The Austin Chronicle

McClellan Takes the Mic

By Richard Whittaker, June 27, 2008, News

As a former White House press secretary, Scott McClellan is probably more experienced and better prepared than most authors for a public Q&A session. Stopping by BookPeople on Saturday afternoon, the native Austinite took a well-mannered and often vocally supportive grilling for an hour and a half about his bestselling book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception.

Any concerns about possible pro-Bush or anti-war protesters disrupting the event came to nothing, as McClellan was greeted with polite applause. The nearest thing to a heckle came from his mother, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, former comptroller of public accounts, who told McClellan he needed to put the mic closer to his mouth ("Thanks, Mom," he replied). With the sound issues sorted, the author explained his disillusionment with the administration and his ongoing hope for ending the permanent-campaign mentality that he attacks in his book. McClellan answered questions about his stance on President George W. Bush (likes him personally, does not like what his presidency has become), 9/11 conspiracies (does not believe them), the Iraq war ("a terrible mistake"), and impeachment (not convinced that the bad actions of the administration were criminal and even less convinced that there is any real taste in Washington for impeachment of a lame-duck president).

The stop in his hometown came in between his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Friday and a flight to Seattle on Sunday, for another booksigning. McClellan took a lighthearted swing at U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, who accused his congressional testimony of turning the committee into a "Book-of-the-Month Club meeting." McClellan thanked Smith for the suggestion, adding that might be one way to get other current and former White House staffers like Karl Rove to explain their actions in public. Talking titles, he suggested that Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, borrow Steve Martin's famous "Well, excuse me!" catchphrase and call his autobiography Well, Pardon Me!

When asked about future plans, including any possible run for elected office or a return to Austin, McClellan said he was considering his options. There is one event on his calendar: He's planning to be back in town for the start of the UT football season.

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