Saturday, May 31, 2008

David Frum is a clown

David Frum, writing about Scott McClellan, does two things in his piece today. First, he gets a solid dig in on Dana "Cuban Missile Crisis?" Perino, writing, "As the current press secretary Dana Perino daily reminds us, you don’t have to be a genius to succeed as press secretary." Mee-Oww.

Then, in response (I suppose) to McClellan's claim that the press has been too lenient on the Bush administration, Frum writes:
Yet there is something very sad and sympathetic about McClellan and the bitter, accusatory memoir that leaked out this week. (The book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception, has hit number one on Amazon.com’s sales chart despite the fact that it won’t be officially released till next week.)

If you ever watched McClellan’s televised confrontations with the savage White House press corps, you probably thought: This is terrible! The man has no business being up there. He looks frightened, like a schoolboy trying to retrieve his mittens from a persecuting gang of bullies.
Here are all the questions from the most recent press briefing. Please point to the "savage" ones.
Q Congressman Wexler has called on Scott McClellan to testify before Congress, and Congressman Conyers says that he has directed his committee staff to reach out to Mr. McClellan to make arrangements for him to talk to the committee. Does the White House have any objection to this kind of conversation?

Q Could the White House block him from testifying if he wanted to testify? Or how does that work?

Q Yes.

Q Has President Bush read this -- read McClellan's book or does he have any intention to, to sort of find out what this is all about?

Q You haven't bought it for him?

Q Has he expressed any kind of feeling about it?

Q I'm trying to make a living myself. (Laughter.)

Q This morning you said that this wasn't about the messenger, it was about the message.

Q But isn't it precisely about the messenger, because those criticisms that Scott raises in his book -- they've been out there -- usually they come out of the mouths of Democrats -- but they've been out there. So isn't it precisely --

Q But what I'm saying, though, isn't it the fact that a former member of the inner circle is saying them that it adds some degree of legitimacy; it's not just dismissible by saying, well, those are Democrats and they're our political opponents?

Q But he makes a number of charges, and not all of them are that direct. For instance, he says the President engages in "self-deception." And that's not something that may be willful, but it still has significant consequences.

Q One more. Just in terms of sort of the ongoing battle for public opinion, people who have been in the middle and can dismiss a lot of criticism because they'll say it's politically motivated, they're looking at this and saying, now, hang on a second, this is different because you have a member of the inner circle. So it seems as though this would affect sort of the general sense of the public about the presidency.

Q Can we just talk about what isn't true in the book? I mean, you go to the part about weapons of mass destruction and the big threat wasn't great and gathering as the White House said. And you said that's not true? Was there no exaggeration? Was there no hiding? Was there no spinning about the war?

Q But the order of what was talked about at the time in the buildup to the war was largely about weapons of mass destruction.

Q There were no suicide bombers in Iraq.

Q Just a general question, then, Dana. I mean, one of the things he talks about is spinning, exaggeration, I mean, what goes on at the podium -- which is an indictment of you, as well. Do you think there's no spinning?

Q Define your job for me. I know Scott in the book says that his job -- he believed his job was to advance the agenda of the President of the United States.

Q In the book it reports that there came a time when the administration ignored contrary evidence and went ahead with the evidence that it did have on weapons of mass destruction. Isn't that demonstrably true now that the -- once the administration said that our intelligence is wrong?

Q When you say that we've known for a little while that this was coming, was the manuscript well circulated within the --

Q But when you said "we knew," who was "we"? Was it the Counsel's Office?

Q Was the President aware? Was the Chief of Staff --

Q Do you know whether anybody contacted Scott McClellan about the content?

Q Dana, you've used words like "sad" and "disgruntled" when talking about Scott and the book. Do you have a sense of his motivation after a few days of this back and forth about --

Q How about the idea of somebody from the inner circle writing a book, whether it's a Republican President, a Democratic President -- is this bad for the overall Office of the President if the President has to worry about somebody in his inner circle perhaps using something that is said in a meeting for a book?

Q Are you surprised he might vote for Obama?

Q Sorry you're on the hot seat on this, and excuse me if you've already been asked this at some point, but if you -- have you harbored any doubts about the war, and if you did, would you speak up, and would you resign?

Q But if you have a crisis of conscience, what is --

Q And if so, what is your obligation --

Q Well, let's just broaden it. If a staff member has doubts, do they have an obligation, any staff member, to speak up --

Q Is there -- has the White House gotten involved in the Fulbright situation with the students in the --

Q Dana -- and I'm sorry if it was addressed this morning; I apologize --

Q -- does the White House have any response or further response to the allegations of the Commerce Department computer being hacked into while in China? Have you talked with any agencies involved, or with China?

Q But is it a concern to the White House that something like this --

Q Dana, a question. Is the President satisfied with the response in the private sector to safeguard computer networks?

Q Well, certainly this is a major concern, particularly with the utilities.

Q But there have been reports that the private sector hasn't done anywhere near as much as the government has to safeguard --

Q If it were ever to be shown that a power failure like the one that hit the Northeast in 2003 was the result of a cyber attack, would the President consider that an act of war?

Q Dana, I have a couple for you. One is do you have a reaction to the cluster bomb vote?

Q And this morning you said you would assume that Prime Minister Olmert would be welcomed here next week. If he shows up at AIPAC at the event --

Q But it's not -- so it's not on his schedule? And would they meet at the White House, would they meet in another setting? What was the --

Q Okay, but it's not on the schedule then as of right now?

Q Dana, two quick questions, please. One, as far as Scott is concerned, we all have known him very well and he was very close to the President, and the President is a loyal friend. And also he was like a family to him, and also he was close to everybody in the White House. What do you think have gone wrong? Do you think he was bitter about something, or maybe influenced from his Democratic mother, or something? (Laughter.)

Q And second one is that, as far as terrorism is concerned in Afghanistan and on the Pakistan border, American NATO commander is now retiring, and what he said that what we expected from Pakistan was not done, and there is a long way to go as far as fighting terrorism. And now Pakistan has a new deal with the terrorists and that means they will withdraw their forces from the border. And here CIA Chief Michael Hayden said that we are defeating terrorism and al Qaeda --

Q So where do we stand now? Is President briefed on all this, where we stand now --

Q Thank you.

Q Wait a minute, Dana -- Dana.

Q I have one question that has nothing to do with your -- (laughter.) This morning The Washington Times published a statement by Marine Corps Sergeant Steven Pryor of Bowie, Maryland: "The photographs of unprofessional behavior by newly commissioned Air Force officers and President Bush on the front page of Thursday's edition are incredibly disappointing, clownish, and set a horrible example for everyone in the military." Will this Marine sergeant be punished for this statement, or not?

Q You saw the pictures on the front --
Oh, the horror of a press corps asking how the president "feels" about everything. They're savages, I tell you, savages.

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