I hardly know me anymore: The Scott McClellan story.

Policy made plain.
May 29 2008 12:17 PM

I Hardly Know Me Anymore

The Scott McClellan story.

Scott McClellan. Click image to expand.
Scott McClellan

It's sad. It's just sad. In all my years of public service, I am one of the finest people I have ever had the privilege to know and work with. I cannot imagine why I have chosen this moment to turn against everything I have always stood for—lies, deception, secrets, double talk—unless it was for a six-figure book advance. But the me I knew believed that some things, such as duty, are more important than money. That me saw misleading the public as the highest of missions. That me would never betray me the way this me has done. Frankly, it's a puzzle. But I will be talking with me later this afternoon, on Oprah, and maybe then I will get some answers. Until then, all I can say is that it's just very, very sad.

Frankly, I don't recognize the me I describe in my book. This isn't me. This is some other me that I have conjured up for reasons I can only imagine. In fact, I don't think that I could even explain them myself. I have known me for almost my entire life, and I thought I knew me pretty well. And I always assumed the opposite was true, too. But apparently I harbored some kind of bitterness against me that I never told me about. I don't know what other explanation there could be.

 And another thing: If I did not support the policies that I advocated—important policies, vital to my entire philosophy of government, such as making things up and challenging the patriotism of opponents—why didn't I say something at the time? As I used to tell me, my door was always open to myself. But as far as I know, I never uttered a peep of complaint or disagreement. And I ask you: Who would know if I didn't?

Actually, as I think about it, I start to get really angry. Who the hell do I think I am? Some pipsqueak from nowhere who was hired to tell lies and suddenly thinks he has some sort of mission to tell the truth? I mean, who cares what I think the real reason was for the invasion of Iraq? I wasn't hired to figure out the real reason. I was hired to put out the phony reason, which I did without objection. But all of a sudden I'm too good to lie. Condi Rice will. Dick Cheney will and loves it. Absolutely loves it. But me? No. I suddenly feel I have some kind of duty to tell the truth. Well, excuuuuuse me!

 People have asked: Is this a permanent breach? Will I ever be able to work with myself again? Will I ever trust myself to betray the truth as I did for so many years? Or were those years of deception nothing but a lie? And the honest answer (or dishonest answer, as the case may be) is: I'll have to get back to you on that. However, once a person has started telling the truth, it is very hard to trust his lies completely ever again. I'm sure that when the wounds have been given time to heal, I will work with myself again. But there will always be that small shred of doubt: Am I truly following the line that has been so carefully crafted by people much smarter than myself, or am I just saying whatever comes into my head for no better reason than it happens to be the case?

And if my sudden eruption of truth-telling means that my career as a professional liar is over, I will have no one to blame but myself.

Michael Kinsley is a columnist for the Washington Post and the founding editor of Slate.


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