Pajamas Media has extensive links on the likely-forced resignation of White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan. As many have noted, this is probably a wise move, as Mr. McClellan has seemed rather hapless against an increasingly hostile Washington press corps. Nothing against him; as Tammy Bruce opines, he seems like a nice man. Perhaps that’s the problem: he seems just a little bit too nice to smile disarmingly and politely smack down a cheeky questioner as his predecessor Ari Fleischer often did and as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld—who is handling the calls for his own head well—still does without regret.
In other words, McClellan was never quite intimidating enough to handle the position.
The rumor mill has put forth FoxNews anchor (and Bush the Elder staff member) Tony Snow and former Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke as candidates for Mr. McClellan’s replacement. Both are excellent choices, but I have someone else in mind and therein lies a story.
Most of the Republican/conservative bloggers/commenters have tried to be kind to Scott McClellan as he rides into the sunset. Democrat/liberal commentators have been, predictably, less charitable, however, one commentator stands out in his viciousness toward Mr. McClellan: Michael Wolff.
McClellan himself, as though having some terrible social disability, has, standing miserably in the press briefing room every day, become a kick-me archetype. He's Piggy in Lord of the Flies: a living victim, whose reason for being is, apparently, to shoulder public ridicule and pain (or, come to think of it, he's Squealer from Animal Farm). He's the person nobody would ever choose to be.The peculiar use of hyphens belongs to Mr. Wolff. His oh-so-charming commentary on McClellan got me to thinking about the last time the existence of the former came to my attention--2003, not long after the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Wolff was in Iraq as a participant in a press conference conducted by the CENTCOM spokesman. In the wake of what seemed to be a Q and A session which revealed ‘unexciting’ news, Wolff asked the spokesman the following:
His daily march into hostile territo-ry, without any of the available diver-sions and protections that a basic presentation-software package [Microsoft Power Point] might provide, is so fraught that it must be a cunning setup—diabolical Karl Rove at it again. If not, it's a remarkable, defining lack of self-awareness on the part of the heretofore all-controlling Bush administration.
I mean no disrespect by this question, but I want to ask about the value proposition of these briefings. We're no longer being briefed by senior-most officers. To the extent that we get information, it's largely information already released by the Pentagon. You may know that ABC has sent its senior correspondent home. So, I guess my question is why should we stay? What's the value to us for what we learn at this million-dollar press center?The words appear polite and reasonably, but I was watching as the questions were proffered. Mr. Wolff’s attitude and body language were anything but respectful. The demeanor could have been likened to a girl from the ‘hood snapping her fingers--a colloquial sign of disrespect.
The spokesman looked at Michael Wolff impassively. (After watching the bristle of Mr. Wolff, I had visions of the spokesman—an Army one-star general; 6'5", slender, but powerfully-built--walking over to his interlocuter and, all Worf-like, gleefully snapping his neck. Fortunately, the spokesman is much more of a diplomat, as we'll see.) That impassive expression remained even as Mr. Wolff’s colleagues applauded him for his gumption. When the applause died down, the spokesman smiled winningly and answered:
Let's -- I've gotten applause already; that's wonderful! I appreciate that. (Laughter.) First, I would say it's your choice. We want to provide information that's truthful from the operational headquarters that is running this war. There are a number of places where information's available, not the least of which would be the embedded media, and they tell a very important story. The Pentagon has a set of information they provide as well. If you're looking for the entire mosaic, then you should be here.He also reminded them that
General [Tommy] Franks [has] already shown that he's more than willing to come and talk to you at the right time. But he's fighting a war right now. And he has me to do this for him.(All emphasis mine.)
The spokesman’s name is Brigadier General Vincent Brooks and he is the person I’d like to see as the new White House press secretary. Of course he’d have to resign his commission and retire first. And this would be a step down for the handsome, telegenic West Point-graduate (at the top of his class, no less) and member of a family of generals.
However, it would be quite entertaining to watch as the White House press corps tried to unsettle him—a man who is used to wading through the political morass that lead to his single shoulder board-borne star. (The fact that he is black would make things interesting, but, as we have seen from the senate confirmation of now-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, being black is no shield against being grilled in public—if one is a Republican. I’d call that progress--somewhat.)
General Brooks handled Mr. Wolff (and the other press types) with grace, aplomb and good humor. The thought of his wielding that long-honed ‘military bearing’ against a notoriously obnoxious and demonstrably undisciplined White House press corps is irresistible. Additionally, I don't think that Mr. Wolff--or anyone else--will be using the words of a junior high school class bully on someone like Vincent Brooks.