by Michael O'Brien
“What do you call it when the assassins accuse the assassin?”
Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, Apocalypse Now
In his role as White House Press Secretary, Scott McClellan was the chief shill and cheerleader for the Bush administration. Considered a loyal soldier, McClellan was a Bush League team member since Bush was governor of Texas. Most every weekday, McClellan dutifully appeared in the White House press room with a list of official talking points. When the questions got too deep, McClellan would like many of his peers retreat to a shop-worn litany of non-denial denials.
We all know the governments and corporations share a common goal – controlling the flow of information. Controlling how information is disseminated does have legitimate purposes, whether it is a state secret or a proprietary piece of intellectual property. Using the public relations office as a microphone to the world outside the organization can ensure a carefully scripted and consistent message.
But what happens when the information provided to and by a presidential press secretary turns out to be total crap? What happens when Scott McClellan suddenly discovers the truth about why a horrible war was unleashed on the Iraqi people?
And what happens when the messenger having aided in the assassination of the truth turns on his masters? Such is the predicament McClellan finds himself in.
Bitter over having been played for a sucker by the likes of Dick Cheney, Carl Rove and Scooter Libby, McClellan has exacted a surreal form of revenge in his book "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception".
Admitting, in part, to his own role in assassinating the truth McClellan heaped blame on his fellow assassins. From rolling out the Iraq War like a new deodorant to the smearing of former CIA agent Valerie Plame and husband Joe Wilson, McClellan dumps the blame on Cheney, Rove and Libby.
So do Cheney, Rove and the rest of the truth assassination squad go quietly into that good night, bowed and cowed? Not on your life. In a perfected choreographed campaign designed to rip the skin off of the traitor, the White House has gone into full attack mode. Appearing on the usual array of cable news shows, the assassins set about to accuse the assassin.
No, McClellan is not really an assassin. But he is a coward.
His cowardice comes from ignoring his responsibility to speak truth to power. In choosing his loyalty to Bush over his responsibility as an American, McClellan traded away his integrity and his soul. This makes the long knives now aimed at him slide in with ease. Had he the guts to expose the truth, the country - and Scott McClellan himself - would have been better served.
Now some will argue that the President of the United States deserves the loyalty of the staff. In general, chief executives deserve loyalty and respect of their staff - but there is a line, a limit. When asked to enable and abet in the commission of a crime, subordinates have the right and the obligation to not go along for the ride. Even soldiers have the right and responsibility to refuse an illegal order.
If Scott McClellan’s claims are to be believed, one must conclude that he had a chance to blow whistle – and he failed. In failing to speak out, McClellan threw in his lot with the very people his now condemns. Could McClellan have stopped the war on Iraq single-handedly or triggered an impeachment? Sadly, he could not.
But had he the courage of his new-found convictions when it really counted, his credibility – not to mention his integrity - would have been greatly enhanced. He is now at the mercy of a vicious pack of character assassins he once called his friends.