Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan writes in a new memoir that President George W Bush relied on an aggressive “political propaganda campaign” instead of the truth to sell the Iraq war, it has been reported.
The Bush White House made “a decision to turn away from candor and honesty when those qualities were most needed” – a time when the nation was on the brink of war, McClellan writes in the book entitled “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.”
The way Bush managed the Iraq issue “almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible option”, the book contends, according to accounts on Wednesday in The New York Times and Washington Post.
“In the permanent campaign era, it was all about manipulating sources of public opinion to the president’s advantage,” McClellan writes.
The White House had no immediate comment on the book.
In a surprisingly harsh assessment from the man who was at that time the loyal public voice of the White House, McClellan called the Iraq war a “serious strategic blunder”.
“The Iraq war was not necessary,” he concludes.
McClellan admits that some of his own words from the podium in the White House briefing room turned out to be “badly misguided”. But he says he was sincere at the time.
“I fell far short of living up to the kind of public servant I wanted to be,” McClellan writes. He also blames the media whose questions he fielded, calling them “complicit enablers” in the White House campaign to manipulate public opinion toward the need for war.
The book is scheduled to go on sale June 1. Quotes from the book were reported on Tuesday night by the website Politico, which said it found McClellan’s memoir on sale early at a bookstore.
McClellan draws a portrait of his former boss as smart, charming and politically skilled, but unwilling to admit mistakes and susceptible to his own spin. Bush “convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment”, McClellan writes.
He also faults Bush for a “lack of inquisitiveness”.