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Excerpts from Books by and about 2008 candidates
Sen. John McCain (R, AZ)
Why Courage Matters
Sen. Barack Obama(D, IL)
Dreams From My Father
Sen. Joe Biden (D, DE)
Promises to Keep
Gov. Sarah Palin (R, AK)
New Energy for Alaska
Rep. Bob Barr (L)
The Meaning of IS
Rep. Cynthia McKinney (G)
Green Party Debate
Ralph Nader (I)
The Good Fight
Alan Keyes (NAIP)
Our Character, Our Future

Sen. Hillary Clinton
It Takes A Village
Mayor Rudy Giuliani
Gov. Mike Huckabee
Character Makes A Difference
Amb. Alan Keyes
Our Character, Our Future
Rep. Ron Paul
Freedom Under Siege
Gov. Mitt Romney

(click a book cover for excerpts and a review or other books by or about the presidency from

What Happened
Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception,

by Scott McClellan

(Click for Amazon book review)

Looking for the Hillary book of the same name?
Click here for What Happened, by Hillary Clinton, book review and excerpts


This book is the Big Political Hit of the summer: a negative expose from an White House insider of the leadup to the Iraq War and other events from the Bush era. Scott McClellan served as Deputy Press Secretary during 9/11, and then as Press Secretary spanning the period from PlameGate through the public disenchantment against the Iraq War. But while the book's popularity stems from its anti-war and anti-Bush reputation, it's really not very anti-Bush. McClellan is deeply respectful of Bush personally, and sticks to criticizing Bush's policies and Bush's advisors without much criticizing Bush. As McClellan describes it:

"This is a book about the slice of history I witnessed during my years in the White House and about the well-intentioned but flawed human beings--myself included--who shaped that history. I've written it not to settle scores but simply to record what I know and what I learned in hopes that my account will deepen our understanding of contemporary history."

"I believed in George W. Bush's leadership and agenda for America, and had confidence in his authenticity, integrity, and judgement. But today the high hopes that accompanied the early days of his presidency have fallen back to earth."

-- p. ix-xii

McClellan has three central ideas in the book:
  1. The Bush White House made decisions by a "permanent political campaign" (which McClellan claims Richard Nixon invented, and Karl Rove perfected.)
  2. The Iraq War was "sold" to the American people as a propaganda campaign, rather than as an open policy discussion among Congress, the White House, and the public.
  3. The White House culture of secrecy (and planned leaks) fed both of the above.
McClellan's talk-show tour focuses on the Iraq War, about which he concludes, "Selling war through a political marketing campaign rather than openly and forthrightly discussing the possible need for war with the American people is fraught with danger. Today we are seeing its destructive results pay out." But the talk-show hosts ignore the immediately following counterpoint that McClellan consistently provides: "I still like and admire George W. Bush. I do not believe he or his White House deliberately or consciously sought to deceive the American people. But he and his advisors confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to need and then sustain public support during a time of war." (p. 312)

McClellan proposes a solution in his final chapter entitled, "Changing the Culture of Deception":

    The president must demonstrate an unyielding commitment to three important principles:
  1. a high level of openness, forthrightness, and honesty when communicating with the American people;
  2. a spirit of inclusiveness and unity, which reaches across partisan divides and ideological differences to encourage cooperation among all groups and individuals; and
  3. a readiness to consistently govern toward the center, seeking common ground from which to solve problems rather htan appealing to a narrow base of opinion.
We excerpt below most of the key points that McClellan makes about the key players in the Bush White House. Our conclusion is that the IDEA of this book (that a Bush confidante admits that the war was "sold") is mush less damning of Bush than the book's actuality.

-- Jesse Gordon, [email protected], July 2008
   George W. Bush: 1990s: Sought to find common ground on divisive issues.
   George W. Bush: First day as president: reinstate Mexico City Policy.
   George W. Bush: Death penalty saves innocent lives through deterrence.
   George W. Bush: Former bad habits are message to learn from experience.
   George W. Bush: Considered hypocritical for hard line on cocaine after using.
   George W. Bush: Nov. 2000: DUI revelation probably cost Bush popular vote.
Energy & Oil
   Dick Cheney: Criticized for task force secrecy, but focused on leak-limit.
   George W. Bush: Katrina flyover image interpreted as detached & powerless.
   George W. Bush: Katrina response overshadowed by FEMA botch-job perception.
Foreign Policy
   Condoleezza Rice: Bush's views on foreign policy were one & the same as Rice's.
Homeland Security
   George W. Bush: First reaction to 9/11: get military ready on many fronts.
   George W. Bush: Believed military was needed for Katrina response.
   Hillary Clinton: Led criticism about what Bush knew prior to 9/11.
   Tommy Thompson: Pushed smallpox vaccinations in response to anthrax attacks.
Principles & Values
   Bill Clinton: OpEd: To History, many Clinton scandals may be insignificant.
   Dick Cheney: OpEd: Possibly knew about PlameGate, but encouraged lie.
   George W. Bush: OpEd: White House had deliberately outed CIA agent Plame.
   George W. Bush: The "sixteen words" became near-fatal blow to credibility.
   George W. Bush: Rice & Cheney were most important advisors beginning in 1999.
   George W. Bush: Held "strategery" meetings (admitted mangling English).
   George W. Bush: 9/20/01: You're either with us or with the terrorists.
   Newt Gingrich: OpEd: Contract agenda smart; but exaggerated scandal culture.
   Richard Nixon: First President to keep permanent political operation.
Social Security
   George W. Bush: Option to invest 2% to 4% of funds in "safe" stocks.
War & Peace
   Colin Powell: Omitted shaky Niger uranium claim from 2003 UN speech.
   Colin Powell: Only major adviser to Bush to question Iraq war.
   Dick Cheney: OpEd: Saw 9/11 as an opportunity to take out Saddam.
   Dick Cheney: On 9/11, said no Saddam-al-Qaeda link; but yes by Dec. 2001.
   Dick Cheney: 2002: Saddam is a madman pursuing nuclear weapons.
   Dick Cheney: 2003: Accused of falsifying Niger uranium to justify Iraq.
   Dick Cheney: PlameGate: discredit Niger report by revealing CIA operative.
   Dick Cheney: OpEd: VP's office knowingly misled public about PlameGate.
   George W. Bush: Iraq was top issue at start of presidency, even before 9/11.
   George W. Bush: Feb. 2001: Bombed Iraq routine enforcement of no-fly zone.
   George W. Bush: Campaign to sell the Iraq War began with 2002 UN speech.
   George W. Bush: Adviser resigned after revealing Iraq might cost $200B.
   George W. Bush: OpEd: Bush had decided by Nov. 2001 to invade Iraq.
   George W. Bush: 2003: No difference if Saddam had WMD or trying to get WMD.
   George W. Bush: No difference between war of necessity and war of choice.
   George W. Bush: No difference between war of necessity and war of choice.
   George W. Bush: 2004: Unwilling to admit mistakes in invading Iraq.
   George W. Bush: Pardoned Scooter Libby for PlameGate & leak of CIA identity.
   George W. Bush: OpEd: Selling war instead of open debate damaged presidency.

The above quotations are from What Happened
Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception,

by Scott McClellan

All material copyright 1999-2015
Reprinting by permission only.

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