McClellan: The Star Witness against George Bush

If you've not read of the recent revelations from Scott McClellan, Bush's former press secretary, John Dickerson has the most interesting summary I've read so far.  A brief highlight from Dickerson:

In general, McClellan describes the president as someone who lacks
inquisitiveness and is also deceitfully self-delusional. Long money
quote: “As I worked closely with President Bush, I would come to
believe that sometimes he convinces himself to believe what suits his
needs at the moment. It is not unlike a witness in court who does not
want to implicate himself in wrongdoing, but is also concerned about
perjuring himself. So he says, 'I do not recall.' The witness knows no
one can get into his head and prove it is not true, so this seems like
a much safer course than actually lying. Bush, similarly, has a way of
falling back on the hazy memory defense to protect himself from
potential political embarrassment. Bush rationalizes it as being
acceptable because he is not stating unequivocally anything that could
be proven false. If something later is uncovered to show what he knew,
then he can deny lying in his own mind.”

McClellan's account adds
another set of insider anecdotes to the already heaping stack built by
previous Bush officials and advisers. Paul O'Neill first described the
president's blindness to inconvenient facts six years ago when he
talked about Bush's lack of appetite for “analytical rigor, sound
information-gathering techniques and real, cost-benefit analysis.” The
list of administration officials turned bashers includes John Dilulio, Larry Wilkerson, Rand Beers, Richard Clarke, David Kuo, Paul Pillar, and Matthew Dowd.

As Dickerson makes clear, we really don't learn all that much new from McClellan.  It is largely, further, stronger evidence that Bush is disturbingly lacking in intellectual curiosity, willfully ignorant of unpleasant information, and capable of amazing feats of self deception.

What's so compelling about McClellan's account is that he's truly a long-time Bush loyalist, since way back in the Texas days, not just someone who joined the administration in Washington.  For McClellan to make this strong indictment against Bush really adds something.  One of the key lessons from my Psychology of Attitudes class back in grad school was the importance of the source and source credibility in persuasion.  For a long-time, loyal supporter to make these accusations makes them all the more persuasive, despite the White House's pitiful attempts to swat them down (i.e., a “disgrunteld former employee”).  

This got me thinking, if there were a trial against George W. Bush, McClellan would now definitely be the star witness.  As for this trial, if it were a civil trial, I think you could safely conclude that the case against George Bush reaches the standard of “clear and convincing” evidence.  At this point, given the evidence on Bush's flaws of character, decision-making, and presidential management, it is simply unreasonable to reject the ever-growing chorus highlighting these serious flaws in Bush and his administration. 

The fact that Karl Rove has now famously characterized McClellan's revelations as something that seemed as if it came from a “left-wing blogger” I think also speaks tremendously well of the left-wing blogosphere.  We've been saying these things about Bush for years, and the evidence overwhelmingly suggests these criticisms are true.  When it comes to the most accurate depiction of the Bush administration, it may very well exist in mainstream, left-wing blogs.  The mainstream so-called liberal media (i.e., the Times, Post, etc.) is so hung up on “fairness” that they typically give Bush much more of the benefit of the doubt than the evidence suggests he deserves.  To paraphrase Stephen Colbert, quite simply the truth has a liberal bias (at least in the case against GWB), and to report otherwise is to introduce a new form of bias. 

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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