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To Be Clear About McClellan…

First, I have to give HuffPo credit. I exchanged e-mail with Sam Stein shortly before walking out the door to lunch, and before I had finished my brisket at Capitol Q (just six blocks from my office) my e-mail started buzzing with questions/comments about this post. They work fast.

As for the content, let me expand on what I told Sam.

I have no idea what Scott did or did not experience in the White House and have no way of knowing whether his specific accusations are true or false.

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.

When you are unwilling to admit a mistake for fear of creating an opening your opposition can exploit for partisan gain, you create a cycle where bad choices become compounded upon one another. I think that is a syndrome that we saw emerge from the Clinton years and grow worse during the Bush years. There is simply no room for honest discussion anymore. There is merely partisan scorekeeping and score settling.

I also believe, as Matthew Dowd noted in the New York Times, that Bush has squandered the second term that 62 million people gave him.

He criticized the president as failing to call the nation to a shared sense of sacrifice at a time of war, failing to reach across the political divide to build consensus and ignoring the will of the people on Iraq. He said he believed the president had not moved aggressively enough to hold anyone accountable for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and that Mr. Bush still approached governing with a “my way or the highway” mentality reinforced by a shrinking circle of trusted aides.

Believe it or not, there are more than a handful of people who work in politics and become involved because they fundamentally believe that we can change the world we live in. Matt referred to the idea in his NYT interview.

“I’m a big believer that in part what we’re called to do — to me, by God; other people call it karma — is to restore balance when things didn’t turn out the way they should have,” Mr. Dowd said. “Just being quiet is not an option when I was so publicly advocating an election.”

I think McClellan’s interview on Today this morning echoed much of that same sentiment. These are people who worked tirelessly to elect a President in which they saw so much more than what was to come. McClellan says they got caught up playing the Washington game. I believe that is true, and I believe almost everyone recognizes that is true.

As I told Sam, I think McClellan’s book should be viewed through that prism. The media and the Administration may portray this as a gotcha perpetrated by Scott, but I think that discounts the larger message. It is that message that I agree with. For that reason, I fear the typical Washington response to discredit the messenger will force us to lose sight of the message.

I am a believer. I think people can change their world by getting involved. Unfortunately, this town tests my faith in that idea every day. Watching Scott being savaged for fighting for that ideal is testing it again today.

Written by Michael Turk