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Thursday, March 4, 2010

What Happened Discussion

What Happened

by Scott McClellan

genre: political tell all (non-fiction?)

This book is marketed as Mr. McClellan's opening the door into the highly secretive Bush administration and revealing the things behind the scenes. We get Mr. McClellan's view of the Plame incident, the falsified weapons of mass destruction documents, Katrina and several other of the 'scandals' of that Presidency. What we don't seem to get is very much information beyond what we already knew. For a Presidency clouded in secrecy and scandals that jeopardized and even took lives, I had expected something more. Some information that evokes an 'Aha'. I was disappointed.

Have you ever had a conversation with a girl just after her boyfriend dumped her and treated her like crap and she is so blindly in love with him still that she defends him at every turn? Mr. McClellan is that girlfriend. He comes across as so fervently in love with President Bush and his ideals that I got the feeling we weren't getting anything more than an apologetic ex just saying enough to attempt to clear his own name in his dumping. In a way it is exacerbating how McClellan exonerates the President by indicating he was pushed and influenced by people such as Cheney, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld. In part this may be true. However, as President of the United States, wouldn't it be part of his job to see through these things? To do what is right in spite of the agendas of those on his team? I would hope that any president would have the intelligence and conviction to pursue the best for the country. It is a little lame to pass the blame onto other people when ultimately Bush was in the driver's seat. Again McClellan comes across almost as a Bush groupie with stars in his eyes.

At one point while discussing the President's reactions to Katrina, he says, "The standard practice of the Bush White House was not to have the president rush to the scene of a natural disaster." Why? Not to interfere with emergency response and that they "never wanted to give the appearance of capitalizing on a tragedy for political purposes." If I remember correctly (and I do), President Bush could be considered the all out front runner of politicians who capitalized on disaster. Terrorist attacks of 9/11 were brought up continuously for years and years after they happened as political push to keep him in office and promote his agendas in the world. This claim concerning Katrina falls flat.

McClellan's points about the atmosphere of perpetual campaign impeding governance are right on the money. However he completely deflates his arguments by defending the actions of the President and his administration instead of focusing on digging into the supports for his debate. I wasn't looking for the President to be literarily drawn and quartered. But I was interested deeply in this perpetual campaign that McClellan talks about and would have liked him to push harder into his reasoning, give a more candid account of the years he served the President, instead of a candy coated ex-girlfriend's defense of the man she hopes to get back with.

P.S. I was going along so well this year and then dropped into the land of the living dead (aka migraine city and sick kids and I could go on). But now I'm back and I'm sorry for the schedule f* up. I will post up the video of the last book opening for this set (24) later today!


Gordo said...

I still haven't been able to track this down for a read, but you've certainly answered a nagging question for me: if this was such a damning tell-all as it was being promoted, where were the character assassins and denials?

Shortly after it came out, I saw an interview with McClellan (possibly Jon Stewart, I'm not sure) and the ex-girlfriend vibe definitely came across. It sounded like a semi-transparent white-wash. Reveal some details, spread some blame around, but don't really answer questions. Certainly don't answer them completely.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't get through this one. I returned it to the library, unfinished. However, the portion I did read left me with much the same impression that you are providing in your review.

Your reviews have been awesome since you've started this new style. So fun to read, even when one has not read the book. I am currently working on the last book, The World without Us. I enjoy it very much, but this past week, mostly it rides to and from work with me and never gets opened.

Sorry you weren't feeling well - we've had that going on here for ever and a day, too, plus so many evening meetings that my husband is not speaking to me. Whaa.