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McClellan Recounts Administration's Missed Chances After '04 Election

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The McClellan kerfuffle has brought out a standard White House talking point whenever it is confronted with criticism from former staffers: Why didn't they complain at the time?

"I have always had the opportunity to have a seat at the table, to make my opinions known whenever and to whomever I wanted to or felt I needed to," press secretary Dana Perino told reporters on Air Force One last week. "So it's just curious to me why all of a sudden it seems that these were his actual feelings."

That brought to mind the response by then-White House press secretary Tony Snow-- that he was "a little bit perplexed" -- to a critical book by former White House staffer David Kuo. "It does seem at odds with what he was saying inside the building at the time he departed," Snow told reporters at the time.

McClellan had this to say about another book, by former counterterrorism official Richard Clarke, back in 2004: "I mean, why, all of a sudden, if he had all these grave concerns, did he not raise these sooner? This is 1.5 years after he left the administration. And now all of a sudden, he's raising these grave concerns that he claims he had."

McClellan appears to be having second thoughts about what he said about Clarke. In a chat Friday on washingtonpost.com, McClellan said he "actually saw [Clarke] last night in New York and expressed my regret for the way I handled that situation."

'We Must Be Tougher Than Hell!'

Getting lost in the media furor over McClellan's memoir is the new autobiography of retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the onetime commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, who is scathing in his assessment that the Bush administration "led America into a strategic blunder of historic proportions."

Among the anecdotes in "Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story" is an arresting portrait of Bush after four contractors were killed in Fallujah in 2004, triggering a fierce U.S. response that was reportedly egged on by the president.

During a videoconference with his national security team and generals, Sanchez writes, Bush launched into what he described as a "confused" pep talk:

"Kick ass!" he quotes the president as saying. "If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can't send that message. It's an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal."

"There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!"

A White House spokesman had no comment.

The Eagles Have Landed

As he jets around the country for events, Bush is often met at airports by local GOP officials, dignitaries, military officers and others. One of the more unusual greetings came Tuesday, when the White House arranged for the president to be met in Phoenix by four generations of Eagle Scouts, all in the same family and all bearing the same name -- Tho mas S. Boggess.


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