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Former White House Press Secretary Defends Tell-All Book


Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan is defending his controversial new book that accuses the Bush administration of deceiving the American people in the lead up to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from Washington.

High-level White House staffers often write books after leaving an administration. But rarely do they cause the firestorm of controversy and back-biting that Scott McClellan has generated with his new book, titled, "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception."

McClellan, who served as White House press secretary from 2003 to 2006, writes that President Bush waged a "political propaganda campaign" to argue his case for invading Iraq, saying the war was not necessary and a grave mistake.

Speaking on NBC's Today show, McClellan says the administration became enmeshed in what he calls "the excesses of the permanent campaign culture" in Washington, focusing on shaping public opinion rather than engaging in an honest dialogue with the American people.

"Everything is centered on trying to shape and manipulate the narrative to one's advantage," he said. "That is what Washington has become today, and that is the way the game is played. It is a battle over power and influence, instead of bipartisan deliberation and compromise. You get caught up trying to sell this war [in Iraq] to the American people."

In his book, he describes President Bush as a leader who makes decisions based on personal instinct rather than hard intelligence and critical analysis, and says Vice President Dick Cheney had unprecedented sway in both foreign and domestic affairs.

He also accuses several White House officials of misleading him about the administration's role in the highly-publicized 2003 leaking of the secret identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Reaction to the book from McClellan's White House colleagues has been swift and forceful. Wednesday, the current White House press secretary, Dana Perino, described McClellan as a "disgruntled" former administration employee.

A former counselor to President Bush, Dan Bartlett, also appeared on NBC's Today show.

"Fundamentally, I believe what Scott is saying in his book is wrong," he said. "I think his allegation that there was an effort to shade the truth, that propaganda was used to sell the war to the American people patently false. I would not personally participate in a process in which we were misleading the American people. And that is the part that I think is hurting so many of his former colleagues."

McClellan says the purpose of his book is not to tarnish the reputation of others who served in the Bush administration, but rather to highlight the need for change in the way Washington operates.