Former White House press secretary and Bush Administration defector du jour Scott McClellan has been making all the requisite TV-news stops as he flogs his new memoir What Happened. But you won’t see McClellan on the preferred media launch pad for Washington insiders, 60 Minutes.
“He’s not great at actually expressing himself in my opinion,” said Bill Owens, the broadcast’s executive editor.
Which is odd considering McClellan’s job as press secretary was to express himself – or at least the positions of the administration.
McClellan’s media tour began Thursday with an appearance on NBC’s Today – billed as an exclusive – an NPR interview, a CBS Evening News interview and a sit-down with MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann – also billed as an exclusive.
So much for exclusivity.
60 Minutes, of course, has been the publicity gateway for a number of administration critics, including former Treasury secretary Paul O’Neill, former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke and outed CIA operative Valerie Plame. (As is often the case with these CBS News gets, Plame’s book was published by Simon & Schuster, a division of CBS Corp.)
But McClellan apparently doesn’t have the gravitas for the venerable broadcast.
“He seems to be stuck on these talking points,” added Owens, who covered the White House during the Clinton years.
“While I think it’s interesting, as he said [on Today] that his thoughts have ‘evolved’ since he left the post, that doesn’t actually have a lot to do with some of the things he’s writing about in his book.”
McClellan’s access was not exactly along the lines of say Nick Burns, the recently retired under secretary of sate in the Bush administration, said Owens. “I do think there’s some issue with his level of exposure to the information he’s talking about.”
In other words, he’s a small fish.
Current press secretary Dana Perino called McClellan “disgruntled” and said that the White House was “puzzled” by his tell-all. “It is sad,” she said. “This is not the Scott we knew.”
Added Owens: “We want that person to be a big enough, influential enough, important enough person and we want to be able to do them first and do it our way.”