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What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception
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What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception

3.25  ·  Rating details ·  1,682 ratings  ·  312 reviews
Scott McClellan was one of a few Bush loyalists from Texas who became part of his inner circle of trusted advisers, and remained so during one of the most challenging and contentious periods of recent history. Drawn to Bush by his commitment to compassionate conservatism and strong bipartisan leadership, McClellan served the president for more than seven years, and witness ...more
Hardcover, 341 pages
Published June 3rd 2008 by PublicAffairs (first published January 1st 2008)
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What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception by Scott McClellan does not qualify as worthy of my valuable and limited reading time. His prose is competent and clear enough, but within the first few pages I’m already rolling my eyes at his clear biases and naiveté. McClellan describes a reporter as a “cordial yet skeptical liberal talk radio journalist” (2). The clear indication is that cordiality is good, liberal and skeptical: bad. All journalists should be s ...more
May 31, 2008 rated it it was ok
Title: Same Old Partisan Crap

I found reading McClellan's partisan memoir to be a total waste of time. I also feel the author lacks credibility and this book offers the same old partisan view we have been fed all along. This book has been targeted towards and panders to the left-leaning partisan audience. McClellan makes a ton of allegations against the Bush Administration but doesn't provide any backing/proof. The book reads like a conspiracy theory.
Although the media response dwelled on McClell
Jun 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
McClellan's memoir of "what happened" in the Bush administration really gets 3.5 stars, but since that's not an option, I'll give it the benefit of the doubt (or of the star).

Anyway - the thing about the book is not any "revelations" about what actually happened. Anyone who's been paying even a modicum of attention the past 8 years knows what happened. What McClellen does is provide an interesting perspective on how it came to happen. Admittedly, his basic theory - that the conduct of public pol
Jun 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Okay, let's be honest. This entire book is a rationale. Well, not just one rationale, but several: For why McClellan didn't do anything despite knowing (or at the very least suspecting corruption and dishonesty) as well as why McClellan won't disavow the GOP.

All in all, though, his rationales are plausible, and that's what makes the book work. In the Bush Administration, it's easy to envision Cheney and Rove, for example, viewing McClellan as a nobody, a mouthpiece, and therefore it wouldn't mat
Jul 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
I had heard so much about this book, but it was taking its time making it up to the top of my stack. I found it fascinating to walk through the recent events from Scott McClellan's eyes. To find out what he said he knew when he said he knew it. To hear what he believes about each of the participants in the events. It was interesting to me to see how he views President Bush now compared to how he viewed him before going to Washington with him. His comments on Dr. Condi Rice were really enlighteni ...more
Jul 13, 2008 rated it did not like it
It seriously takes a crappy book for me to not finish a book (I like to finish a book no matter how difficult it is to get through.) Now, the preface in this book is fantastic. It got me all rowled up. (Is that the right word: rowled?) I thought this book would be very interesting, and I guess a little part of it was. I wanted to get the scoop from a true insider. Someone who really was in the thick of it all. The problem with this book is when he blabs on and on about idealistic politics, his f ...more
Sep 14, 2016 rated it liked it
A textbook for how not to be president.

If you are ever pitying yourself because of your crappy job or because you work with a bunch of loathsome sociopaths, Scott McClellan’s book will likely make you feel better about your own situation. Few jobs could be worse than being George W. Bush’s Press Secretary, defending inanely counter-productive policies and wars of an imbecile president, and lorded over by cynical, self-serving liars like Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.

What Happened is a journalistic m
Diane Kistner
Oct 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Okay, we all bought this book to find out if someone who's been on the inside of the big opaque white box would confirm what we all suspected, or give us someone to tar and feather if we're prone to unquestioning partisan loyalties. Although there is some 3-star unevenness early in the book, I have to say the best part is the final chapter, "Changing the Culture of Deception," and that alone is what earns my 5-star review.

Most of the book is a narrative of Scott McClellan's schooling in politics
Jul 01, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are plenty of books out there critical of Bush and his adminstration [ e.g., books like Chandrasekaran's "Imperial Life in the Emerald City", or Corn's & Isikoffs "Hubris", Hersh's "Chain of Command", Rick's "Fiasco", Unger's "House of Bush, House of Saud", Woodward" "Bush at War", "Plan of Attack", or "State of Denial", Suskind's "The Price of Loyalty", etc.] It's not really true, but one might dismiss them as being written by liberal Democrats or political outsiders. Harder to dismiss ar ...more
Jun 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
So exciting! I normally read the conservatives at the library, so my consumer dollars won't fund their destruction of my country - that should tell you which side I'm coming from. This one, I BOUGHT! I make this offer to any Bushie who wants to roll over and tell the truth - I will buy your book! (David Kuo, I will grandfather you in)

Mr. McClellan started off kinda rocky; he gives us a background story about difficulties he experienced as head of his fraternity... and cites these as a lesson tha
Maria Andreu
Aug 05, 2008 rated it it was ok
Forget how smug he was at press briefings. Forget how he was a puppet and mouthpiece for all the bad decisions of the Bush administration. For me, these are givens, like saying a croissant tastes nice or summer is pleasant.

McClellan doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know - not really - in spirit if not in detail.

But what really annoys me about this book is that an editor somewhere let it go out in such bad condition? I get the man's not a writer, but jeez. You'd figure a press secretary
Jun 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Definitely a well-written and insightful book. It makes you see what went wrong during the Bush presidency from the standpoint of someone who was there the entire time and witnessing the decisions as the president made them. I found it to be a great read and enjoyed every page.
Jan 07, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldn-t_finish
I put this book in the Goodwill box yesterday with out finishing it. Scott's finger pointing, I'm so innocent spiel was just pissing me off.

Hey Scott - no one believes you.
Scott Rhee
Aug 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics, memoir
It's an election year, and one that promises to be very interesting, to say the least. In preparation, I've resurrected and, in some cases, polished some of my book reviews dealing with politics in general. I read this book back in 2012. My views on Bush/Cheney have not changed. In some ways, they are less vitriolic, but with each new bit of news that surfaces that reveals how corrupt Bush/Cheney truly were, my disgust for them continues to grow.

Scott McClellan was Deputy White House Press Secre
Jul 13, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
Oh, Scotty boy.

The book he wrote was ABOUT interesting things, and that's why it's got three stars. I also appreciated his general handling of Iraq - it made me think about the whole long-term implications of the region slightly differently. The writing style was mediocre. He tries to be a somewhat dispassionate narrator, but ends up just being mostly boring. I listened to it on audiobook, and Scott himself narrated it. His vocal style is very George W. Bush-esque, and that got a little grating
Jun 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
I was surprised by how much I liked this book. I heard about it on the Diane Rehm show, then found it on the "new" shelf in the library. I expected just a "here's what happened around me" kind of book, but it was much more than that.

Mostly I was surprised that McClellan really had a point; namely, that what's wrong in Washington is the culture of permanent campaigning. He argues that elected officials used to use campaign tactics to get elected, then got on with the business of actually making d
Dec 01, 2007 rated it did not like it
I am NO fan of Bush, and was mildly interested to see what McClellan has to say (even though I distrust presidential turncoats) about possibly the worst president in history.

This is a terribly written book with disjointed rhythm. I've read better written stuff on bathroom walls. Considering that McClellan was not thought of well by the press corps or the public like Ari Fleischer was, he seems to think he did a wonderful job. Plus, for a book that is supposed to be an insider's view of the Bush
Jun 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
For some reason I am fascinated by reading first-hand accounts of what happened behind the scenes in recent U.S. Presidential administrations. I am particularly fascinated with reading about the George W. Bush administration and how they have become so out of touch with reality. McClellan's account was fascinating to me. As someone who thinks George W. Bush beats out only Andrew Johnson in a contest to be a good president, it was interesting to learn from a true insider how decisions were made a ...more
Jul 27, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a hard one to put into the non-fiction category.

To summarize:
Pure drivel or more accurately pure partisan drivel that lays the responsibility of the Bush administration's lies and deceptions at the feet of the press.

The most honest paragraph in the entire book, “President Bush has always been an instinctive leader more than an intellectual leader. He is not one to delve deeply into all the possible policy options-including sitting around engaging in extended debate about them-before ma
Jul 15, 2009 rated it liked it
A simple education on the day-to-day of the White House Administration. And a first-hand account of the deception and politicking of the Bush team. The writing follows McClellan's jumpy thought patterns, but he gets his message across nonetheless. (Although at times it's by pure use of redundancy.) I couldn't shake thinking how the staff in the White House "bubble" could continue to be so clueless for so many years. Not a stellar piece of work, but I found it interesting to be privvy to McClella ...more
Jun 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Did I like it because it completely vindicated all that we thought we knew already about Bush and Co., with the added deliciousness of having been written by a Bush insider? Yes, to a large extent. Nothing like seeing the bad guys getting called out by one of their own. In the end, I found McClellan to be a pretty sympathetic character, and his explanation of how he went from devout apologist to reluctant Cassandra, believable. Better late than not at all.
Jul 03, 2008 added it
This is a very important book to read in our current cultural meltdown. We have lived in a political climate of lies--crimes--and cutural/political deception the likes of which are rarely seen except in volitle third-world countries.
Oct 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: borrowed
This book takes a good hard look at what is termed the "permanent campaign" and the impact such politicalization of decision-making has had on important issues. Scott is frank about the difficult position of promoting the viewpoint of an administration that is less than open to new ideas. ...more
Jeff Scott
Jul 25, 2008 rated it it was ok
This is the book any ex-employee would love to write to exonerate himself from the sins of the organization. When that person's job is to explain and cover the mistakes of one of the nation's worst presidencies, the book gets everyone's attention.

McClellan explains his own background and what led him to work for the president. It's good to get perspective, but the explanation of the 2000 election until he became press secretary could have been shortened as it isn't revealing and that ground was
Oct 23, 2008 rated it it was ok
Scott McClellan's book "What Happened" is an insider's attempt to explain just how the Bush Administration got so badly off track after a promising start. "What happened?" is, of course, the classic question a person asks after having been blindsided. In large part, it is obvious that this is exactly how McClellan felt after his term of service in the Bush White House was over -- abused and disheartened, puzzled and angry at how things could have gone so wrong, for both himself and the Administr ...more
Claudia Putnam
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, politics
If I'd read this THEN, I'd have rated it lower, but actually, it ages well, and seems much more relevant now. I had to listen through the boring stuff about McClellan's background and good-faith belief in Bush and "the agenda," but if you get the book in print or e-, you can skim all that. Drawing on his time as a senior communications officer in the Bush White House, wherein he shaped messaging and communications strategy, in retrospect McClellan is able to offer insight into how the Bush team ...more
Nov 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: politics
I finished reading Scott McClellan’s memoir: What Happened: Inside the Bush White and Washington’s Culture of Deception. This is my first political memoir of a recent event. Normally, I’d pick up a book written many years after the fact, letting distance provide some context. But, I just had to have this book as McClellan worked the media and blog circuit. As you may know, he was a loyal Bush supporter and fellow Texan who served as White House Press Secretary from July 2003 until April 2006.

May 08, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Having listened to this as an audio book, I will note that this is an instance where someone really should have convinced the author not to narrate his own book. For some reason, McClellan affects a stilted "reading" pronunciation. Most notably, he reads the article "a" like the letter "a" and does the same thing to every word that starts with an "a" ("about" comes out as "ay-bout," for example). This man needs an infusion of schwas! Out of curiosity, I listened to an NPR interview clip to see w ...more
May 28, 2008 rated it liked it
As we all know, the author was the pompous, self-righteous press secretary for President Bush after Ari Fleischer left the post, a man always defending the indefensible. Yet, as a member of Bush's Texas inner sanctum, his endorsement of Barack Obama last year indicated he had a story to tell and left the White House with his political ideals shaken.

The book was slow going at first, while Mr. McClellan gave endless details of his youth, setting the stage for why he's a man of impeccable integrity
Jul 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Having read Ari Fleischer book about his experiences in the White House and having heard the hype and feedback from the media on this book, I finally got the chance to read the book. What I found was the story of a gentleman raised in Texas politicswho joined the Bush Campaign and the Bush White all with the intent of changing the way Washington politics are handled.

Where have I heard this before? The problem is that the last three American presidents have campaigned under the banner of "change
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Belated Rationales: Good (Better Late Than Never) or Bad (CYA)? 1 12 Jul 01, 2008 06:23AM  

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Librarian note: there is more than author on goodreads with this name.

Scott McClellan is a former White House Press Secretary (2003-2006) for President George W. Bush.

On April 19, 2006, McClellan announced that he would be leaving the Administration; he remained in the position until replacement Tony Snow was announced on April 26, 2006.

McClellan unexpectedly and harshly criticizes the Bush admi

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