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At Least I’m No Longer Alone In Defending McClellan

Peggy Noonan has a great read up on the Wall Street Journal. In it she expresses in slightly more artful terms, exactly what I was trying to express yesterday.

William Safire, himself a memoirist of the Nixon years, said to me, a future memoirist of the Reagan years: “The one thing history needs more of is first-person testimony.” History needs data, detail, portraits, information; it needs eyewitness. “I was there, this is what I saw.” History will sift through, consider and try in its own way to produce something approximating truth. …

[T]he purpose of the book is a serious one. Mr. McClellan attempts to reveal and expose what he believes, what he came to see as, an inherent dishonesty and hypocrisy within a hardened administration. It is a real denunciation. …

He scores President Bush’s “certitude” and “self-deceit” and asserts the decision to invade Iraq was tied to the president’s lust for legacy, need for boldness, and grandiose notions as to what is possible in the Mideast. He argues that Mr. Bush did not try to change the culture of the capital, that he “chose to play the Washington game the way he found it” and turned “away from candor and honesty.”

Mr. McClellan dwells on a point that all in government know, that day-to-day governance now is focused on media manipulation, with a particular eye to “political blogs, popular web sites, paid advertising, talk radio” and news media in general. In the age of the permanent campaign, government has become merely an offshoot of campaigning. All is perception and spin. This mentality can “cripple” an administration as, he says, it crippled the Clinton administration, with which he draws constant parallels. [emphasis mine]

This is exactly what I tried to say yesterday in my post here.

My point to Sam, and the point to my Twitter comment last night, was that Scott has written a book about the nastiness of politics in general and the notion of the permanent campaign specifically, that is right on the money. The excerpts I have read of the book make a very salient and very meaningful point – this town and the culture of constant political battle, do great harm to the process of actually governing.

It also echoes the point Jon Stewart made in his now classic appearance on the soon-after cancelled Crossfire.

It’s not so much that it’s bad… as it’s hurting America. So I wanted to come here to say… Here’s what I want to tell you guys… Stop. Stop hurting America and come work for us. It doesn’t pay well, but you can sleep at night.

A point made in humor, but one that speaks volumes about society. Our political system is fundamentally broken. When our idea of a serious debate over policy issues is two people on opposite sides of Chris Matthews’ table trying to shout over each other, is it any wonder that the people have lost faith in our institutions? When our elected officials – rather than actually leading – appear on O’Reilly or Matthews or Olbermann to dance like some trained monkey to the organ grinder’s tune, we must question the way we are led.

I fundamentally believe that McClellan’s book simply tries to make the point that this Washington mindset is damaging our nation. You can question his assertions about Rove or Libby, and you can argue he was not in the room during a particular meeting, but I don’t think anyone can question his larger message.

It’s a point we need to take seriously.

Written by Michael Turk