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Interview: Scott McClellan (2008)

(In 2008, President George Bush’s press long-time press secretary Scott McClennan published his autobiography,¬†What Happened: Inside the Bush White House. I talked with him in the middle of the press furor that it caused.)

Scott McClennan as a young boy, casting his first ballot. His mother, future Austin mayor and Texas State Comptroller Carole Keaton Strayhorn, used it to introduce he and his brothers to politics. Image courtesy of Scott McClennan.

A third-generation child of a family always in the public spotlight. A frat boy who went into the family business of living on the campaign trail. A veteran of Texas bipartisan politics who traveled from the Governor’s Mansion to the White House, a journey few early observers expected to see.

The similarities between George W. Bush and Scott McClellan, who served as Bush’s spokesman when he was governor, candidate, and president, are sometimes greater than the differences. But now the schism between the two over his memoir, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception, has put the Austin-born and -raised McClellan at the heart of the debate about the current and future presidencies.

But when McClellan called¬†from Washington, D.C., his first thought was about someone else from his White House years. “I don’t know if you’ve just heard about Tim Russert,” he asked. The NBC News Washington Bureau chief’s death had been announced only hours earlier. “Reality sinks in when something like that happens.” Of course, McClellan is back in the public arena because of the self-contemplation in his new book, which he will be discussing at BookPeople this Saturday. “I was born in politics. Most people choose it, but I was born into it,” he recalled. “I dedicated this book to those who serve, and none more so than those who want to get involved in politics. They will be able to learn some lessons from my painful experiences.”

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