Why do I find the Scott McClellan story so irritating? There’s the convenient timing of his rep rescue, coming when his former boss is polling worse than V.D. and a comeback is out of the question. The book seems calibrated to reveal nothing that we don’t already know, except for one bit that McClellan might have dropped by accident on a TV show. The Phil Donahue story broke so long ago that I almost can’t bear to watch the media awarding themselves courage medals for confirming the obvious.
Without a doubt the most annoying aspect of this firestorm is the way that it validates a criticism that Atrios makes of the media all the time. We had credible people arguing these same points back when airing them might have made a difference, but somehow they never made onto the Sunday opinion shows or got credible treatment by the major news broadcasts. The few journalists who did their job were either ignored like McClatchy or fired like Donahue. The evidence wasn’t exactly hidden – guys like Eric Alterman had it in book form while McClellan was still spreading what he now calls propaganda and bullshit. Yet somehow the range of acceptable opinion in the major media stretched from Joe Lieberman to George Bush. Ideas that everybody takes for granted now – that the WMD argument was poorly founded or invading Iraq unprovoked and occupying it indefinitely might have strategic risks – were considered laughably ‘unserious.’ It often seemed like an idea wasn’t worth taking seriously until someone in the administration brought it up.
This latest brouhaha reinforces that point. Scott McClellan wasn’t a very bright or important guy when he served the president, and he isn’t very bright or important now. Yet in the same way that we still call Jimmy Carter ‘President’ McClellan is still a Bushie. Thus, now the press has permission to talk about being willingly led around by power-drunk morons.
It’s nice to hear “respectable” outlets finally acknowledging things I have argued for years, but it leaves the fundamental problem unchanged. I’ll call it progress when self-serving works like McClellan’s get largely ignored in favor of people with a track record of getting things right.