- The Washington Times - Friday, May 30, 2008

Scott McClellan’s critics in Washington have speculated about his motives for writing a book bashing President Bush, but back in the former White House spokesman’s home state of Texas, some chalk it up to something very simple: his gene pool.

Bush defenders and impartial observers point in particular to Mr. McClellan’s mother, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, as having set a precedent for turning on former allies, while others say that his family tree had strong liberal leanings.

They also said his decision will make it hard to do what all Texans do: return home.

“Scott’s going to be something of a man without a country if he comes back,” said Paul Burka, senior executive editor at Texas Monthly magazine.

“I don’t think the Republicans would be much enamored with him,” Mr. Burka said. “I just don’t see him having much of an immediate future in politics.”

The thrice-married Mrs. Strayhorn has switched from Democrat to Republican to independent during her more than 30 years in politics, which culminated with two terms as Texas comptroller and an unsuccessful run for governor in 2006.

During her second term as comptroller, Mrs. Strayhorn frequently attacked members of her own Republican party, including Gov. Rick Perry and leaders in the legislature.

Many regarded these moves as a tactic to increase her own name recognition and lay the groundwork for her 2006 gubernatorial run.

Ray Sullivan, a political consultant in Austin who was Mr. McClellan’s predecessor as deputy spokesman in the Bush governor’s office during the late 1990s, said he is troubled by doubts about Mr. McClellan’s motives for writing his book.

“If you know Scott, you like to think that his motivation is honest and straightforward, but it’s easy to envision a very crass motivation,” Mr. Sullivan said.

Mr. McClellan, 40, spoke publicly for the first time today since his book became available Tuesday night at a few select D.C. bookstores and was obtained by several newspapers, including The Washington Times.

On NBC’s “Today Show,” Mr. McClellan was asked whether he was “just trying to make a buck,” a notion he rejected.

“I have a higher loyalty than my loyalty necessarily to my past work,” Mr. McClellan said. “That’s a loyalty to the truth, and it’s a loyalty to the values I was raised on.”

But some Texas Republicans wonder whether those values weren’t always a little left-leaning.

Mrs. Strayhorn grew up as the daughter of Page Keeton, the legendary dean of the University of Texas’ law school and tort law expert, and was a loyal Democrat.

In 1984, she served as Travis County campaign chairman for Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale. Two years later, she switched her affiliation to Republican and ran for Congress against Democrat J.J. Pickle, but lost.

“I wonder if it’s just the basic bias showing that Scott grew up with and may not even know he has,” said Bill Crocker, an Austin lawyer and longtime Republican activist.

Mrs. Strayhorn did not answer phone calls placed to her home and did not respond to inquiries made through a social networking site.

Mr. McClellan’s status back home had already been under attack. Some of his former White House colleagues who have returned to Texas from Washington have been speaking ill of him for some time, Mr. Burka said.

“You’ve heard from a lot of Bushies who have come back to town that Scott was not that good,” Mr. Burka said. “I just don’t think they thought he did much for Bush. He wasn’t that strong about it.”

“And if you’re not loyal, then you’re out. Totally out.”

Mr. Sullivan, who used to work for Karl Rove, yesterday articulated some of the reasons that Mr. McClellan may be viewed as something of a pariah in his hometown.

“It’s important to remember that Scott was working for his mother when Karen Hughes and Karl Rove and George W. Bush scooped him up and gave him incredible opportunities,” Mr. Sullivan said.

“So his career was essentially made by the Bush team, and it’s surprising, disappointing, that he would apparently turn his back on those friends and colleagues.”

In the first of several TV interviews yesterday, Mr. McClellan defended the timing of his dissent, which comes after he left the White House, and said his book has a larger message about the culture of Washington that he hopes will change.

He said he came to his dissenting views on the Iraq war and the White House “propaganda campaign” to sell the war only after leaving the White House.

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