Scott McClellan, a former press secretary for President Bush, has recently been on the national news scene promoting his book titled “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.”
During his tenure behind the podium in the White House press room serving as the president’s mouthpiece, McClellan became known in media circles as the man who fed false information to journalists during press conferences. Based on excerpts that were released from his book, McClellan attempts tells his side of the story. He said White House officials mislead him and the American people about the Iraq War. He said the president and other officials “spent most of the first week in a state of denial” following Hurricane Katrina.
McClellan also threw a jab at journalists. He criticized the national press corps for not asking White House officials tougher questions before we entered into the Iraq War. He said “The national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq. The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. In this case, the ‘liberal media‘ didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”
I thought about this excerpt for a few minutes, and I agree. Journalists did not ask the president tough questions before invading Iraq in 2003. Anytime the president, vice president, Donald Rumsfeld or Condoleezza Rice gave their reasons for wanting to go to war, the national journalists took it and printed it on the cover of their newspapers without questioning the information.
When White House officials said Saddam Hussein was involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the press corps should have said “How do you know? Show us proof.” During the lead up to the war, the press corps should have asked “What is the exit strategy?” However, very few tough questions were asked. It seemed like the White House officials intimidated journalists, and members of the press corps just rolled over.
It wasn’t until 2005 after the Hurricane Katrina incident occurred, when the press corps started to ask tough questions about the Iraq War and the governement’s response to the hurricane.
Most American citizens don’t have the opportunity to meet with government officals and ask them tough questions face-to-face. It’s the job of the press corps to ask those questions for them. If they can’t handle that responsibility, it’s probably better if they give up their seat to someone who is willing to ask tough questions before a war instead of waiting until after.