April 19, 2006

Scott McClellan's One Right Thing

Scott McClellan's One Right Thing

McClellan and Bush

Doesn’t he look a little relieved? [The White House]

I will miss Scott McClellan. Regardless of what you feel about the administration, you have to feel sorry for that guy. He sweated that job, both metaphorically and literally. Ari Fleischer smelled frustration in the briefing room and enjoyed it like a wine bouquet; McClellan seemed, a bit, to want the press to like him. The White House pool report states that McClellan teared up while announcing his departure. He’s human, that guy. We wound him with our impertinence.

I developed an affection for Scott McClellan two years ago; I was underemployed and alone all day with C-Span. In early 2004 the White House press corps was asking about gay marriage and Bush’s National Guard record and the now quaint idea of a peace process in the Levant. Abu Ghraib hadn’t broken yet. It was a more innocent time.

So I know that it’s a flack’s job to repeat talking points, but McClellan repeated talking points, so often that in sequence his paragraphs made no sense. Then I understood what Karl Rove had figured out a decade earlier: in a briefing, a flack has one objective only. That objective is not to answer questions, or even to appear to answer questions; it is to never, ever be caught on tape saying anything but the One Right Thing.

Which means that the One Right Thing has to be repeated. A lot. Often three or four times a minute. Ari Fleischer dismissed questions; Scott McClellan answered them. Again and again. So below, left from that innocent time when I had brand-new editing software and no job, is five briefing’s worth of the One Right Thing.

Everything you hear in these sound files was actually said, in sequence, at a press briefing; if he says it fifteen times in the sound file, he said it fifteen times in the briefing. All I did was remove the filler between the sound bites.

My favorite one is “fulfilled his duties.”

March 23, 2004 “two-state vision”

February 24, 2004 “protect and defend the sanctity of marriage”

February 10, 2004 “fulfilled his duties”

February 2, 2004 “gathering threat”

January 15, 2004 “November 15 agreement”

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