My friends and I often argued about whether McClellan was the worst press secretary in the history of communications or one of the best.
In the face of telling bald-faced lies to the White House press corps, he remained loyal to the party line. Never budging. Even when he looked completely ridiculous.
His performances during his press gaggles reminded me of one of my first jobs.
My boss told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to control the message during a controversial event. A bigname speaker was part of the conference and I knew the reporters would want to ask him about his latest research on a cancer drug… which had little to nothing to do with the event.
I was not suave. I was not coy. I did not throw the reporters a bone. I handled the press like Scott McClellan handled the White House press corps. Unyielding. Stubbornly repeating the same information… paraphrasing one line over and over and over again.
The reporters hated me. My boss hated me for being so obvious and appearing like I was hiding something. And I hated me for — in effect — sticking with “No comment.”
(I groan inwardly every time I remember that turning point.)
I learned some valuable lessons that day — learned to trust my judgment and to trust the journalists covering the story. I also gained a deeper understanding of my role as information gatekeeper and facilitator.
But that was nine years ago.
I’m not surprised that McClellan is leaving. I can only say it’s about time.