Saturday, May 31, 2008

Gail Collins on McClellan's book

Column is here.

My favorite moment in “What Happened” was from 1999 when George W. Bush was deeply irritated about questions from the press on his past drug use. “The media won’t let go of these ridiculous cocaine rumors,” the future president said. “You know, the truth is I honestly don’t remember whether I tried it or not.”

“I remember thinking to myself, How can that be? It didn’t make a lot of sense,” McClellan wrote.

While the bracing effects of being pushed out of his job have helped McClellan face reality, clarity might have come earlier if he’d just been more canny about personal relationships. His White House career could have been so different if, when Bush started babbling about W.M.D.’s in Iraq, McClellan reminded himself that this was coming from a guy who couldn’t remember what drugs he had ingested.

Even now, McClellan still appears to have trouble with the critical concept that deeds matter more than words.

“Waging an unnecessary war is a grave mistake,” he writes. “But in reflecting on all that happened during the Bush administration, I’ve come to believe that an even more fundamental mistake was made — a decision to turn away from candor and honesty when those qualities were most needed.”

Personally, I’m a huge fan of candor and honesty. But when it comes to fundamental mistakes, I’ll start with the unnecessary war.

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