For the last couple of days, we have seen pack journalism in the treatment of Scott McLellan at the White House. Not merely piling on, but attempting to tear off the flesh in public. Cruelty to the twerps in politics will not win friends for anyone who wants to impair the credibility of the president. It's a distracting spectacle that calls attention to the fangs when we should keep our eyes on the meat.
I look at this way. Being the White House Press Secretary is an excusable offense. The role is basically that of flack rather than policy maker. McLellan is not paid to lie. He is paid to pass on the lies of others, and he is not in the position to know the difference between the truth and falsehood of every"message of the day" he is compelled to deliver. And whether the president himself knows enough truth to willfully utter a lie is often in question. After all, a lie is a deliberate deception, not the inadvertent delivery of misinformation. All presidents are at the mercy of high level aides, some of whom would like to manipulate their boss. I expect that Rove, a master schemer, initially lied to president a couple of years ago and McLellan became the delivery boy.
So this is my notion of what the press corps should have said. "Scott, we feel the pain of your embarrassment. We know what's it's like to have bosses that keep you in the dark or mislead you. We hope that you will find out enough truth to tell it later. Until that time, we will continue to show up and wait for your message of the day."
One of my generational tics is a loathing for every statement that contains the phrase, "at this point in time"--a trademark of President Nixon's stuffy obfuscations.(Why not say "now" or "at this moment"?) I also recall his Press Secretary Ron Ziegler, who, as the lies of Watergate were unreeled, would say "At this point in time, that statement is no longer operative." (I can't prove he said it and I may be making that up.) It was a cute way of saying that he knew that he was the bearer of serial lies that might have to be retracted later. Ziegler didn't plan Watergate, but it was his role to pass on the coverups. As a gesture of solidarity with the now deceased Ziegler, I believe that Scott McLellan should use the same phrases--despite my aversion. It's a kind of good humored way of letting your hair blow in the draft of White House spin.--JSL