Knife Fights at the White House

At regular intervals the Bush administration has been buffeted by criticism by former insiders, but this spring’s book by Scott McClellan hit particularly close to home. Here’s a sampling of past criticism and the White House spin.
Name Venue Criticism Official spin Unofficial spin “Et tu, Brute?” factor
Paul O’Neill, Secretary of the Treasury Ron Suskind’s The Price of Loyalty (2004) Tax cuts wrong; Iraq invasion planned before 9/11 “We’re not in the business of doing book reviews.”—Scott McClellan “We didn’t listen to him when he was there,” said a top aide. “Why should we now?” 3
John DiIulio, director of faith-based initiatives “Why Are These Men Laughing?,” 2003 Esquire article by Ron Suskind Too much politics in the White House “Any suggestion that the White House makes decisions that are not based on sound policy reasons is baseless and groundless.”—Ari Fleischer White House forced DiIulio to apologize. 2
Richard Clarke, counterterrorism director Against AllEnemies (2004) White House mishandled terrorism approach “Deeply irresponsible, it’s offensive, it’s flat-out false.”—Scott McClellan Clarke simply jealous because he didn’t get a promotion. 2
Ken Adelman, Defense Policy Board member Vanity Fair article Iraq mishandled “We appreciate the Monday-morning quarterbacking.”—Gordon Johndroe “It’s a shabby piece of work.” —Tony Snow 4
George Tenet, CIA director At the Center of the Storm (2007) Intelligence mishandled “I am a bit confused.” —Dan Bartlett “If I had ill feelings towards everybody who has written books, it’d be a pretty long list.”—Dick Cheney 1
Richard Carmona, surgeon general Senate testimony Health policy muzzled by political operation “It’s disappointing to us if he failed to use his position to the fullest extent in advocating for policies he thought were in the best interests of the nation.” —Tony Fratto   1
Matt Dowd, top strategist and pollster New York Times article President “secluded and bubbled in” “We can respectfully disagree.” —Dana Perino “He’s going through a lot of personal turmoil.” —Dan Bartlett 4
Scott McClellan, White House press secretary What Happened (2008) President relied on “propaganda” “I think it’s sad for those . . . who worked with him.”—Dana Perino McClellan “sounds like a left-wing blogger.”—Karl Rove 5

Did you read McClellan's book? Give us your review in the comments. 

This article appears in the July 2008 issue of Washingtonian. To see more articles in this issue, click here.

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