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Memoirs of a White House Press Secretary

By Kyle Moore
I'll be completely honest; White House Press Secretary has to be one of the crappiest jobs you can have as one of the President's senior staffers.  This, of course, taken from the infinite amount of knowledge I picked up somewhere between the second and the third viewing of the entire West Wing series.

Seriously, when you stop to think about it, being the person who must answer for the president's actions day in and day out in front of (what one hopes would be) a rabid press corps can't be among the most enjoyable professions out there.

As the press secretary, you're perhaps the single most recognizable face of the administration next to the president and vice presidents themselves.  Serving in that capacity, your job is to push whatever line of propaganda your boss tells you to push, while you take the flame spray from the press that should be going to POTUS right in your face.

And let's not forget that you're quite likely to get blind sided as the chances are that you're not always going to get fully briefed, you're not always going to get all the information you need, and sometimes you're going to get shut out of information completely on purpose.

Which brings to mind another great point.  If there's anyone in the president's inner circle that's going to be a Kool Aid drinker, you're it.  You're the messenger, so your boss is not going to be forthcoming with information to the contrary.  If the message is, "The president is the single awesomest human being to grace this planet," you're not likely to be given a whole lot of evidence to the contrary.

Now it may not be this drastic.  I don't know.  Having to deal with the White House Press Corps daily for decisions I didn't make would still be something of a chore (note: I would make a terrible press secretary.  The first hardball question I get, my answer is, "What are you asking me for?  Ask the president, he's the one that made the call.  Me?  I would have went the other way.").  But when you get right down to it, manning that podium day in and day out is going to break down your patience or your self awareness or your integrity, or some combination of them all.

And then when the bubble bursts, when you are no longer restricted by the confines of your job title to only accept and then regurgitate one honed message, that must be an eye opener.

It is from such a scenario that Scott McClellan's tell all book, What Happened?, was born.

From what I've read of it thus far, the actual contents of the book are unremarkable; nothing that anyone who has been paying attention the last seven and a half years wouldn't already know.  For all intents and purposes, more informative books have been on the shelves for ages (I suggest starting with Hubris from Michael Isikoff and David Corn, with Shock Doctrine from Naomi Klein as a kind of economic companion, oh, and I suppose Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies should definitely be among the early reads), but the significance of What Happened? is not what's in the book but the name of the author on the cover.

This is not just a "Washington Insider" tm tell-all, but the Washington insider; the man who was tasked with selling the very message of the administration.  And, understandably, other Bush insiders are pissed.

I'm sure there are plenty who are taking no end of joy in this strange little turn of events.  What's there not to like about a former Bushite turning around and finally calling foul?  But I'm just not feeling it.  There's some interest in what Glenn Greenwald picked up yesterday that McClellan's book refutes the liberal media myth, but like Greenwald, I also recognize that that particular part of the book is not likely to get much mention in the press outside of what goes on here in the internets.

And I suppose I could show some measure of outrage towards McClellan.  Why now?  Why does it have to be now, after he's left the White House, that he has this great epiphany that his former boss was ripping the country apart?  Where was this clear-eyed assessment of the administration of which he was a part when it could have done some actual good?

But, like I said, if there's going to be anyone on the team that is apt to drinking the Kool-Aid, the press secretary's going to be it.

And so it goes.  I do so enjoy the embarrassment for personal reasons, but I find little use in all of this.  Will people who didn't believe this administration was a debacle from beginning to end all of a sudden start?  Not likely.  Is McClellan even really putting out new information?  I haven't seen any yet.  Will this further hurt Republicans in the elections this fall?  Hardly; What Happened? is a far cry from an October surprise.

No.  In the end these cathartic memoirs of a former White House press secretary are little more than yet another sad reminder of what we've had to live through for the past seven and a half years, serving as yet another cautionary tale of how Bush ran his White House, and that we should be vigilant in our efforts to not let such a thing happen again.

Kyle blogs at Comments From Left Field