Wrath of McClellan

It’s been 12 days since former White House press secretary Scott McClellan dropped his memoir/tell-all/improvised explosive device upon the Washington power establishment.

The thing went off with a defiant - the faint smell of cordite and maybe a whiff of barbecue from all those singed egos.

Mr. McClellan was a man scorned, which can be worse than a woman scorned in this town.

The ideal panacea? Oh, 341 pages worth of vitriol, hand-wringing and finger-pointing ought to do it - followed by a spate of broadcast appearances, heartfelt interviews and a quick publicity tour before the hubbub dies down.

That’s what happened with “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception,” which became the cultural in recent days, wedged between the drone of campaign news and public angst over gas prices.

Mr. McClellan was an instant star with the aura of valor, dedicating his new book to “Those Who Serve.” Caterwaul erupted from journalists who were all dressed up with nowhere to go: More than 4,000 assorted articles, reports, editorials, updates, speculations and op-eds emerged from those who parsed Mr. McClellan’s revelations, truly a dream come true for the liberal press.

White House bad. White House scary. White House mean.

The official White House reaction was a collective sigh of bewilderment, trimmed with hurt. The baby-faced, honey-voiced Mr. McClellan had become a stranger; Scotty, we hardly knew ye. But the wounding of the White House was very real, some say.

“The sense of shock and betrayal over this book hasn’t changed at all, even days later. I’ve had people tell me I shouldn’t be friends with Scott anymore,” said Ari Fleischer, who served as White House press secretary from 2001 to ‘03.

“I think, though, that I must separate the personal issues from the professional issues. This is a professional matter. I think it’s better to live your life that way,” he said.

Hasty celebrity fosters intrigue, though. The press brought Mr. McClellan’s pedigree to light, revealing the Texas native’s penchant for grass-roots politics. Assorted relatives have been campaign strategists, public officials, civic figures, prominent lawyers. His champions have included Bush stalwart Karen Hughes. Why, Scott once even managed his own mother’s campaigns for public office; Carole Keeton “Grandma” Strayhorn most recently ran for governor of the Lone Star state.

“Yeah, Scott was a pretty good pitchman for George W., who’s essentially a good man trapped in a Republican body,” said singer/raconteur Kinky Friedman, who ran against Mrs. Strayhorn as an independent in the 2006 midterm election.

“Scott was just listening to the wrong voices at the White House. And he came to realize things were just not kosher in there,” Mr. Friedman observed.

Mr. McClellan did not turn tail and race back to the Lone Star state after resigning from the White House more than two years ago. He still lives in the Washington area and currently is represented by the Washington Speaker’s Bureau. (His fee listed as “Level 4,” or in the $15,000 to $25,000 range.)

At 40, he’s done the White House tour, all the morning shows and now must confront the fact that his 15 minutes of fame are ebbing.

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