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What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception Hardcover – May 28, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Some listeners may get to the end of this audiobook and still be asking "What happened?" for even in his own words, McClellan's book appears either woefully naïve to the point of negligence or a continuance of spin and lying (or has he says, "shading"). As he traces his early years working with Bush in the Texas government through his tenure as White House press secretary, McClellan continues to applaud Bush with only a mild dash of criticism while laying much of the blame for Bush's poor decisions upon the "permanent campaign" political culture of Washington. Hailing from the party of "personal responsibility," this approach seems awkward at best. Even when he identifies the administration as a group of "well intentioned but flawed people," he still shies away from making strong and definitive statements. Predominantly hovering around his experience and problems as press secretary at the height of the Valerie Plame incident, McClellan's analysis and reporting of the Bush administration doesn't forge any new ground. As narrator, he manages well enough in a matter of fact tone with moderate inflection, minimally hindered with background noises and some stumbling or mispronunciations. However, on occasion, he does execute a good Bush impersonation. A Public Affairs hardcover.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.


"The former press secretary of President Bush (No. 43 version) empties out his notebooks, and all of Washington will be holding its breath." -- Seattle Times, March 16, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1st edition (May 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586485563
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586485566
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (230 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #421,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

McClellan has points to be made in the book, and unfortunately, they are too few and therefore continually repeated.
C. Chandler
One day, maybe twenty years from now, Scott McClellan will read this book and notice what he really said about George W. Bush.
Philip Henderson
This one kept my attention because I remember Scott McClellan when he served as President George W. Bush's press secretary.
V. L. Wilson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

522 of 649 people found the following review helpful By The Spinozanator VINE VOICE on May 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Scott McClellan was given information to relay to the press about the Valerie Plame incident. Two years later he became convinced he'd been set up to spread lies - maybe not directly by Bush, but certainly by Rove and Libby, and encouraged by Cheney. That was his apparent tipping point. McClellan rethought the whole tenure of his association with the Bush Administration in Washington, began to have epiphanies, and formed new opinions. He doesn't tell us much we didn't already know or suspect, but boy does he tell it. This time around it's coming from a trusted insider who followed Bush to Washington from Texas. Here are a few of his observations:

*Bush believes his own spin (better known as [...]) and demonstrates a remarkable lack of inquisitiveness.

*Bush favored propaganda over honesty in selling the war. Cheney steered war policy behind the scenes, leaving no fingerprints.

*Bush and his team repeatedly shaded the truth, manipulated public opinion, and sold the Iraq situation in such a way that the use of force appeared to be the only feasible option.

*Contradictory evidence was ignored or discarded, caveats or qualifications to arguments were downplayed or dropped, and a dubious al-Qaida connection to Iraq was played up.

*The Bush administration didn't check their political maneuverings in at the door after the win - instead, they maintained a permanent campaign mode, run largely by Rove.

*Presidential initiatives from health care programs to foreign invasions were regularly devised, named, timed and launched with one eye (or both eyes) on the electoral calendar.

*Operating in the campaign mode means never explaining, never apologizing, never retreating.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Grigory's Girl on June 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Many people have assumed this book is a tirade against the Bush administration, a ranting and an epiphany. It really isn't. It's actually a rather tepid affair, and it doesn't really reveal anything we haven't already heard.

Scott McCellan sounds more sad and disillusioned than anything. In the beginning, he actually like George W. Bush and sincerely believed (quite naively) that Bush was going to end the partisan divide that engulfs Washington. He really felt that Bush could bring the country together, and felt, at heart, he was a compassionate conservative. Needless to say, Bush didn't govern from the center but from the hard right, and Bush became arguably the most partisan president in history. Knowing about Rove's hardball tactics in Texas, it's kind of silly that McCellan would actually believe that Bush would bring people together.

The book reveals that Bush lied about the war, that Bush isn't a particularly curious person, that there were no WMD's. Well, most of us who have been following the news over the last number of years know this very well, so the book isn't this shocking expose. Bush lied about the Iraq war, and it's a horrible thing, but at this stage of the game, it's not particularly revealing or shocking.

As a book, it's an OK read. For those who expect a visceral tirade against the Bush adminstration, look elsewhere. This one is still critical of Bush and Cheney, but McCellan is more disillusioned than angry here, and after all is said and done, it's a rather tepid book.
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197 of 253 people found the following review helpful By Peterack VINE VOICE on May 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
NOTE: This is a final edited version of the "diary" review I began last week. My local mall bookstore had the book on their shelves less than one week before the official release, so I purchased it and began reviewing it here. In lieu of the drawn out, repetitive "diary," that was previously here; having completed the book I am re-working the review so that it is more cohesive.
Originally I was compelled to join this discussion for a number of reasons. First and foremost is that most of the other reviews at the time (and still) are/were very partisan and from folks who obviously have not read the book. Secondly, over the years my political leanings have changed towards the center. This is a key part of McClellan's book which is obvious to anyone who has read it. The author is a Republican, and has many good things to say about W. Bush and others, and, as you might typically expect from a Republican, negatives about the Clinton Admin. Yet (as we all know) he also criticizes aspects of the current Administration; yet rather than a best-selling "gotcha" work by a Coulter or Franken, he offers up an honest look at the good, the bad, and everywhere in between of all sides of our current political situation.
The book is well structured. It does not begin, as so many of these recent books do, by with 9/11, but instead begins with a look at McClellan's work in the White House, then shifts to the author's beginnings in the political world as the son of one of the nation's first female Mayor's (of Austin, Texas), and relationships with family members such as his Grandfather who was the highly respected Dean of a Law School. This helps the reader become grounded in the moral and ethical upbringing of the author.
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