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Thursday, May 29, 2008
McClellan Goes Native
by Cordeiro

One of the toughest jobs in Washington is that of a Press Secretary in a Republican White House.  I liken the job to that of a javelin catcher – and we've seen the danger inherent in that profession lately.  The Press Secretary gets the honor of standing before the piranha pit commonly known as the White House Press Corps and brief them about all things even remotely presidential in nature.


In return for his (or her) efforts, he/she gets to absorb the slings, arrows, and spears hurled at him/her by the pit vipers disguised as reporters.  This the Press Secretary does on a quasi-daily basis.  Needless to say, most press secretaries have relatively short tenures.  There rumor is they age rapidly because being in close proximity to Helen Thomas has a physically deleterious effect on normal human beings.  This has yet to be proven scientifically.


Most Press Secretaries aren't very memorable.  Don't believe me?  Please name two Clinton (Sorry Excuse For) Administration Press Secretaries without using an online search engine.  W is currently on his fourth Javelin Catcher, Dana Perino.  Scott McClellan – now author of a Kiss & Tell memoir – came in at #2, between Ari Fleischer and Tony Snow.


McClellan was – on a good day – extremely difficult to watch.  I don't know what he did in his life before coming to Washington on W's dime, but whatever it was it didn't involve public speaking or adversarial debate.  His daily press briefings were laborious and he was easily flummoxed by the Press Corps.  He was, to put it bluntly, an exceptionally inept spokesman for a President whose communication skills are at best lacking.  The day Tony Snow took over the briefing room was – to say the least – refreshing.


When someone spends a lot of time in a foreign land or culture there is always the possibility that said person will "go native" to the point it will be difficult to distinguish the foreigner from the native.  It happened to me once.  After living in Brazil for about two years, I acted and sounded much like the Brazilians I had come to know and love.  My English was awful.  Coming back stateside was very much a culture shock.


Nearly eight years ago, Scott McClellan came to Washington from Texas.  During this time he has interacted and dealt with the beltway media culture on a daily basis.  Judging by the reaction of W White House insiders who worked closely with him during his tenure and the breathless reactions of some on the left it looks to me like he's gone totally native.


Memo to McClellan:  Enjoy your 15 minutes.  I'd remind you about the dangers of believing your own press, but methinks it's too late for that now.  I think you'll be surprised just how quickly that egg timer goes off.  End Memo.


Here endeth the lesson.

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