You know, it doesn’t say anything that many of us didn’t already know. It’s just nice to see someone on the inside of the Bush Administration admit that these things went on:
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The incidents that first left then-White House press secretary Scott McClellan "dismayed and disillusioned" about Washington involved the surreptitious release of classified information, McClellan said Thursday.
The first of the "defining moments," McClellan told NBC’s "Today" show, was when CIA operative Valerie Plame’s name was leaked to the media.
The second, he said, was when he learned that President Bush had secretly declassified a report on Iraq so Vice President Dick Cheney and Cheney aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby could disclose it to reporters.
"We had been out there talking about how seriously the president took the leaking of classified information, and here we were learning that the president had authorized the very same that we were criticizing," McClellan said, the day after his controversial memoir hit bookstore shelves.
As White House spokesman, McClellan defended Bush’s policies during much of the Iraq war, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the scandal that followed the leak of Plame’s identity.
But he now says the administration was mired in propaganda and political spin and played loose with the truth at times.
In March 2007, Libby was found guilty of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements for lying about what he said to reporters about Plame. Bush later commuted Libby’s 2½-year sentence prison sentence, but left in place Libby’s fine and probation.
McClellan told "Today" on Thursday, "I had been assured — and [then-senior adviser] Karl Rove and ‘Scooter’ Libby both — I asked them point-blank, ‘Were you involved in this in any way?’ And both assured me in unequivocal terms, ‘No, we were not involved.’ "
"And Rove even told the president, and the president and VP directed me to go out and exonerate ‘Scooter’ Libby on this, and that’s when I went to ‘Scooter’ and asked him the question," McClellan said.
McClellan also discussed how, he said, Bush decided to go to war against Iraq soon after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. The president ordered aides to make arrangements for it, McClellan told "Today."
"I think very early on, a few months after September 11, he made a decision that we’re going to confront Saddam Hussein, and if Hussein doesn’t come fully clean, then we’re going to go to war. There was really no flexibility in his approach," McClellan said. "Then it was put on the advisers: How do we go about implementing this? How do we go about doing this?"
So, there you have it. From someone on the inside. They lied. They leaked. They manipulated.
In hindsight, McClellan views the war as a mistake by a president swept up by his own propaganda and a grand plan of seeding democracy in the Middle East by overturning Saddam Hussein‘s regime.
McClellan says Bush and his aides became so wrapped up in trying to shape the story to their political advantage that they ignored facts that didn’t fit the picture. He blames it on a "permanent campaign culture" that pervades Washington.
Over 4,000 U.S. soldiers dead. Because the Bush Administration was obsessed with a second term and engaged in groupthink.
What is "groupthink"? It plagued the Johnson administration, too. It is a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis. In order to make groupthink testable, Irving Janis devised eight symptoms that are indicative of groupthink. They are:
1. Illusions of invulnerability creating excessive optimism and encouraging risk taking.
2. Rationalising warnings that might challenge the group’s assumptions.
3. Unquestioned belief in the morality of the group, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.
4. Stereotyping those who are opposed to the group as weak, evil, disfigured, impotent, or stupid.
5. Direct pressure to conform placed on any member who questions the group, couched in terms of “disloyalty”.
6. Self censorship of ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.
7. Illusions of unanimity among group members, silence is viewed as agreement.
8. Mindguards — self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting information.
So, future presidents, what have we learned?
The wingnut blogosphere is blaming the messenger as they always do, attacking McClellan as a liberal, a liar, a charlatan trying to sell books, and claiming they never liked him anyway.
The White House is perhaps even more spittle-flecked than the bloggers, calling McClellan "disgruntled" and even a traitor.
And so it shall always be.