McClellan, Salinger and Ziegler

Where does the former Bush spokesman fit into the history of the office?

From Salinger to Perino: How times change.
From Salinger to Perino: How times change.

Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan (who is at Book People today signing his autobiography What Happened; read our full interview here) told the Chronicle that any future press secretary should ask themselves one question: 'Will I be able to attend any meeting I choose to at any time I choose to attend?" If that sounds far-reaching for a flack, quick history lesson. That's what the job used to be.

In his autobiography, With Kennedy, JFK's press secretary Pierre Salinger recounts how he was not just a guy reading press statements. He was the point guy for explaining policy. That meant that, in 1962, when the White House sent someone to talk to the Russians about information exchange, they sent Salinger, and he was so trusted that he talked directly with Communist Party First Secretary Nikita Kruschev. It was during their walk around his dacha that Salinger found out for Kennedy that Kruschev was trying to reform the Communist Party and the Politburo.

Compare that to Nixon's press guy, Ron Ziegler, who won media immortality when Tricky Dicky famously (and literally) shoved him at the press corps in New Orleans.

The White House press secretary has gone from information expert to human shield. And don't expect any other Bush spokesperson, current or former, to change that. As long-time Bush-watcher Jim Moore said, "(Tony) Snow and (Ari) Fleischer, they're defending their own belief system, and I don't think that was true with Scott and Dana (Perino). But Dana is more of an empty vessel and a cypher than Scott was."

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Austin
Clark's Oyster Bar and Sam Beam Welcome Billy Reid to the Clarksville Neighborhood
Clark's Oyster Bar and Sam Beam Welcome Billy Reid to the Clarksville Neighborhood
West Sixth keeps it classy with designer duds, oysters, and champagne

Cara Tillman, Oct. 19, 2012

From Baby Beef to Beyond
From Baby Beef to Beyond
Rodeo Austin mooooves into the history books with its own history book.

Kate X Messer, April 19, 2012

More by Richard Whittaker
Elegance Bratton Talks About Passing <i>The Inspection</i>
Elegance Bratton Talks About Passing The Inspection
Director of the new Marine drama from A24 on learning empathy

Dec. 2, 2022

Farewell to the Future at the Final Other Worlds Film Festival
Farewell to the Future at the Final Other Worlds Film Festival
Founder Bears Rebecca Fonté looks back and forward

Dec. 1, 2022


Austin, Scott McClellan, Pierre Salinger, Ron Ziegler, Richard Nixon, Nikita Kruschev, Bookpeople

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle