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What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception Paperback – May 11, 2009

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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.


"Associated Press," June 20, 2008"McClellan has burned the talking points -- and his bridges -- in writing this book, and the results are a more sophisticated assessment than most anything his former colleagues turned out. "What Happened" provides a telling and unflattering glimpse of Bush and his White House, also makes an important commentary on Washington's poisonous political climate -- one that Bush promised to change, but did not, McClellan writes."

Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; Reprint edition (May 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586487000
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586487003
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (235 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #405,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

524 of 653 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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98 of 125 people found the following review helpful By James Hiller VINE VOICE on June 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I'll admit up front that I'm not a G. W. Bush fan in the least. I didn't vote for him twice, and consider myself a true blue Democrat. So, you might be saying, "Of course, he's going to give the book five stars" because of his political beliefs. In actuality, as I will mention later on in the review, this book managed to somewhat change my picture I have of our current president for the better, all the while, giving an intriguing glimpse into his administration.

"What Happened", written by Scott McClellan, former press secretary to the Bush White House, provides a very interesting look at the operations within the everso secretive machinations of the house on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. McClellan describes in a brief and accessible way his experiences as he worked his way up to his position. The "secrets" he revealed aren't stunning to anyone who's spent time reading the newspapers or following the coverage on the Plame scandal, or the build up to the Iraq War. What's interesting is that someone who had inside knowledge, "was in the know" about so much of this, confirms and denies much.

I won't go through a laundry list of claims that Scott tells in the book. The overt coverage, and other reviewers, have done that enough. I will tell you that, despite his accusations and thoughts about his time in the White House, the story paints a far broader picture than these "stunning revelations".

As with many political memoirs, the author recounts his childhood life and his lead up to his current position in a slow, detail orientated, tedious way. Not McClellan. He jumps into the story feet first, and provides one, maybe two chapters dealing with his early life, and most of it pertaining to when he began to work with then Gov. Bush.
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198 of 256 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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