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Monster's Ball

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After the release of his inflammatory book "What Happened," former White House press secretary Scott McClellan talks with Katie Couric about his allegations against the Bush administration. Video by CBSNEWS.com

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By Dana Milbank
Friday, May 30, 2008

Bush loyalists watching Scott McClellan kick off his media tour yesterday must have felt a revulsion akin to Dr. Frankenstein's.

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McClellan's former White House colleagues had built and trained the former press secretary to parrot their talking points, monotonously if not mindlessly, no matter what argument or fact stood in the way. Saddam Hussein was a grave threat. The war in Iraq was going well. Scooter Libby and Karl Rove didn't leak Valerie Plame's identity.

But now the McClellan monster is back -- and he's got a new set of talking points that attack the very people he was trained to defend. He's a bit thinner around the middle, and the sideburns are comically longer, but McClellan's famous fealty to his message is as stubborn as ever.

"We set up a massive political operation that was aimed at really continuing that permanent-campaign way of governing," he informed the listeners of National Public Radio's "Morning Edition."

"We got caught up in the excesses of the permanent-campaign culture in Washington, D.C.," he explained to viewers of NBC's "Today" show.

By nightfall, he was on MSNBC's "Countdown" with Keith Olbermann, discussing "these partisan excesses that have existed . . . because of the permanent campaign in Washington, D.C."

Just as they had through the middle years of the Bush presidency, the airwaves again echoed with McClellan's litanies yesterday.

"Why did things go so terribly off course?" he asked. "Why did things get so badly off track?" He explained that he was "disappointed that things went so badly off track." His colleagues should "come to grips with the fact that things went terribly off course." McClellan himself had struggled "to come to grips with the realities of how things went so badly off course." Still, he maintained, "this is my honest perspective on how things went off track."

In his two morning interviews, McClellan spoke of the "selling" of the war -- four times. The need to "change Washington" -- four more mentions. "Destructive" and "bitter" partisanship -- four more. Manipulating the "media narrative" -- another four.

"We got caught up in playing the Washington game the way it's played today," he disclosed to NBC.

"It's just the way the game has become played in Washington, and we embraced it too often," was the version NPR got.

"I got caught up in the Washington game," he confided to MSNBC.


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