Friday, May 30, 2008

A Day Experiencing the So-Called Release of Former Bush Press Sec. Scott McClellan's "What Happened"


Michiana (Northern Indiana & Southern Michigan)
--Sometimes, but just sometimes, I forget that I'm still living in Indiana. What does that mean? For those fortunate enough not to have ever lived here, an explanation: we're extremely backwards culturally, socially, and especially regarding the rights of American workers. Along with these deplorable conditions, you get those "Bible-belt" attitudes everyone on the coasts reads about.

Some traditional Indiana crops besides corn: anti-intellectualism (especially this, just ask Michael Moynihan), an irrational reactionary partisanship among voters and non-voters, a vulgar attitude towards the rights and lives of others (every person for themselves), racism, sexism, rampant homophobia, and a general social and cultural malaise that one usually associates with peasant communities. Speaking of Indiana:

McClellan says the White House kept a tight lid on information about the planning for the war in Iraq. The president became enraged in September 2002 when his top economic adviser, Larry Lindsey, was cited in the Wall Street Journal estimating that the war might cost $100 billion to $200 billion, according to McClellan.
'Unacceptable'
"It's unacceptable,'' McClellan quotes Bush as saying. "It's unacceptable. He shouldn't be talking about that.''
Lindsey's "mistake,'' McClellan says, was in talking about an aspect of the looming war that "wasn't part of the script'' for selling it to the public.
Bush dismissed Lindsey in December 2002, about three months after he gave the estimate. At the time, then-Budget Director Mitch Daniels and other administration officials dismissed Lindsey's figure as too high. Daniels said the conflict would cost about the same as the $61 billion spent on the 1991 Persian Gulf conflict. (Bloomberg, 05.28.2008)
Current Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels isn't "my [main] man," but you can have him. Any takers? Nonetheless, yesterday was truly Scott McClellan Day in this part of the state, and it was on emotionally explosive display whenever and wherever the book was mentioned (by myself, naturally, again-and-again). Why? I was looking for a copy of the book almost everywhere here, but to no avail.
The first stop was at Barnes & Noble: "No, we're sold-out, we didn't get many copies, but others have placed orders. You can put-in an order." I declined. Fine, maybe they didn't order many, and it's not as if the managers of chain bookstores do the ordering, but PublicAffairs offers the book in cartons of 24-copies to retailers. One might presume there was a command from the top that there wouldn't be much interest (?), even though excerpts from the former Bush press secretary's tell-all were leaked nearly two-months-ago. What is this?

Next stop: Borders. Nothing. No display, no promotion, nada. No sign of the book anywhere, but Rachel Ray's (Gidget on crack) socially important book on food--rife with shameless promotions for products she endorses--was readily available, as were several others of no real significance. Fine. Off to my night class I scurried, hurriedly filling my gas tank and emptying my wallet in-the-process...

"I could not find this damned McClellan book--try finding it." I told an older female classmate. It's a continuing education class in the legal field. I like everyone in the class, it's a good mix of people, a gaggle that would make Sherwood Schwarz envious.

"That book is a bunch of lies," said the older lady, never having read it. This reminded me a lot of the 1988 controversy surrounding Martin Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ," a film that played here to bomb-threats and armed Pinkerton guards in the lobby. Hey, I haven't read Scott's book either, but not for lack of trying.

Anyway, she raged on, repeating the White House's line verbatim: "He's disgruntled, he's lying!! He has no right to write and say things like that about the president. He's releasing national security secrets, it's all a lie. He should have waited until President Bush was out of office." And so on. I hope she felt better, cognitive-dissonance is painful.

You see, the problem is, Scott McClellan does have a First amendment right to chronicle what he saw, heard, and generally experienced in the White House under George W. Bush, especially if they were violations of the law. This would be his duty as a public official, let alone as a citizen. But besides this, mass-market publishers hire a team of lawyers who comb through a manuscript like this one in a process called "vetting." Until they have "cleared" the book for approval, the publishers won't generally take the book to the presses for printing. There are exceptions, but it appears this isn't the case with McClellan's tome. It's well-known that
"What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception" was not only vetted, but edited by the publisher beforehand.

My question is this: why is this book so hard to find, and why didn't the publishers follow-through and print-up what almost anyone (but a publishing executive) knew after the leaking of excerpts of Mr. McClellan's book? Perhaps they did, but the distributors and the chain-stores balked. Yet, none of this matters, and the mainstream media inexplicably let the story run in heavy-rotation yesterday. You couldn't escape the news that this book was--ostensibly--out.

"Only you would be interested in that book," harped another older woman in the class (a high school substitute teacher, the last to know what's going on...). She's a Clinton-supporter, which means she's a Republican-in-hiding.

"Except that it's the number one selling book on Amazon.com," I replied. Grandmother said I should never talk about religion or politics in mixed-company. She wasn't right about everything. So be it. The circle remains unbroken.

Amazon got my money because they're going to actually have the book. I can expect it to arrive somewhere around June 9th, and I believe it will. Expect a thorough review at this location. But what happened with the release of this book? Maybe it was just the incredible demand, yet there's Rachel Ray's and Richard Clarke's books sitting conveniently on the shelves while the most important book of this week is almost impossible to find in this region in a retail-outlet.

I frankly assume that the same thing is occurring across the nation. Strange, that, but it's possible that the publisher PublicAffairs is relatively small. For this reason, one might also presume that this book wasn't for the money, but to set the record straight.
None of that matters. It was obvious watching McClellan during his tenure as press secretary that the man was pained by working for a bunch of lying criminals. Better late than never, and now we're going to get some real corroboration. The only issue is how much.
PublicAffairs Books (smoke em' if ya' got em'!):
http://www.publicaffairsbooks.com/publicaffairsbooks-cgi-bin/display?book=9781586485566

Bloomberg Bloviation, 05.28.2008:
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=alT5b8FoZP5I&refer=home