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Savaging Scott McClellan

You really have to read Michael Wolff's savaging of White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan in the lastest issue of Vanity Fair to believe it. Wolff calls McClellan a "knucklehead Socrates," "low-wattage," a "pawn", "not the brightest bulb," a "helpless and irresistible target," "strikingly out of his depth," derides him for "verbal haplessness," "ham-handedness" and "lack of verbal acumen," and compares him to Squealer from Animal Farm and Piggy from the Lord of the Flies.

Wolff tries to sugarcoat his viciousness by portraying McClellan as a likeable but slow-witted foot soldier in the Bush machine. But I thought this passage, in particular, perfectly summed up the elitist arrogance with which Wolff approached his subject:

After months of repeated requests, I all of a sudden got a call to come to the West Wing and have a chat with McClellan. This is a reach-out. He's a man on the ropes. He needs to explain himself. It's personal--it's got to be. Even McClellan, whose singular talent is to stand there and take it, has feelings.

But there remains the same intractable problem: he's as inexpressive one-on-one as he is in the briefing room.

He makes the problem worse: while I intentionally have not brought a tape recorder, hoping to hear McClellan talk without the self-consciousness of preserved words, he, ever defensive and bureaucratic, has his own recorder on the table, and, what's more, an official stenographer sitting in on our conversation (the "steno," as McClellan calls him, has a tape, too--and a big funnel microphone which he points at me and at McClellan--from which he makes the transcription).

Of course, Wolff is upset that McClellan wouldn't give him what he wanted. But given the hostility and contempt with which the press so often treats this White House, why on earth wouldn't McClellan want to have a record of what was said in the interview? It turns out McClellan's suspicions were fully justified - though if he knew just what a hatchet job Wolff already had in mind I'm sure he never would have agreed to sit down with him at all.

Nevertheless, the writing for McClellan appears to be on the wall. FOX News is reporting this morning that Tony Snow is under consideration to replace McClellan. Former DoD Press Secretary Victoria Clark and former Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman in Iraq Dan Senor are reportedly also under consideration.

(UPDATE: White House Press Secretary McClellan Resigns)