Scott McClellan Originally Planned to Attack Media, Defend Bush

Scott McClellan at the White House podiumAlthough today his book is being touted by left-wing reporters and pundits, his initial plans for the project show former White House press secretary Scott McClellan intended to take a much different approach, one that was more sympathetic to President Bush but also quite hard on the "liberal elites" of the Washington press corps and their "hostility" toward the administration.

Reading through McClellan's original book proposal, obtained by Politico.com, it is clear that before his editor Peter Osnos took the book on a sharp leftward turn, McClellan wanted to turn the tables on foes in the press gallery including far-left columnist Helen Thomas and NBC correspondent David Gregory.

"I came to know and respect those who were assigned to the White House beat. They are solid professionals, but rarely scrutinized or put under the microscope. I will take a look at notable personalities in the White House Briefing Room, including David Gregory and Helen Thomas. I anticipate an entire chapter about the former," McClellan writes in his proposal.

According to McClellan, America's elite journalists have a dramatic problem with political diversity which in turn leads them to skew the political debate in a leftward direction. The media are in a "constant state of denial" when it comes to admitting this.

I will look at what is behind the media hostility toward the President and his Administration, and how much of it is rooted in a liberal bias.

The public holds the national media in low esteem. I think there are several reasons why, and I intend to write about them in some detail while discussing ways the media could improve their image. It is more than just the perceived arrogance, cynicism, gotcha-journalism, and lack of accountability. The establishment media does not tend to reflect Main Street America, or spend enough time focusing on the issues that matter most to the general public, and too often sacrifice substance for process. They tend to reflect the liberal elites of New York and Washington that are part of the social circles in which they run, and it shows in their reporting. Yet, they live in a constant state of denial when it comes to acknowledging such an obvious fact.

Fairness is defined by the establishment media within the left-of-center boundaries they set. They defend their reporting as fair because both sides are covered. But, how fair can it be when it is within the context of the liberal slant of the reporting? And, while the reporting of the establishment media may be based on true statements and facts, is it an accurate picture of what is really happening?

The fact that McClellan's revised, Bush-bashing book is being so heavily promoted by the top media outlets is a testament to the veracity of McClellan's original thesis.

A larger excerpt of the McClellan proposal (full text here):

There have been a number of books written about him, including many more recent ones that portray him in a very negative light.

This book is going to take a much different look at our Nation’s 43rd President. While being supportive of the President, I want to give readers a candid look into who George W. Bush is, what he believes, why he believes it so strongly, and what drives him.

I want to give readers a sense of what Bush is like outside of the public view -- in meetings with world leaders, Members of Congress, his Cabinet, key constituents, families of the fallen, wounded soldiers, and key staff.

It will be an insider’s account of his behind-the-scenes persona, including his decision-making style, his personal discipline, his composure under fire, and his sense of humor.

And, I will directly address myths that have been associated with him, some deliberately perpetuated by activist liberals and some created by the media, and look at the reality behind those myths. [...]

As I assumed my duties as White House Press Secretary, the contentious atmosphere between the media and the White House was only growing. At the time, it was becoming clear that no weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq, and the press was under some fire from the left for not pressing the White House hard enough on our claims in the lead-up to the war. Furthermore, we had just acknowledged that it was a mistake for the President to cite in his State of the Union Address that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger, a key claim used to justify that Saddam Hussein was pursuing nuclear weapons.

With a press corps that was more emboldened than ever to take on the White House and a tough reelection looming in the year ahead, I knew we were entering a challenging period in the media. But, I had developed good relations with White House reporters over a seven year period, going back to the 2000 election when I served as traveling press secretary and followed by two and a half years as Deputy White House Press Secretary. I had earned the trust of those who covered the White House, and I knew that would be helpful in the days ahead. [...]

The experience of working with the White House Press Corps provided me valuable insight into the national media. I want to share with readers what I learned about how the press covers the President, breaks stories, and reports the news.

As I write about my perceptions of the national media, I do not intend to pull any punches. The best way to give readers a better understanding of the press is to critically analyze who they are, how they view their role, and how they report the news.

I came to know and respect those who were assigned to the White House beat. They are solid professionals, but rarely scrutinized or put under the microscope. I will take a look at notable personalities in the White House Briefing Room, including David Gregory and Helen Thomas. I anticipate an entire chapter about the former.

And, I will look at what is behind the media hostility toward the President and his Administration, and how much of it is rooted in a liberal bias.

The public holds the national media in low esteem. I think there are several reasons why, and I intend to write about them in some detail while discussing ways the media could improve their image. It is more than just the perceived arrogance, cynicism, gotcha-journalism, and lack of accountability. The establishment media does not tend to reflect Main Street America, or spend enough time focusing on the issues that matter most to the general public, and too often sacrifice substance for process. They tend to reflect the liberal elites of New York and Washington that are part of the social circles in which they run, and it shows in their reporting. Yet, they live in a constant state of denial when it comes to acknowledging such an obvious fact.

Fairness is defined by the establishment media within the left-of-center boundaries they set. They defend their reporting as fair because both sides are covered. But, how fair can it be when it is within the context of the liberal slant of the reporting? And, while the reporting of the establishment media may be based on true statements and facts, is it an accurate picture of what is really happening? And, how much influence do the New York Times and Washington Post have in shaping the coverage? And, why does the media do such a poor job of holding itself to account, or acknowledging their own mistakes?

In addition to covering the above issues and questions, I will get into the influence of activist liberal reporters, like Keith Olbermann, Nation editor David Corn, and Washington Post blogger Dan Froomkin, and activist liberal media personalities, like Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore, Al Franken, Bill Maher, and Arianna Huffington.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013