Jay Rosen has a good article covering the Scott McClellan brouhaha from a historical perspective. The gist of it is that the Bush administration’s approach to handling the media is a total reversal of Theodore Roosevelt’s initial creation of a White House press room. This might well be the case, although in many respects I think that’s fairly minor in comparison to the institutional problems of the American media (highlighted here by Glenn Greenwald, just to choose a recent example, but really exposed years ago, most systematically by Chomksy and Herman).
I haven’t been that impressed with McClellan. It’s great that he’s speaking out, but a) it would have been nice to have done that when he was in a position of greater influence and b) he’s still either unwilling to speak the truth or perhaps to see it, making him a kind of well-meaning buffoon who’s coincidentally garnering tons of publicity. I consider him that harshly because of his comments on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown and elsewhere that he doesn’t believe that anyone in the White House intended to deliberately mislead the American people regarding the Iraq war. Instead, he came out with some wishy-washy inanities about Bush “boxing himself into a corner”, and essentially had no explanation for Cheney’s actions—but still ruled out, on some imaginary basis, the idea that they were doing what should be completely obvious: lying to push forward their agenda. Lying, I should add, without compunction, or regard for the human costs of what they were doing, and so on. Doing what those in power tend to do, and one thing that’s really scary about McClellan’s apparent mindset is that he’s been so close to power, and seen that power corrupt, but yet still cannot bring himself to see the nasty truth that none of those people give a shit about accountability, honor, truth, integrity, or democracy.
(Further, the US media being what it is, most of the challenges he’ll be subject to on his tour around the television shows will come from those claiming that he’s already gone too far, not from those who would point out that he hasn’t gone anywhere near far enough.)