Gambling in the Casino - Broadcasting & Cable

Gambling in the Casino

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Sadly, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan’s new book talks about the gambling many have suspected was going on in the casino.

By which I mean his "revelation" that the Bush administration’s White House has been trying to control the spin on a story–the necessity of a war with Iraq–that ultimately spun out of control or at least in directions the administration claimed not to have foreseen.

Karl Rove was saying on the talking head circuit that the book did not sound like the Scott McClellan he knew. Unfortunately, it sounds like the White House others have come to expect. This is the same crew that paid to plant stories in the foreign press about the war, opined that the U.S. was not as good at propaganda as the terrorists and pledged to get better, sent out video news releases without attribution in hopes of selling this or that policy, paid Armstrong Williams to hawk the No Child Left Behind Initiative, allegedly tried to steer government scientists on the climate change issue, including limiting their exposure to media outlets, imbedded analysts in the media to play the administration’s Gunga Din in the War on terror. There is surely more, but you get the idea.

Remember, this is the administration that spent over a billion and a half dollars on advertising and promotion between 2003 AND 2006, according to the GAO, including promoting the U.S. view on the war on terror.

According to an online excerpt from McClellan’s book, “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception,"  McClellan talks of the administration’s campaign to dupe the media and the country into believing the war was necessary.

"The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," he writers. "So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. There was one problem. It was not true. "I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President’s chief of staff, and the President himself."

The White House was reportedly dismissing the book as the work of a disgruntled ex-employee. But what does it matter if what made him disgruntled was having to work in the all-spin zone.

It does make me wonder, and shudder, at what we may have yet to learn about the administrations’ efforts to control the media, and the media’s role in failing to sufficiently recognize the wool that was being pulled over its eyes.

On the Today Show to announce a cancer fund-raiser, the nightly news anchors weighed in on McClellan’s contention that the news media abetted the administration effort by being to soft on it in the run-up to the war.

ABC’s Charlie Gibson said he thought the media had done a pretty good job and said it was convenient now to blame them. But Katie Couric was strongly critical of the media, calling it "one of the most embarassing chapters in American journalism, and saying there was a sense of pressure from corporate parents to quash any kind of dissent.

On CNN’s Siutuation Room Wednesday, anchor Wolf Blitzer said that in hindsight his network could have done a better job, but said that CNN had raised the important questions and pointed out that journalism was always a first draft of history. "Could we have done a better job? Sure," he said, but he also pointed out that CNN had on numerous people who questioned the existence of weapons of mass destruction and had a reporter devoted to covering anti-war protests.

Former White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett said Wednesday on CNN that McClellan never expressed the concerns raised in the book to him when he was his boss. Bartlett seconded Rove’s suggestion that this was "not the Scott I know," saying it was almost like "an out-of-body experience."

Bartlett said he thought that journalists had asked the tough questions in the run-up to the war said that the administration had not been trying to mislead the country, but had just been wrong, based on bad intelligence about the weapons of mass destruction.

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