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The No Comment Lies Of Scott McClellan

by Steve Young

Steve Young columns

Becoming an official member of the Lords of Loud (the radio/TV pundits of record) usually necessitates a broadcast base from which to bloviate. Then again, regularly perpetuating a systematic string of suffocating propaganda without even the slightest need for accuracy, such as does Ann Coulter or Ken Mehlman, lands you an honorary Lords of Loud membership and a free t-shirt.

Of course, there are other ways to attain LoL admittance. But first you must pervert the truth so zealously, yet so transparently, insulting one's intelligence, so to persuade only the most ardent partisan. And, if you're willing to prostitute yourself by carrying the lie for someone else, without the least hint of imagination, you can become an official a Lord of Loud as sure as if you had your own show. Which brings us to Scott McClellan, the president's spokesrobot.

Former presidential spokesmen Ari Fliecher and Mike McCurry gave reporters a sense of respect (though not in the sense that they actually respected them). And they could, or were allowed, to think on their feet. They could say black is white by graying their deceptions through so many waves of creative deception that you could swear there was a good point somewhere in there. Before McClellan opens his mouth, he holds up a sign that reads, "I Am Now Going To Lie." And McClellan doesn't bend the truth. He breaks it into tiny pieces.

McLellan's "protocols were in place" uttered sixty-one times in a single press conference to defend the President's bike-riding ignorance of a small plane's intrusion into White House air space, not only blew away the previous record, its Ruthian proportions makes it likely that it will stand for years. It hasn't been an easy year for Scott. Reporters have evolved the beginnings of a spine, badgering of McClellan's non-answers with the most scurrilous of all press briefing tactics...the followup. Oh, they've followed up before, but not with such a mocking vivacity. The press's backbone emergence comes not so much from an intrinsic fourth estate responsibility as much as from the adrenaline of anger. Anger that their not being thrown a bone of respect.

C'mon, Scott. Make us work for this. Even the public won't buy this one. And he doesn't even get to take a breath. No longer does he have Jeff Gannon, so glaringly an uncredentialed (though for some "unknown reason," given credentials) partisan hack, who would throw a pro-Bush setup softball, swathed in a basketball-sized question, whenever Scott needed to take a break from actual questions.

"Scott. How does the President, having made all the correct decisions in the face of such ardent challenges from not only the terrorists, but from those within the Democratic party whose inane hatred for our country aides the enemy, deal with his success? And I have a followup."

And it's no longer as easy as it might have been for previous spokepersons who could hide behind the well-guarded wall of access. With the advent of full transcripts and sound easily downloaded through the Internet, even the public/voter has a portal into the press briefing with all its unintended embarrassments. And no longer do the conservative talkers have total dominion over embarrassing soundbites. Despite what Bill O'Reilly says, liberal talk radio's growing audience (in the most recent Arbitron numbers my L.A. base at KTLK AM 1150 was rated as the fastest growing talk radio station in the city and progressive talker Stephanie Miller's syndicated show hit number one in Washington, D.C., the seat of national/Republican power, drawing more listeners than even O'Reilly) makes for endless replays of blunders, deceit and, heavens to Kerry, flip-flopping. Here's how to do it:

LIBERAL TALK SHOW HOST: Let's go to the July 26 press briefing...

REPORTERS QUESTION: I know that none of you are speaking about this because it's an ongoing investigation. Can you explain why Alberto Gonzales would go on TV yesterday and do that, and talk about it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, what he said was already said from this podium back in October of 2003...But the President has said that we will be glad to talk about this once the investigation has come to a conclusion, but not until then.

LIBERAL TALK SHOW HOST: Okay, now let's roll the tape from Face The Nation, July 5:

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you the obvious question, Mr. Attorney General. Did you tell anybody at the White House, get ready for this, here it comes?

GONZALES: I, I told one person, ah, in, in the White House of, of the notification, and, and --


GONZALES: and immediately -- ah, I told the chief of staff (Andy Card). And immediately the next morning, I told the President and, shortly thereafter, there was a notification sent out to all the members of the White House staff.

LIBERAL TALK SHOW HOST: Um... Seems like Alberto is telling us all something we never heard before...not even from that darn podium in October 2003. So I'm guessing that means that McClellan is a [insert tape of Jon Lovitz screaming "Liar!" here]. So, what say you, Scottie?

MCCLELLAN: Protocols were in place.

See how it works? And if you can play these kind of bites the same way Lords of Loud Sean Hannity did to transform war hero John Kerry into a flip-flopping anti-American, think what the long-frustrated left can do with press briefings that bring egregious and daily flip-flops.

One of the signs that a Presidential spokesperson is doing a good job is that, not only do those who might have voted for the President believe him, but even a few who didn't, do. Say like the media who decides on how they'll report the briefing to the public. Check the polls after a sold performance. Now, check the polls after McClellan explains the President's motives. If the president is down in the polls, it's not so much a gauge of his actions as much as it is a measure of his spokesperson's explanation of same. Some may call it spin. Okay, all of us.

Not given the opportunity to ever admit a mistake, because this White House has never made a mistake, makes Scott's job even tougher. Trying to explain away perfection in the face of blatant malfeasance doesn't quiet the dogs. It only makes them barkier. And the media is one place where bark is more dangerous than bite. One, "our bad," might even placate Helen least for a couple days.

Y'kind of feel a bit bad for McClellan, but it's even worse for the Republicans still needing to placate the voter. Those who are in the 2006 line of fire have to be whispering in the President's (or Mr. Rove's) ear. Either let the guy tell the truth or give him more than one talking point a briefing. If not he just may "protocol in place" a Democratic majority in 2006.

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Albion Monitor July 27, 2005 (

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