What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception

What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception

by Scott McClellan

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In the bestselling book that provoked a media sensation, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan takes readers behind the scenes of the presidency of George W. Bush. Scott McClellan was one of a few Bush loyalists from Texas who became part of his inner circle of trusted advisers, and remained so during one of the most challenging and contentious periods of recent history. Drawn to Bush by his commitment to compassionate conservatism and strong bipartisan leadership, McClellan served the president for more than seven years, and witnessed day-to-day exactly how the presidency veered off course. In this refreshingly clear-eyed book, written with no agenda other than to record his experiences and insights for the benefit of history, McClellan provides unique perspective on what happened and why it happened the way it did, including the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, Washington's bitter partisanship and two hotly-contested presidential campaigns. He gives readers a candid look into what George W Bush is and what he believes and into the personalities, strengths, and liabilities of his top aides. Finally, McClellan looks to the future, exploring the lessons this presidency offers the American people as they prepare to elect a new leader.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781586486525
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Publication date: 06/03/2008
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Scott McClellan served as White House press secretary from 2003 to 2006. Before that he served as the principal deputy White House press secretary and as traveling press secretary for the Bush Cheney 2000 campaign. Earlier in his career, Mr. McClellan served as deputy communications director in the Texas governor's office and campaign manager for three successful state campaigns. He is now a senior advisor to a global technology firm and communications strategist. He lives near Washington, DC.

Read an Excerpt

The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

There was one problem. It was not true.

I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President's chief of staff, and the President himself.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 A Made-for-Washington Scandal 1

2 A Small Part of Something Grand 11

3 Growing Up in Politics 21

4 Governor Bush Runs for President 39

5 The Permanent Campaign 61

6 The Early Days 87

7 September 11 and the Partisan Ceasefire 99

8 Selling the War 119

9 Becoming White House Press Secretary 149

10 Deniability 165

11 Betting the Presidency 191

12 Brush Fire 213

13 Triumph and Illusion 233

14 Revelation and Humiliation 255

15 Out of Touch 271

16 After the Trial 293

17 Changing the Culture of Deception 311

Acknowledgments 325

Index 327

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What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 52 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My take on Scott McClellen is that he's a smart guy who was disappointed by the people he believed in. I thought the book was very good and I appreciated Scott's insight and especially liked his recommendations for the next administration at the end of his book. I also read Bush at War. A lot of what Scott said in his book coincided with the events written about in Bush at War. I think it is an important book for all of us to read, especially in an election year that has so much at stake.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book will join the list already written about aspects of the failed Bush Administration. As time goes on, I think more shocking truths will come out from others who were witness to the tragic debacle that has been the past eight years.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's easier to tell the truth - especially now that you can sell a book while doing it. My expectations were met - Scott trying to whitewash something that has already been cleansed, laundered, and hung out to dry. Interestingly, however, the way he went about telling his story by first denouncing an act by the Executive Branch, then absolving Bush of any culpability, then repainting the whole picture black. Not necessarily an interesting book - definitely not worth the price.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Compelling and griping insight into how the Bush administration deceived the American public and irreparably damaged our country.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Very disappointed on last disc and heard very little new. If I had realized that it was an autobiography of Scott McClellan chances are very good I wouldn't have bought it. Interesting to see what a Press Secretary does but felt I heard a lot of self-back patting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book isn't for those who want to find new information. The facts that show the Bush administration lied to the US about the necessity of the Iraq war are clear and evident. McClellan is not the first official to say this. Tenet, formerly of the CIA, gives information equally damaging to the Bush case for war, if not more damaging. This is just another person with a different point of view providing more supporting evidence. It seems that some other reviewers are getting their opinions straight from Fox News. McClellan was in the position to know what he wrote about. He is not relaying information he had no access too. When he doesn't know exactly what was said, he says so. When he makes assumptions based upon his information, he says so. This is not some 'liberal plot'. It is not just an attempt to make money. The story is real. The American people were lied too. The Congress were lied too. Again, this isn't new information. We have known this for a long time. The facts are out there and widely available. Many Americans would rather deny the facts rather than feel that our country acted wrongly. It is not anti-American to admit our mistakes. It is tragic to ignore them and act as if they never happened. I think this book just tries to tell his view of 'What Happened'.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
McClellan presents a clear cut look from an insider into what became a political operation out of the people's White House, a symbol of freedom across the world. For those who believe any person in government serves anybody but the people, they are wrong. McClellan showed the highest loyalty to all Americans by revealing the truth, and he finally, though belatedly, remembered that as a public servant, he answers to the public. What is truly revealing, is the point when Bush admits to McClellan as they are getting on Air Force One that Bush was the one who ordered the release of information and even kept his spokeperson out of the loop. Bush should tell all future Presidents that they don't serve their buddies, they serve all the American people.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Notwithstanding the pre-publication hype, I found this book highlighted some of the president's more redeeming/humane qualities, such as loyalty. The book probably has an over-empahasis on the CIA 'outing' versus other events of the Bush presidency. Much discussion of the continual campaign mode that the Bush team has employed through both terms.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When listening to some of the Press Releases/Statements put out during the years this book was written. It is easy to see the conflicts that arose regarding different interpretations of the events that took place. This provides a great counterpoint to the official statements released by members of the Bush Administration. When trying to descern the accuracy of events, alternative points of view are always a welcomed necessity.
DoctorPete More than 1 year ago
This book is truly a must read for all currently active players in national politics - at whatever level, of whatever Party and wherever positioned on the political spectrum - who truly aspire to serve our country first, before their Party, before their supporters and before their own personal self interests. It is a must read for all others of us who wish simply to cast informed and intelligent votes, or contribute their time and money wisely to support a particular Party or slate of candidates. It is a must read for still others who merely consider themselves students (serious or dillitante) of American politics and who look back on the last few decades and wonder "What ... (in holy hell) ... happened?" The Bush43 presidency - all eight years of it - was a Shakspearian tragedy of monumental proportions, for him, for his cherished legacy, indeed for the entire nation. McClellan delves deeply into an explanation of just how and why. Especially rewarding is his explication of the "permanent campaign" style so prevalent and so deeply harmful in the national politics of our day, whose roots he traces clearly all the way back to Nixon and beyond, touching (perhaps too lightly) on Johnson's contributions. Is the book flawed? Yes, but not irredeemably so. Is it partisan? Yes, inevitably to a degree, but the author's writing reveals an honest, genuine effort to be fair and balanced. Might the reader wish some parts downplayed or eliminated outright as minimally relevant to the central story, and other parts greatly expanded upon as vital pieces to the puzzle? Yes, but upon completing it and laying the book down, this reader felt compelled to declare, "Thankyou so much, Scot. Now I feel I have not just a deeper understanding of what the hell really happened, but a goodly inkling of what needs to be done on all sides to heal the wounds.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading two thirds of this book it is clear to me that it was written so Scott could tell his version of how Scooter Libby and Carl Rove lied to him about outing Valerie Plane. As Press Secretary he was told to stonewall the fact that he was lied to and is upset because he feels his reputation was badly tarnished. That is the basic purpose of this book. It also tells the story of a light weight whose main accomplishment prior to joining Bush was getting hazing eliminated from his fraternity. He also depicts a nieve guy who was loyal to obvious liars but liked the job and his position of influence so he conveniently became in denial of the lies he was spouting to the press daily. Scott still does not realize that all the lies were intentional and that Bush and his cronies knew exactly what they were doing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is excellent and really details the shameful state of affairs in our Washington, D.C. Too bad that people who don't discuss the facts of the book get into the mudslinging. I have only finished the first 2/3 of the book, but everybody in government should read this--and probably all outside of government. This is a really a sad tale of a terrible loss of leadership and lack of staight talk.
Guest More than 1 year ago
We all need this kind of books that give lights to the past.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book will fascilitate a much needed dialogue in this country. Written by an insider to this generations biggest blunder, the Bush Presidency. Many parrallels can be found with this book and the new movie WAR Inc. Greed and corruption are not supposed to be a politic force in this country, but sadly they are. This will, in my humble oppinion, be the next 'All the Presidents Men'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great inside look with straight talk from a Texan about Bush's White House problems.
tgoodson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Here is a bright, introspective man troubled by his experiences in the Bush White House. This is a powerful book that tells a convincing story.

You don't suppose Tony Snow will write one now?

No. I didn't think so.
LivelyLady on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
WOW! To have read this book while the President is still in office and while Rove is still refusing to testify! This is definitely a CURRENT EVENTS read. McClellan served as "W"s press secretary. He, by the nature of his position, was in the midst of the decision to go to war. He was there when CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity was revealed while everyone in the White House denied doing anything. Besides it timeliness, this is very readable. I was afraid it would be bogged down with detail. I did not find this to be so. Now if only Colin Powell would write his memoirs as Secretary of State during the first "W" term.....
juliayoung on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While I have sympathy for McClellan, whom I think took a job for which he was not adequately prepared, this book is a bit of a mess. It seems that everyone who can be under suspicion for doing underhanded things have aspersions cast on them at some points in the book, and then are cleared of suspicion in others. This was three hundred odd pages of double-talk.
Narboink on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an mildly interesting memoir. There are some droll anecdotes and an undertone of regret and stuffy, upper-crust resentment. It should be acknowledged, however, that Scott McClellan is not a writer by trade, nor is he a particularly astute observer of government or politics. For a thorough understanding of the Bush White House, look elsewhere. Additionally, I think we can all expect better memoirs in the future from more introspective and self-aware participants in this story.This is a perfect book for someone more interested in pretending to read about politics and current events than in actually reading about politics and current events.
atomheart on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's a shame this book is instantly shoed off by Bush/Republican supporters for being 'anti-Bush' or a 'revenge' tactic by a disgruntled ex-employee. McClellan writes in a surprisingly positive tone regarding the president, and focuses critique more on the continued poor advice from his senior advisors, the deceptive 'Permanent Campaign,' and partisan bullying that plagues Washington. While Bush deservingly gets much of the blame for the consistent mistakes made during his presidency in the book, McClellan provides candid explanations on the major events that will shape his presidency, such as 9/11, The Iraqi War, The Outing of CIA Operative Valerie Plame and Hurricane Katrina.The opportunity to step inside a presidency during such historic and important times is unparalleled to any of the past - and its far too important to be casually brushed off by Republicans who consistently shield their eyes from the obvious missteps of their this presidency. Put pride in the corner, and learn from your mistakes... because if you fail to recognize them, and you will surely fall, bringing a nation down with you.It will take a lot of work to fix this broken machine... the first step, is self-awareness; everything after that, is just details. Read this book, and you'll be well on your way.
theancientreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really dislike tell all books, and tell all books concerning politics in particular. After reading this one, my opinion of this genre has not changed all that much. I will state from the start though, that I am probably one of the most apolitical humans on the face of the earth. My only interest in our current political process, as opposed to our history in this area, is that I hold both the extreme right and the extreme left in extreme contempt. My opinions of George Bush, his administration, et al, are of little consequence here, and I certainly am not going to bore you with my pontifications in that area. That being said¿.I did find this book interesting in that it gives a good view on one man¿s view, and I emphasize, ¿one man¿ of the political process in our nations capital at this time. I found the workings of the Bush administration, congress, the press and all those associated with the entire process fascinating. There was interesting bits and pieces scattered throughout the book. I am certainly not going to summarize the happenings of this entire affair. If you don¿t know what happened, and where it led, and is possibly leading, then you have probably been living under a rock. If you believe ever word McClellan has written, well then, you have a problem. On the other hand, I do get the feeling that the author tried his best to come across in a truthful manner, addressing the situation as he saw it. I feel he is sincere in his personal assessment of the situation. The book is rather poorly crafted and is so repetitive throughout that it makes you want to scream at times. Scott McClellan portrays himself as misled Boy Scout, and perhaps he was. I find it difficult to fully believe that a man that can reach his high position was as blind and naïve as he claims. Perhaps this is true though. There again, on the other hand, he does not cast full blame on anyone but himself in this area. In some eyes he is certainly a little turn coat weasel, but I feel an honest weasel, never the less. I actually enjoyed this read despite the poor writing, which does become rather boring at a certain point. Overall this is a pretty light weight read and I personally doubt if it is going to be used as a source document my many historians in the future when picking this particular era apart. For a quick read of one man¿s perceptions, for some political tidbits and some insight this is a good read. I of course feel in has to be countered with other works that are sure to come out in the near future, but fear that we will have to wait at least fifty years or so to be able to truly evaluate just ¿what happened. I am giving this one four stars because it did have some value as to information but knocking off at least one star due to poor quality of the writing. Where were this man¿s editors? Don BlankenshipThe Ozarks
InCahoots on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Really an unfortunate book. There was nothing here that a casual reader of American news wouldn't already know. Scott was the loyal son of a loyal Texas Republican. He believed that Bush would change Washington. Bush not only put politics before governing, he surrounded himself with people who would not disagree with his opinions. But what he did to Scott was the worst: he did not tell him the whole truth, and let him say things to the press that were less than forthright. Add to this too many pages of junior high civic lessons, and a great deal of repetition, and you have the whole book. If the point was that Scott wanted us to understand that he was a well intended press agent who got a bit "took", message delivered.
cainmark on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Far too little, way too late to make any difference in body counts or poor to middle class destruction, though correct about the campaign culture as being too important over governance.
shadowofthewind on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the book any ex-employee would love to write to exonerate himself from the sins of the organization. When that person's job is to explain and cover the mistakes of one of the nation's worst presidencies, the book gets everyone's attention. McClellan explains his own background and what led him to work for the president. It's good to get perspective, but the explanation of the 2000 election until he became press secretary could have been shortened as it isn't revealing and that ground was well-covered by other books. What makes the book compelling was that he would be the press secretary that would have to explain the deceptions that led to the Iraq war(this deeply bothered him as he states, "you only go to war unless you have to and we didn't have to") , Hurricane Katrina, and the disclosure of CIA operative to the American public(in which the people involved lied about their involvement to Scott, but made Scott out as the liar to the American public).To get the inside scoop of what happened behind closed doors is appealing to anyone who is into politics. There is really nothing new here. Everyone knows about the deceit leading up to the Iraq War, the outing of a CIA agent in an attempt to discredit the person who is trying to discredit the war. He theorizes all this happened because of the concept of the perpetual campaign. Instead of getting cooperation, initiatives are simply marketed to trick the American public into a sense of urgency. Some things I didn't know was that the president leaked Valerie Plame's name to discredit joe wilson. The fact that the social security reform (stating the system was broken) was a hoax. I remember being frustrated when all these disasters were going on and watching Scott McClellan skirting the issues. It was hard to read this book because of it. However, the true value in this book is that it is a precursor of an analysis on this presidency. It will provide great fodder for presidential historians and leadership gurus. Some quotes:On whether bush took cocaine when he was younger :"'The media won't let go of these ridiculous cocaine rumors,' I heard Bush say, 'You know the truth is I honestly don't remember whether I tried it or not. We had some pretty wild parties back in the day, and I just don't remember." The overheard comment struck me and has stayed with me to this day not for what it revealed or concealed about the young George W. Bush, but for what it said about Bush as an older man and political leader, especially as revealed through my later experiences working for him. I remember thinking to myself, How can that be? How can someone simply not remember whether or not they used an illegal substance like cocaine? It didn't make a lot of sense. P.49Rove instituted regular strategery meetings using a term derived not, as some might have believed from a real Bush remark but from a Saturday Night Live Skit..."So, generally speaking, I not only understood and respected the Bush administration's emphasis of staying on message, but supported it and worked to help shape it and spread it as part of my job. p124 (explains perceptions of Scott as a robot. From reading the book he had more to do with this technique than the president.)The president's dream of a democratic Middle East was shared by several key administration officials...Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfield...were mainly interested in eliminating a global threat to regional and global peace...and a little less enthralled by Bush's vision of a world transformed by freedom...Bush saw his opportunity to create a legacy of greatness...But there was a problem here...a disconnect between the president's most heartfelt objective in going to war and the publicly stated rationale for that war 130-131But his advisers needed to recognize how potentially harmful his instinctual leadership and limited intellectual curiosity can be when it comes to crucial decisions, and in light of today's situation, it has become reasonable to question h
Slapshot on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First ,I am a Liberal, just so you know before you read this review. I must agree with others that the writing style was poor to fair at best. The little personal jokes and quips throughout the book felt forced and fake. I was also expecting more from this book. The reaction that people had, or maybe I should say conservatives had, when this book came out I assumed this book was really going to be a guide to what happened. Several things in this book did bother me. The first was the way Scott talked about Texas politics. I have read several books and articles by Molly Ivins, Jim Hightower and Lou Dubose. They give what I feel is a pretty honest picture of the way politicans act in Texas. The author was either dishonest or looking through rose colored glasses in his assessment of the political climate. The way he states that George Bush was this great governor who simply had to run for president because of the fantastic job he was doing is really pushing the barrier of fact and fiction. This fantasy continues on into Bush's presidency, where McCellan suggests that Bush suddenly began falling victim to the trap of constantly campaigning and that is where things went wrong. The complete failures of the last 8 years are never really detailed in this book. Iraq, Bin Laden, Katrina, the economy and so on are given some attention, but nothing revealing. Most of the time Bush is portrayed as doing a good job but missing a few minor points. i was also disappointed when Scott discussed the ValeriePlame affair. Why is McClellan shocked, or anyone else for that matter, when it becomes known that Karl Rove lied? His opinion of Karl Rove to me was overly favorable. How someone is viewed as a genius when he is nothing but an underhander, lying weasel is beyond me. And let's not overlook what the author himself had to do with Bush's administration. Here is a man who stood in front of the american people and lied or misled them. His assertion that he was simply passing along information given to him is a joke. He has an ideology that fit with the administrations and he was wiling to defend when I have no doubt he knew it was wrong. I don't care if his views and opinions are different than mine, but at least be honest about it. Not a great read, maybe get it at library.