iraq... They were too easy on the administration."

On NBC's Today Show, Matt Lauer said, "He [McClellan] said we didn't do our job and we didn't ask the right questions during the build-up to the invasion and the first three years of war."

ABC's Charles Gibson didn't agree, saying, "I think the questions were asked. It was just a drumbeat of support from the administration. It is not our job to debate them. It is our job to ask the questions."


NBC's Nightly News Anchor Brian Williams said in a weak admission that maybe they didn't do the right thing "that one problem the media faced was not being able to independently verify the administration's allegations."


When I heard Williams make this statement, I pushed playback on the DVR. I couldn't believe it. The rest of the world knew Bush and the neo-cons' lame excuses for going to war didn't hold water. Doesn't he read any foreign press? Doesn't he read the alternative press and blogosphere? The UN inspector reports?

The lone female broadcast evening news anchor on the show, CBS's Katie Couric, also former co-host of the Today Show, was the only dissenting voice. "I'll start by saying I think he's fairly accurate...I do think we were remiss in not asking some of the right questions."

Williams said the pressure from the White House was tremendous on news organizations that didn't toe the administration party line.

"I was in Kuwait for the buildup to the war, and yes, we heard from the Pentagon, on my cell phone, the minute they heard us report something that they didn't like. The tone of that time was quite extraordinary."

After a particularly tough interview with an administration official, the White House press office called Couric's executive producer and threatened "If you keep it up, we're gonna block access to you during the war."

Couric said the threat didn't make her back down but a threat like this is serious for a big network with hungry advertisers to please and big salaries to pay.

I thought the job of journalists was precisely that, to ask questions and debate. But David Gregory, who was then NBC's White House correspondent, spent hours on his television show, Race to the White House, along with giving numerous interviews to the rest of the MNSBC political talk shows (does he never sleep?) defending his reporting and those of his fellow comrades puttering around the West Wing in their starched shirts and designer suits. How unsurprising and wrong.

Sure, Gregory made a pest out of himself during the Valerie Plame story -- which is why McClellan finally got the axe and felt the need to redeem himself after being told lies and then passing them onto the press. But I seem to recall Gregory was in lockstep with the rest of the gang inside the Beltway during the early months of the Iraq War and pretty much throughout until the public started to turn against it.

A 'real' reporter, The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, told KQED host Kael Kransy before a Berkeley audience on October 8, 2004, "The past two years will go down as one of the classic sort of failures in history." He views his mission to "hold the people in public office to the highest public standard of decency and of honesty. To tolerate anything less, even in the name of national security is wrong... Bush is a liar."

Although there is nothing new under the sun with McClellan's memoir, it somehow soothes the boiling heat of our national disgrace and psycho-drama and gives more credence to those of us who always knew this was a wacky, politically self-serving, cold-hearted, lying crazed group of adolescents playing in the West Wing... the White House press corps just helped make it possible.

At least the legs of this story will dull the more mundane political buzz of the day; John McCain's stupefying Bush-ATM fundraising strategy and Hillary Clinton's dastardly attempts to steal the nomination from Barack Obama with her Kabuki math and cries of victimhood.

As Bill Clinton would say, "Give me a break!" and we just got one.

Now, it's the media's turn to turn inward, posing the ugly question without crouching in defensive mode: Why didn't we do our jobs?

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