Scott McClellan, once a White House press secretary for George W. Bush and later the author of a very controversial memoir, is leaving Washington for the other Washington: He’s the new head of communications at Seattle University.
“I think politics has always been in my blood,” he told us Monday. “I was just at a point where I wanted to explore other career paths.”
McClellan, 44, left the White House in May 2006. Two years later, his tell-all sent shock waves around the Beltway. “What Happened” described administration officials as being in permanent campaign mode and shading the truth to aggressively sell the Iraq war to voters. Though McClellan maintained the White House never deliberately deceived the public (and said nice things about his boss), top Bush officials viewed the book as a betrayal and went on the record to slam it and the author. (“This is not the Scott we knew,” Dana Perino said at the time.) A House committee hearing was called
Did it torpedo his career?
“I think most people have moved on,” McClellan said. “While it may have caused a stir inside the Beltway, I appreciated the way it was received across the country and believe anyone who reads it sees it for what it is — an honest account of how things veered off course and what we can learn from it going forward.”
Despite the firestorm, McClellan and his wife stayed in Washington; their son, Keeton, was born three years ago. While he may have completely burned Republican bridges (McClellan endorsed Barack Obama in 2008), he told us wasn’t pursuing political opportunities anyway. Instead, he worked as a consultant and hit the lecture circuit.
Earlier this year, he flirted with the idea of moving back to his native Texas to work in higher education — his grandfather was the longtime dean at the University of Texas Law School in Austin, where McClellan grew up and his mother served as three-term mayor.
Instead, he was approached this summer by the small Jesuit college on the West Coast to become vice president of communications. His political past was just part of a wide range of interview questions; though McClellan is not Catholic, he said he was drawn by the school’s leadership and emphasis on community service. There’s also the possibility of teaching politics or communications down the line.
McClellan started the job last week; his Arlington home is on the market and his family is house-hunting in Seattle: “I’m very excited.”
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