- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 1, 2008

Scott McClellan’s most explosive charges about the Iraq war are based not on any new evidence but rather on his reading of books and magazine articles after leaving the White House and on a period of “reflection.”

On morning talk shows this morning, Mr. McClellan repeated a statement from his book: that he charges President Bush with a misleading the country into war based on reading a book by reporter Bob Woodward.

Mr. McClellan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he realized Mr. Bush had in late 2001 made up his mind to invade Iraq “when the president did interviews with Bob Woodward for his book.”

Yet Mr. McClellan also called on other public officials to “come forward and share their candid insights about what they lived and what they learned from it.”

During the interview, the 40-year old former Bush administration press secretary defended his portrait of Mr. Bush as “too stubborn to change and grow,” but also admitted he should have voiced his doubts and questions about the march to war in 2002 and 2003.

Mr. McClellan made no effort, however, to bolster the sourcing for the most serious charge in his book, that the president based the case for war on possible weapons of mass destruction only to hide his true motivation: the introduction of “coercive democracy” in the Middle East.

This charge has been given great authority because of Mr. McClellan’s former status as a White House insider.

But a close reading of his book, “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washingtons Culture of Corruption,” shows that he reveals no new information about the presidents motives.

The White House and many of Mr. McClellan’s former colleagues have honed in on this issue in the days after several newspapers obtained copies of the book on Tuesday night, several days in advance of its official release today.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said on Friday that their “central objection” to Mr. McClellan’s book centers on the claim that the Bush administration “misled” the nation to war.

“He’s suggesting that we purposely misled,” Mrs. Perino said. “There is no new evidence of that.”

Reed Dickens, one of Mr. McClellans former deputies, said he found his former boss’ book “pathetic in substance.”

“He didn’t have any damning evidence or quotes or conversation. I was flipping through the book, waiting to find something damning, and there wasn’t really anything,” Mr. Dickens said Friday night on “Larry King Live.”

Dan Bartlett, the president’s former counselor, has also repeatedly said on TV that there are no new facts presented in the book.

Conservative blogger Paul Mirengoff on Thursday noted that Mr. McClellan’s book “is devoid of footnotes, endnotes, and supporting documentation.”

Mr. Mirengoff, a Washington attorney who writes for the Powerline blog, says Mr. McClellan’s book is a sharp contrast to former Pentagon official and war architect Douglas J. Feith’s book “War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism.”

Mr. Feith’s book “provides detailed accounts of key meetings based on contemporaneous notes,” wrote Mr. Mirengoff. “And it includes more than 30 pages of original source material plus almost 90 pages of endnotes. Readers can thus determine for themselves whether the author is providing a reliable account or merely settling scores and/or trying to make a buck.”

The eighth chapter of Mr. McClellan’s book is titled “Selling the War,” and in it, the Texan native relies on Mr. Woodward’s 2004 book, “Plan of Attack,” to argue that in late 2001 “Bush had already made the decision to go to war — even if he convinced himself it might still be avoided.”

Mr. McClellan also said that after leaving the White House in 2006, he “learned” that “war was inevitable given the course of action the president set from the beginning.”

He learned of this, he says, “upon reflection.”

In his “Meet the Press” interview, Mr. McClellan said this morning that he “knew that this book was going to spur a reaction.”

But while saying he still has personal affection for the president, Mr. McClellan did not step back from his charge that Mr. Bush has engaged in “self-deception” and is “too stubborn to grow and change.”

“It is a true reflection of this president,” Mr. McClellan said.

Mr. McClellan also said that he thought Karl Rove, the presidents top political advisor, should have been fired when Mr. Bush learned that Mr. Rove had spoken to reporters about CIA agent Valerie Plame.

“He should have stood by his word, which is if you were involved in this in any way, you would not be in this administration,” Mr. McClellan said. “Karl was involved in it.

“When it became known that his top adviser was involved, then the bar was moved,” he said.

But pressed repeatedly by show host Tim Russert, Mr. McClellan said that the “most important lesson” he has learned is that “it’s important to speak up at the time.”

“I was young and I probably should have spoken up,” Mr. McClellan said.

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