Network first to spotlight White House insider

NBC has landed the first broadcast and cable interviews with political author du jour Scott McClellan, the former Bush White House insider whose memoirs have grabbed headlines even before the book’s official release.

The Peacock’s “Today” show will have McClellan on this morning, and MSNBC’s “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” will host him in the evening.

McClellan’s publisher, PublicAffairs Books, did not return calls asking why NBC was chosen.

McClellan’s tome, “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception,” is skedded for release next week, but early copies sold by bookstores this week caused an uproar throughout Washington on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters gathered outside his Virginia home, McClellan said his book “has got an important message,” but he declined to go into much further detail, citing his commitments for exclusive interviews today.

Among the more sensational claims the former White House spokesman makes in the memoir:

  •  President Bush relied on “propaganda” to sell the Iraq war to the American public.

  •  Former presidential staffer Karl Rove and convicted perjurer I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who worked for VP Dick Cheney, may have lied to McClellan about their roles in leaking the identity of a CIA officer.

  •  The White House was in a “state of denial” about the full impact of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast.

  •  The media served as a “culture of enablers” in not having aggressively challenged the Bush administration’s case for war.

ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz took issue with that last claim, telling Daily Variety, “The media don’t always do everything right, but I do know that certainly some members of the press did challenge the administration.” Raddatz covered the State Dept. during the run-up to war. “I think we did as much as we could have, given that we did not have access to the intelligence,” she said.

On Wednesday’s edition of “Today,” “NBC Nightly News” reporter David Gregory, who covered the White House while McClellan was spokesman, said, “There was never any indication that Scott McClellan, either publicly or privately, held these kinds of views about what was happening at the time on the war, on Katrina, on the leak case — which was his most difficult hour in the White House. He never expressed anything like this.”

Political websites were abuzz with news of the book.

The conservative Weekly Standard said: “Ask 50 Washington reporters for an assessment of Scott McClellan and 49 of them will give you some version of this: He’s a nice guy who was in way over his head. (Most of them will be tougher in their analysis of his intellect.)”

The liberal Daily Kos: “Once again, we come face to face with a White House official who could’ve done the right thing … but instead decided that the lives of American troops, Iraqi civilians, Katrina victims and a network of covert CIA operatives were worth less than the luster of his master’s lapel pin. When our country needed him to tell it straight, he hid behind propaganda and spin and bogus talking points and outright bamboozlement.”

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