The right wing is trotting out a variety of counter-attacks to deal with the explosive allegations found in former White House press secretary Scott McClellan’s new book. Yesterday, defenders repeated they were “puzzled” by the book, “as if,” the New York Times noted, “Mr. McClellan had undergone some kind of emotional breakdown.” By afternoon, attacks were more charged, with White House officials calling McClellan a “traitor” and “Benedict.” By last night and into this morning, Fox News pundits were insisting the book is the work of a nefarious, left-wing publisher.
Now several prominent conservatives are dismissing the book by insisting that no one outside of “people who follow Washington issues” really even cares about McClellan’s allegations:
Ari Fleischer: This is a very Washington and people who follow Washington issue, and people tend to read these types of books. What is interesting, Bill, is TV shows, for example, millions watch the news at night, a great selling book only sells about 100,000, so it’s kinda gonna be a self-contained story.
Bill O’Reilly: McClellan says Mr. Bush did not handle Katrina very well. Gee, I’m stunned. He says the president used propaganda to justify Iraq. Again, is that a bulletin? … McClellan also believes that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby conspired in the Valerie Plame case. Forgive me if I’m bored.
Newt Gingrich: No. I don’t want to shock you, Alan, but I actually don’t care. … I mean my lack of interest in Scott McClellan’s personal odyssey of self-discovery is a negative. I’m more concerned about American Idol than I am about Scott McClellan.
Mary Matalin: I don’t care, like Newt, I don’t really care to analyze this kind of betrayal.
Watch a compilation:
Despite what these pundits suggest, Americans are paying attention. McClellan’s book rose rapidly yesterday to become Amazon’s number one bestseller. McClellan’s story has dominated the airwaves, with three major appearances today and at least three more — including a stint on the Daily Show — in the next few days.
The public is sure to pay particular attention to McClellan’s charges about manipulating Iraq intelligence. A poll from Februrary showed that a majority — 53 percent — of Americans believe the White House “deliberately misled” the public about the existence of WMD in Iraq.