Revisionist History

Scott McClellan’s appearance on the Today Show this morning had elements of comedy, as McClellan wanted to talk about bipartisanship while Meredith Vieira desperately prodded him to say something controversial, or, failing that, something specific. The most concrete anti-Bush statements were quoted by Vieira, from McClellan’s book, under the headline “Weapons of Mass Destruction:”

Bush and his advisers knew that the American people would not support a war launched primarily for the ambitious purpose of transforming the Middle East. Rather than open this Pandora’s Box…the administration chose a different path…not employing out and out deception, but shading the truth…in an effort to convince the world Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction….The administration used innuendo and implication and intentional ignoring of intelligence to the contrary.

Ironically, McClellan addressed this very subject in his last briefing as press secretary. At that time, before he was trying to sell books and ingratiate himself with liberals, he rightly condemned the revisionist history that is peddled by the left:

Q Some people seemed to take out their frustrations yesterday on Secretary Rumsfeld. What did the President think about that exchange? And does it change his opinion at all about the Secretary?

MR. McCLELLAN: People have a right to express their views, but I think you ought to step back and review history a little bit, not try to rewrite history. Saddam Hussein’s regime was a threat. It was a threat to the region, it was a threat to the world. And in the aftermath of September 11th, this President made a determination that we were going to confront threats before they fully materialized, before it was too late.

And this President has led the way. We all saw the same intelligence. Now, the intelligence was wrong, but it was the collective judgment of the intelligence community that decisions were made upon. And this President took steps to appoint a bipartisan independent commission, and that commission took a look at the intelligence because it’s vital in this dangerous time we live in when there are terrorists who still want to strike America, that we make sure we have the best possible intelligence.

*** And regardless of where you stood before, this is a time when we all need to be coming together to support our troops in Iraq and to support our plan for victory in Iraq, because success in Iraq is critical to winning the war on terrorism. It is the central front in the war on terrorism. The terrorists recognize that. They recognize how high the stakes are, and you see the Zarqawi video. We must continue to move forward and help the Iraqi people who have shown that they want to build a brighter future, that they want to live in freedom, when 12 million people show up at the polls, and when a group of leaders that they elected comes together and forms a national unity government. ***

Let’s look at the collective judgment of the intelligence community. It was outlined in the National Intelligence Estimate, and it was provided to members of Congress, too, so that they could look at. Intelligence around the world, in different countries around the world, was the same kind of intelligence that we saw. And the world recognized that Saddam Hussein’s regime was a threat.

Of course, if McClellan had repeated in his book what he knew to be true in April 2006, the Today show wouldn’t be calling him, and his book would have gone straight to the remainder table. A shameful performance.

UPDATE: At NRO, Peter Wehner notes the post-modernist flavor of McClellan’s narrative. He concludes:

George W. Bush is an imperfect man, as are we all, and our administration certainly made mistakes over the course of two terms. Many of us, in fact, feel quite free to talk about them. But the president is, at his core, a decent and honorable man. His presidency will, I think, be judged much better by history than it is being judged right now, though of course much depends on how circumstances play out in Iraq and elsewhere (it’s puzzling that Scott seems to have turned against the war at a time when, thanks to the surge by the president and the leadership by General Petraeus and others on the ground, we’ve seen remarkable progress on almost every front and a good outcome in Iraq is achievable). But regardless of history’s verdict, what Scott McClellan has done — which is to both turn on the president and in the process to paint a false and misleading picture — is doubly dishonorable.

Scott claims he is on a journey to discover “his” truth. But what he has done is do injury to the truth. The vast majority of us who served in the White House and for President Bush are very glad and grateful we did — and we will always consider it to have been the professional honor of a lifetime.

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