- The Washington Times - Friday, May 30, 2008

Nothing destroys a man like his betrayal of friends. The mortal wound is self-inflicted and he dies from the inside out, inviting neither compassion nor commiseration, only contempt, disdain and ultimately scorn. This is the hard lesson Scott McClellan is buying with his 30 pieces of silver.

George W. Bush, flawed and maker of mistakes, finishes his presidency almost as unpopular as Harry S. Truman finished his, and who knows whether history will revise his presidential reputation. He’s the easy target for every brave Lilliputian hiding his courage in the tall grass. George W. is no man’s idea of Caesar, nor does he want to be, and “fat and sleek-headed” though he may be, neither is Scott McClellan a reasonable facsimile of Shakespeare’s noble Roman. But vexed he obviously is of late, “with passions of some difference.”

Nobody likes being canned without ceremony, but most men who suffer such pain and ignominy manage to rise above the temptation to wail, kick and scream like an ignored small child impatient to have his diaper changed. Mr. McClellan concedes that George W.’s fourth press secretary left the White House on his own shortly before someone would have called security to escort him to the Pennsylvania Avenue gate.

His memoir was carefully launched as an authentic 24-hour sensation on a slow news day. Correspondents and commentators in Washington find nothing so fascinating as something to do with themselves. He told fibs, stretchers and sometimes lies from the press room podium, but the devil made him do it. If only the press room regulars had pressed him for something better.

Mr. McClellan expects to sell a lot of books, but all the good stuff, such as it is, is already on the front pages and in the foamy blather now sailing recklessly across the airwaves. He expects to become a hero to the 70 percent whom the pollsters tell us don’t like George W. Bush. But most of the 70 percent know better than to trust the man with fantasies of revenge so dear that he sells his friends so cheap. The only way to deal with an egg-sucking dog, as almost any Texan could tell him, is to dispose of it. There’s no cure for egg-sucking. A man who turns on his friends once will do it twice, and thrice. This is folk wisdom well-known on K Street, where refugees and discards from the White House are eager to decamp.

A gig on cable television might look attractive, but if his appearance yesterday on NBC is a guide, he’s too “hot,” in the sense of not cool, for that. Cable TV is the refuge of yellers and screamers, but only to a point. He sparred with Meredith Viera, his interlocutor, growing impatient when his explanation of motives was questioned. Not cool. He turned on the president - and now himself - only in pursuit of “a higher loyalty.” Not persuasive. Like the congressman caught with his pants down in a bordello and professing happy relief that now he can spend more time with his family, Mr. McClellan sacrificed himself to “a higher loyalty than my loyalty necessary to my past work.”

In his memoir, he pushes all the right buttons to pander to the public opinion now running at high tide. He throws rocks at targets dented already beyond easy recognition: Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld. Dick Cheney was, well, Dick Cheney, eager to perjure himself to free Scooter Libby from the clutches of a maliciously ambitious prosecutor. Condi Rice was “too accommodating … of the other strong personalities on the foreign policy team … and too deferential.” But since he insists that he was kept out of the loop when it really counted - when he lied to reporters he didn’t know what he was saying - all his inside skinny was rant and rage readily available 24/7 on Internet blogs. What did he really know and when did he really know it? Not much, and not often, by his own telling of these tales from the crypt.

The Democrats leaped to christen the McClellan tales as proof of presidential evil. Barack Obama, similarly vague about his past, why it took him 20 years to discover that his pastor, mentor and father figure was a crazy old bigot, told reporters on his campaign plane that Mr. McClellan’s telling of his late education only confirms what he has known all along. The usual cheap Washington loyalty, cheaply told.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Times.

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