Monday, June 30, 2008

Military Service as an Issue in Presidential Politics

General Wesley Clark inadvertently touched off our indignation-du-jour yesterday by commenting that Senator John McCain's lack of "executive responsibility" — commanding at the broad strategic level rather than at the immediate tactical level — means that McCain's military experience, as much as it proves his courage, dedication, patriotism, and character, does not by itself qualify him for the ultimate "executive responsibility" of being President of the United States with two full-blown shooting wars. General Clark made the point awkwardly and undiplomatically, and in particular sounded somewhat self-serving in pointing out that he, too, had been wounded in battle, but that he had also held a position of strategic command responsibility. I've written my own remarks to more clearly make the point I believe General Clark ought to be making.

Military experience alone is not the deciding factor of who will make the best President of the United States. If it were, we would now be drawing to the close of the first term of President Wesley Clark — he clearly had the strongest military qualifications of any candidate from either party, beating President Bush hands-down. But Wesley Clark was not elected in 2004; he was not even an also-ran in his own party's nomination process. Why is that, if military experience is so important? It's because there are other aspects to the Presidency where Wes Clark had insufficient credentials. He didn't have the political experience to mount an effective national campaign, to pull himself out of the background noise up to the front of the pack, just for one.

But let's look at this year's candidates. John McCain served in the military with distinction and honor. He proved beyond a shadow of a doubt his personal courage in a life-or-death situation, his dedication to his fellow prisoners of war, his patriotic devotion to our country, and his strength of character in refusing special treatment. He is an American hero. But, to put it in more familiar terms, John McCain has not yet passed the "Commander-in-Chief test," merely because he was a war hero. Gen. Douglas McArthur was a hero in World War II, but he would've made a terrible Commander-in-Chief. The President needs to have a vision, not only of where we should be headed as a nation, but of how we get there. The President needs to have the judgment to balance competing demands for resources to pursue our national goals. The President needs to be nimble in using all the modes of American power in the world, not just our military might. By that score, Senator McCain's record is quite mixed. He is boxed in by his party's blinkered view that the military must remain at the forefront of the so-called War on Terror. He is deluded into believing that it is possible — never mind desirable — for the United States to maintain a significant military presence in Iraq indefinitely. He is constrained by the demands of personal loyalty to a corrupt President who has spent eight years undermining the Constitution of the United States, and thus cannot even begin to undo the damage caused by legitimizing torture, discarding the Fourth Amendment, discarding the principle of habeas corpus, politicizing the Justice Department, keeping our gasoline prices high by refusing to repeal the "every bit as evil as it sounds" Enron Loophole. McCain has contorted himself on so many issues to curry favor with the shrinking minority of us who believe that George W. Bush has even tried to do a good job.

Then there's Senator Barack Obama. He can't look to his military service to prove his patriotism. (Perhaps worse even than that, he hasn't had a flag pin super-glued to every piece of clothing he owns.) He just gave a major speech about the role of patriotism in his life and how it would inform his view of the office he seeks. Barack Obama loves his country, and will commit every fiber of his being to "preserve, protect and defend" our freedom "against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Then there is the issue of judgment. Unlike John McCain, Barack Obama stood up in 2002 against the authorization for George Bush to start a war against Iraq. Obama saw and said publicly that it would be a mistake, which is exactly what it has been from Day One. Obama also understands the point that we will never be made safe from terrorism by military power alone. We need diplomacy, law enforcement, intelligence, and yes, public relations. If nineteen guys with a budget of half a million dollars can bring our nation to a complete halt, even for a moment, then we have to rethink the whole notion of "asymmetric warfare." Al Qaeda has no country. You bomb Afghanistan, they move to Pakistan. If you chase them out of there, they'll move again, and again and again and again. We need to dry up their financing. We need to get intel on their whereabouts and their plans, and we can't count on wiretaps alone. We need to get other governments and the people on the streets to be willing to turn against al Qaeda and rat them out, and that's awfully hard to do when we're so busy playing "Ugly American on steroids" in the heart of the Middle East.

I believe that Barack Obama's life experience, including the mere act of living abroad as well community organizing in Chicago and teaching Constitutional law and speaking out against the Iraq War, has better prepared him to make the difficult judgment calls that will be required of our next Commander-in-Chief.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Constituent Letter to Nancy Pelosi about FISA

An open letter to Nancy Pelosi, from a constituent of the 8th District of California

Madame Speaker:

I watched with great consternation the MSNBC Countdown with Keith Olbermann program tonight, and particularly the segment with guest Jonathan Turley, Constitutional law professor at GWU.

[embedded video, below the fold]
This [FISA] bill has quite literally no public value for citizens or civil liberties. It is reverse engineering — the type of thing the Bush Administration is famous for, and now the Democrats are doing: that is, to change the law to conform to past conduct. It's what any criminal would love to do. — Jonathan Turley, 2006-06-19, on MSNBC Countdown with Keith Olbermann
The bill gives blanket immunity, not only for past conduct in which the telecom companies co-operated with an illegal program, but for any future conduct. It eviscerates the Fourth Amendment by "allow[ing] the government to go into law-abiding homes, on their word alone, on their suspicion alone, to engage in warrantless surveillance." It is, as Professor Turley says, precisely what the Founders of this nation did NOT intend.

It is also, I can assure you, precisely what the citizens of the Eighth Congressional District of California do NOT want to see. President Bush and his followers have consistently taken the position that the Courts are an unnecessary inconvenience, standing in the way of the incorruptible President, when in fact they are our front line of defense against the potential tyranny of our own government. Without strong courts, we cannot remain a Nation of Laws. If the courts are eviscerated, it will not be long before a person of far fewer scruples even than Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney, comes along to take away more of our freedoms. If there are no courts, or they are so weakened as to be unable effectively to oppose him (or her), then the President could simply declare that (s)he can dissolve the Congress "in a national emergency," if it, too, becomes an impediment to his ambitions. Mr. Bush himself said that one must never give in to legislative bullies, but that is exactly what this FISA Bill represents.

You cannot claim to represent the people of the Eighth District if you do not lay down your political life to block the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, most particularly the new Title VIII, "Protection of Persons Assisting the Government."

— Lincoln Madison,
a voter in Precinct 3821

cc: Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Barbara Boxer

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also posted to my Daily Kos diary, where the comment thread may be more active than here

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Lara Logan on The Daily Show

[transcript below the fold] Jon Stewart's guest tonight was the Chief Foreign Correspondent for CBS News, Lara Logan, who has lived in Baghdad since the beginning of the Iraq War. She has some blunt things to say about the view of the war that manages to filter through to the average American's awareness via the mainstream media, that Americans need to see the dead bodies of American soldiers (and Iraqi civilians) in order to understand the situation there. We need to see and understand the resurgence of the Taliban — including breaking 400 of their top fighters out of prison just this weekend. I'll put it to you this way: no matter how brave, dedicated, and well-trained our military forces are, they can never win a war without the support and involvement of the entire country. We will never see an end to the war on terror as long as the American people don't care what happens "over there" wherever our troops are at the time, nor as long as so much of the world thinks we're more of a threat to peace and stability than Al Qaeda and the Taliban and and the Tamil Tigers and ETA combined. Anyway, enough of my soapbox, you tuned in for a transcript....

Jon Stewart interviewing Lara Logan, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, ©2008-06-17 Comedy Central®


Jon Stewart: Welcome back. My guest tonight, she is the Chief Foreign Correspondent for CBS News, welcome to the program Lara Logan; ma'am! Come join me, please, have a seat. You remind me of a young Ted Koppel.

Lara Logan: Dan Rather used to say that about me.

Stewart: Stop it! What's happenin'? How are ya? It's nice to see ya. You just got back from — ?

Logan: Iraq.

Stewart: Iraq. What'd you get me? Did you bring me anything back, or —?

Logan: I did.

Stewart: A small token?

Logan: A few components of suicide bombs, you know, a couple of useful things.

Stewart: What is — what don't we know? Do we know anything about what's going on over there? Are reports of what's really going [on] over there, getting out? You've been there since this whole thing started — what are we missing? We know nothing.

Logan: No, I don't think we really do have much of an idea of what's going on in Iraq. We have all these armchair academics who go over for one visit, you see Laura Bush going, "This is my third time" going to Afghanistan; she doesn't mention that she was only there for a few seconds. You know, listening to —

Stewart: Are you saying that a few seconds in Afghanistan is not enough to really get the full flavor of a country torn by violent war?

Logan: It depends what you're looking for.

Stewart: Mm-hmm. You think they might not be looking for the right things? How hard is it? I know you're over there filing these amazing stories; do you have to fight for airtime? Do you say, "I've got the scoop on the Afghan warlords that have turned against the United States and are helping the Taliban," and they're all like, "Geez, I dunno — [stage whisper:] Britney's back in rehab!?

Logan: Or Paris Hilton's getting arrested, yes.

Stewart: WHAT?? "Breaking News:" [pause] But how hard is it to get those stories on?

Logan: It goes in cycles. You know, this is an election year, so "politics, politics, politics!" all the time. And you hear that people are tired of hearing about the war, so you have to fight against that, but generally what I say is, I'm holding the RPG; it's aimed at the bureau chief, and if you don't put my story on air, I'm going to pull the trigger. That's worked.

Stewart: So — I guess if you're giving advice to a young journalism student, you might say, "Threats of violence to the editors"?

Logan: And the jihadi manuals on suicide bombings.

Stewart: That's the way to read through it!

Logan: It's all on the Internet.

Stewart: What do you feel like — do you watch the news that we're watching in the United States?

Logan: No.

Stewart: Do you see what we're hearing about the war?

Logan: No.

Stewart: We might actually know everything.

Logan: If I were to watch the news that you're hearing here in the United States, I'd just blow my brains out, because it would just drive me nuts.

Stewart: Really??

Logan: Yes. [audience cheers]

Stewart: I am glad to see you overcome your shyness, because — [pause] Where do you think — ? If you were to say, if you had your druthers, would we be focused right now — in terms of just reporting, because I know this isn't about policy — Afghanistan or Iraq? Where do you think the big story is?

Logan: I don't think we should have to choose between — which war, you know, is...

Stewart: Right.

Logan: So we have more soldiers on the ground in Iraq than we do in Afghanistan, do we pay more attention? I think we should — I mean, it's very hard, because you hear all the time: "People are tired of the same thing over and over." I did a piece with Navy SEALs once. It took me six months of begging, screaming, breaking down walls, crawling on my knees, to get that imbed, and when I came back with that story I was told, "These guys — you know, one guy in uniform looks like any other guy in a uniform." And I'm on high-value target raids, taking down some of the most wanted Taliban fighters and Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, and I'm told, "Well, you know, one Arabic name sounds — unless it's Osama bin Laden, who cares about — you know, Mullah Ben Shaq, whatever?" So —

Stewart: Who's — ? I mean, these are the people that are in charge of what goes on these programs.

Logan: Well, although, for example — well, you know, Jeff Fager of 60 Minutes always says to me, "Iraq, Iraq, Iraq! Afghanistan, Afghanistan! We don't see enough of it, I want people to know more, people to see more" — I mean, it's —

Stewart: There are people pushing it —

Logan: Yes.

Stewart: — to try and get it through.

Logan: There are lots of people trying to get it through.

Stewart: And what about the danger for you? I mean, you're clearly, you know, you're a big, intimidating force — when you go out there, I mean, have you been hurt? Have you been — I mean, how do you protect yourself?

Logan: You know, often I work until 8 in the morning. I woke up one morning and I looked at the clock, and it was like, 11:00 a.m., and I thought, "Shit! I've got to get up!" and then I thought —

Stewart: Uh — I don't allow that type of language on this program. I don't care that you've just spent the last 5 years in a war zone, we have standards here.

Logan: Usually that's a good way to break the ice. You get in a Humvee with soldiers, they're all on their best behavior, they've been told not to swear about you, and you say, "Yo, what's up, motherfuckers?" and then it's all done.

Stewart: Really? [audience cheers] Wow. You know where that doesn't work? Florida retirement villages. [pause] What about you, though, safety-wise? Are you there with security details? Are you there with armed —

Logan: We have security details, we have Iraqi security guards.

Stewart: Then have you been exposed to gunfire and explosions and that type of thing.

Logan: Sure. Well, that morning in Baghdad, I looked at the clock, and I thought, Well, okay, I can have half an hour more, because I've only had 3 hours, went back to sleep, woke up, sat on the side of the bed thinking, I've gotta get up! and then it's like "Boom!" and the hotel blew up underneath me, so... They blew up the building. I think they were trying to kill some sheikhs, but, you know, they got a few other people, including a 5-year-old Iraqi girl.

Stewart: See, even that — the idea of that to me — if that happened in this country, that would be the biggest story for the next two years. It's as though we've become numb. I mean, there were 51 people killed today, in a Shi'ite neighborhood in Iraq — are we just numb? Have we lost our humanity with this entire situation?

Logan: Yeah, we have. You know, I was asked once, "Do you feel responsible for the American people having a bad view — a negative view — of the war in Iraq?" and I looked at the reporter, and I said, "Tell me the last time you saw the body of a dead American soldier. What does that look like? Who in America knows what that looks like? 'Cause I know what that looks like, and I feel responsible for the fact that no one else does." You know. That's what I feel responsible for: that nobody really understands, and the soldiers do feel forgotten. They do, no doubt. From Afghanistan to Iraq, they absolutely feel — it may be — we may be tired of hearing about this 5 years later, they still have to go out and do the same job. I was in Sadr City, when it was just going absolutely hell for — I mean, Sadr City was like Armageddon, and there were soldiers there who'd been in-country 9 months who'd never seen combat like that, just thrown into it. You're talking about a convoys ambushed with 5, 6 armor-piercing bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, everything — 9, 10, 15-hour battles.

Stewart: And it's something that we might get just a brief glimpse of on the news or just a mention, and that kind of thing? Well, what kind of —

Logan: And more soldiers just died in Afghanistan last month than Iraq — who's paying attention to that? 33,000: highest troop level since the war began, 7 years after we defeated the Taliban.

Stewart: Well, certainly, you know, it's funny — we criticize the government an awful lot, but I guess we have a responsibility that we haven't lived up to as people, either, to keep ourselves up on it, so we appreciate everything you're doin', and thanks for comin' on and seein' us.

Logan: Thank you.

Stewart: And be safe. [to audience:] Lara Logan!

My take: if our nation is at war, then the entire nation, not just the military, must be engaged to give our all to the fight, and that means paying attention to what is happening in the war. If we aren't willing to pay attention to the war, and demand truthful and accurate information, then we have to get our troops out.

The American people do not back a prolonged military presence in Iraq. The Iraqi people do not back a prolonged military presence in Iraq. Thus, in the interests of both the American people and the Iraqi people, we must withdraw as rapidly as we safely can. We should do our best to minimize the damage to our national interests — not forgetting that the peace and stability of Iraq is in our national interest. We must recognize that our national interests are damaged if more of our soldiers are wounded or killed, but also when people on our side commit torture and other war crimes. If you think that pulling out of Iraq will cause "blowback" against the United States, compare that against the blowback from having the reputation as the country that tortures and indiscriminately kills Muslim men, women, and children. The War on Terror has changed one thing quite decisively in our national security equation: it is now more important that we be loved (or at least liked and respected) than that we be feared.

Lastly, my top recommendation if you want to know what's really going on in Iraq and Afghanistan (and the rest of the world), there's no better place to start than the top name in international journalism, Al Jazeera. It's a damned shame that the American people aren't clamoring to demand their cable systems carry the English-language channel, even while we demand that CBS News and all the other domestic sources give more airtime to reporters like Lara Logan and others of her dedication to getting the truth out there.

P.S. My brother, Bill Madison, used to work at CBS News. I haven't had a chance to ask him if he knows Lara Logan, but he did write in his blog, "Billevesées," about his reflections on the view from a competing newsroom of Tim Russert

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tim Russert, 1950 – 2008

NBC News and MSNBC powerhouse Tim Russert is gone.

I'm a pretty hardcore political TV junkie, so I'm a little stunned right now.

As the tributes tonight made clear, Tim Russert was much more than a journalist who relished getting to the bottom of a political question. He was devoted to his family and his home town, and he was a friend and mentor to his co-workers. He's a man I would've loved to meet.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Scott McClellan on The Daily Show

Former White House Press Secretary [2003–2006] Scott McClellan has been all over the airwaves the last few days, since the release of his book What Happened, in which he asserts that President George W. Bush engaged in propaganda to "sell" the American people on the idea of going to war in Iraq. Tonight, he was the guest on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart; video links and a full transcript follow below the fold, along with links to video, audio, and/or transcripts of some of his other recent appearances.

Video links (©2008, Comedy Central):


Jon Stewart: Welcome back. My guest tonight, he served as White House Press Secretary from 2003 to 2006, his new book is called What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception; please welcome back to the program, Scott McClellan. Sir!

How are you?

Scott McClellan: I'm doin' great! I don't know that I can top Fred [Schneider of the B-52's], but I'm doin' well.

Stewart: Welcome. Fred is all right. He really should've read [the audiobook version of] your book. Nothing against you, but your book, with you reading it, zzzzzz. It's actually a very good book, and I read it over the weekend, What Happened. You're takin' a lot of heat for this; you talked about "fight club," and now they've come out, and they've hit you with —

McClellan: A little puzzling to 'em.

Stewart: — he was "disgruntled"; what else have they said? He was "out of the loop." These are all the [Bush] Administration officials. Are they destroying you in the way that you thought they would? Does this miss "the McClellan touch"? You know, you were there when Richard Clarke did his book, you had some tough things to say about him.

McClellan: I actually saw him the other night, Richard Clarke.

Stewart: Did you really?

McClellan: Yes, and I apologized to him. I hadn't even read his book —

Stewart: Really?

McClellan: — and I was ascribing these motivations to him based on the talking points we use at the White House.

Stewart: On his, because you had said, "Richard Clarke, he doesn't know anything, he was gone for a year and a half"; how would you destroy you? What would you use on you?

McClellan: Well, I think the White House has probably been a little bit more personal than I expected; it was a little surprising how personal some of it got, but I think I would've stayed away from that. I think when people see the book and get a chance to read it, they see my sincerity in it. What I'm saying in there is my views.

Stewart: The criticism is mild and, especially compared to so many other books previously that have said similar things —

McClellan: Yeah, they're kind of turning this into "gotcha" points, and there's really a larger message in here that I think is one that a lot of us really want to see happen, which is end the partisan warfare in Washington, D.C. Let's move beyond, bring some civility.

Stewart: Here's my favorite one they've been using on you; roll the tape that they got here.
Dan Bartlett (on CNN): This is not the Scott we knew.

Fran Townsend (on CNN): It's just inconsistent with the individual that we knew as Scott McClellan, the Press Secretary.

Dan Bartlett (on CNN): Maybe this is a new Scott.

Trent Duffy (on Fox News): The voice that comes out of this book is certainly not Scott McClellan's.

Ari Fleischer (on CNN): Scott has said things that really don't, one, sound like Scott, frankly.

Karl Rove (on Fox News): This doesn't sound like Scottie.
Stewart: This is amazing: their argument here is, you're not you.

McClellan: I'm finally speaking for myself, but I'm "not me"; if they look at the book, and can get a chance to read it, they'll see who I am. That's who I am. I grew up as an idealistic guy who wanted to get involved in politics, joined the governor's staff, thinking we could change Washington — like he had done in Texas, where he was a very popular, bipartisan guy — and got there, and things didn't turn out quite the way we hoped.

Stewart: How does this happen? The "this is not Scott." Take me into the meeting where they brainstorm the terrible things they're going to say about you. Who's in that meeting?

McClellan: Sure. I'm sure there was a discussion. Probably the Counselor's Office, oversees communications —

Stewart: Who's in that?

McClellan: That'd be Ed Gillespie, the Communications Director —

Stewart: All right. Is the Press Secretary in there?

McClellan: Dana Perino, yes, she would be in there. They probably talked about —

Stewart: — and they say things like, "His brain was eaten by bats! That'll never work."

McClellan: No, no — body snatchers! They think it's an out-of-body experience. That's what they used early on, too. He's having an out-of-body experience.

Stewart: Really? They put these up on a blackboard and —

McClellan: Well, it's more talking amongst themselves and then coming up with those points.

Stewart: — and will they say, like, "This will be a great point, because it will make him look foolish"? How explicit is the conversation?

McClellan: Well, I think it's, yeah, "How can we discredit this? I mean, this has got a powerful message, and one that, you know, is not helpful to us right now." That's not the purpose of it — the purpose of it is something bigger, like I said, which is changing the way Washington works, but —

Stewart: But, see, I'm so interested in the way Washington actually works, because —

McClellan: It's good for you.

Stewart: No! Not as a thinking, breathing sentient being.

McClellan: The show.

Stewart: Yes, but, uh... You know, what I kind of want to figure out is — because you talk a lot about how this process was applied to the Iraq War —

McClellan: Right.

Stewart: The same process that takes the What Happened book and comes up with a list of pejoratives, was applied to war and policy.

McClellan: That's right. It's this "permanent campaign" culture that I talk about, and how destructive it can become, particularly when it's used in matters of leading the nation to war, where you should be talking about the actual truths of the situation on the ground, so that expectations are known going in and we understand exactly what we're getting into, what the costs are, what the consequences are, what the risks are.

Stewart: "What the costs are" — okay, for example, Lawrence Lindsey comes out, in the run-up to the war, and somebody asks him, "How much is the war gonna cost?" He says, "I dunno, maybe $100 billion, maybe $200 billion," and you have to run, then, to the President's office and say, "Oh my god! Somebody just mentioned something that's true!"

McClellan: Actually, I was travelling with him that day, and I had to warn him before he saw the press, just in case he got asked about it. He wasn't planning on taking questions, and he was pretty steamed about it, because it wasn't part of the "message" that we were trying to get out at the moment; he was really making news that we didn't want made, and that's a big no-no in the Administration.

Stewart: Now, how is that? You mention in the book that this was not willful deception.

McClellan: Right.

Stewart: How is that not willful deception?

McClellan: Well, what happens is that this becomes part of the culture in Washington, and this is the way both parties engage in —

Stewart: But that's a meaningless "culture of Washington" —

McClellan: — they engage in spin and manipulation —

Stewart: — if somebody says to you, "This is going to cost $200 billion," and you say, "Yeah, yeah — don't tell 'em that; just tell 'em it'll pay for itself in oil" —

McClellan: We didn't tell 'em anything, that was the thing —

Stewart: Well, no, guys came out and said, "It'll pay for itself in oil revenues."

McClellan: Absolutely. Some people —

Stewart: So that's a lie, that they knew.

McClellan: Well, I don't know. Paul Wolfowitz, I think, was one of those who said that; that's the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and maybe he really believed it, or convinced himself, I don't know, but it was definitely off-base.

Stewart: Somebody made a willful decision, don't talk about the price, because that truth —

McClellan: — may make people think twice about it, and the cost that concerned me more, of course, is the human cost, the irrevocable human cost.

Stewart: But this was just the one example: the irrevocable human cost, everything.

McClellan: Right.

Stewart: Isn't that the very definition of deception?

McClellan: Well, yeah, and the question is, if we start saying, Is this deliberate? or Is this intentional? or you look at it in a different light — is this just the way everybody does it?

Stewart: If they sat in a room

McClellan: — and that's what we've gotta stop.

Stewart: If they sat in a room and said, "When we go to campaign for this war, let's not tell them how much it costs — let's not mention it," that's a sin of omission. That's a lie.

McClellan: Yeah, there's really no difference whether it's deliberate or intentional or — or —

Stewart: There is.

McClellan: — not; they're both problematic in their own way.

Stewart: Bgbgbg — they're not both problematic: one is homicide; the other is involuntary manslaughter.

McClellan: That could be criminal, for instance.

Stewart: That's what I'm saying! That's my point! In the book, you make it very clear, you go out of your way to say you don't think it's intentional —

McClellan: And I don't.

Stewart: — but I haven't seen any evidence that it's not intentional, because everything was done with aforethought. It may not have been done with malice, so it may not be first-degree murder, but it was done with aforethought.

McClellan: See, I think these are good people; they just got caught in this whole atmosphere.

Stewart: It was done with aforethought.

McClellan: I don't —

Stewart: They sat in a room with each other and said, "Don't tell them any of the bad consequences that could come of this war, because we really want to do this."

McClellan: I don't think it was just like that.

Stewart: Bgbgbg — bgbgbg. Tell me what wasn't like that.

McClellan: Well, I think it was more talking about what's the strongest possible case we can make, it was talking about what we do put in there.

Stewart: We really want to do this. Well, it could cost $200 billion — don't mention that.

McClellan: Were you in there?

Stewart: Thousands of people may die — yeah, you might not want to bring that up. What if they call me in front of Congress to testify about it? Just fuckin' say somethin'. Isn't that — all right, we're going to take a commercial break. We'll be right back with Scott McClellan. Don't you think [trails off to inaudible]

[commercial break]

Stewart: Hey, welcome back! We're talking to Scott McClellan; the book is called What Happened. Actually, I actually enjoyed the book. Here's what I find so fascinating, and this has to do with the media's role in all this —

McClellan: Right.

Stewart: — and the way that — you say that they were "complicit." Ari Fleischer, who was your predecessor, and Karl Rove, who — whether you believe he has good intentions or not — clearly is the strategic head of the propaganda in the Bush White House —

McClellan: That's true, that's true.

Stewart: — were hired by news organizations. Literally spent their entire careers over the past few years lying to them, or to put it more pleasantly, obfuscating, and the people that they did that to went, "You guys are great!" and they hired them. How is that not — I don't know, from low self-esteem? Why would they do that? Why would they continue to aid these people?

McClellan: It's the whole relationship in D.C.: you know, they view them as the brilliant strategist that operates under these game rules and does a great job, so we value what he has to say.

Stewart: Is it now, like a bad movie, where they get a jewel thief and go, "Now you work for the cops!"? You know, is it that kind of thing? Like, what the hell is going on here?

McClellan: Well, yeah, it's just — they're complicit in creating this whole environment that exists in D.C., and I think we need to re-evaluate that.

Stewart: But can we re-evaluate it before we get candor? On the situation — you talk about —

McClellan: No. You're right — you need that first.

Stewart: You talk about them veering off course.

McClellan: Right.

Stewart: From my perspective, they've been on the same course all along. From the Day One that they started, when the President says, "I trust the American people's judgment," was bullshit, because, backstage, they were creating secrecy and rearranging the rules. From Day One, they were creating a façade.

McClellan: Here's the difference, just in my view. I was there, I still have personal affection for the President, but you've gotta separate your personal affection from his actions and deeds, and that's what I was able to do, once I stepped out of that whole White House "bubble."

Stewart: I don't know him personally, so all I have are actions and deeds.

McClellan: You haven't had him on yet?

Stewart: He hasn't been here yet. But, but, what do you say about that? The entire Presidency was a façade of public manipulation.

McClellan: I don't agree the entire Presidency, but there's certainly a lot of it. There's certainly —

Stewart: Name a part that wasn't.

McClellan: I think he is very sincere in his beliefs, but he takes it — like many other politicians do — and engages in that way. That's the problem.

Stewart: Doesn't he say, "I know what's best for the country, and your job is to help me sell that to the American people, without them realizing what we're really doing"?

McClellan: Well, he didn't say it that way to me, but he did say, "Your job is to" —

Stewart: Isn't that the gist of how Washington works now?

McClellan: That's one way to look at it.

Stewart: If we make the arguments on the basis of the actual argument, we lose; let's not make it on that basis.

McClellan: There is, absolutely, there's some of that. You can't win by being as open and forthright as you should be, and that's the big problem. One of the things I talk about in the end, about how we need to start with that, and then go to some other ways to solve this.

Stewart: When they leave, does this end?

McClellan: No, it started before us. It's been goin' on for 15 years, how bad this is, and, you know, both candidates are talking about ending it.

Stewart: Here's my last thing. On your last day — [to off-screen crew] can you play the clip of his last day with the President?
President Bush: One o' these days, he and I're gonna be rockin' on chairs in Texas, talkin' about the good ol' days [of his time as the press secretary. And I can assure you, I will feel the same way then that I feel now, that I can say to Scott, job well done.] — 2006-04-19
Stewart: Okay. [sets figures on the desk] I want you to show me somethin'. All right, so here are the chairs; I'll be the President, you can be you. How close, if this is the porch, how close are you sitting, and where's Cheney with the gun? [laughter] I appreciate what you're trying to do now, and I think candor is the only way to get past this, and I hope that other people take that lead. What Happened is on the bookshelves now; Scott McClellan!

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