Not me, but Mclellan, who as everyone knows or should know, has decided to come clean about his past involvement in the foreign policy disaster we now refer to as the Iraq war. It's a pretty amazing development, but maybe shouldn't be, considering the number of outraged and agonized confessionals of former government employees. You can read the story almost anywhere, but here's a recent bit in the NYT's.
But this blog isn't about policy; it's about persuasion. And I can't help being both horrified and impressed by the shrewd and eerily consistent strategy the Republican officials and party flunkies are using to manage the bad news.
Rather than deny the charges or battle Mclellan point by point, they have decided to insinuate that there's something wrong with him, suggesting a breakdown of some kind. The tone was set early by the current, icily gorgeous Press Sec, Dano Perino, No one has specifically claimed a psychotic episode, but the repeated infantilizing use of his first name (rather than his last or full name) and the words "sad" and "puzzled" more closely match the language of someone concerned about the mental health of a friend or relative rather than an organization confronting a brazen attack on their ethical standards by a former insider.
Rove and Fleischer dutifully expanded on the strange-state-of-Scott story with their pop-psychological "this doesn't sound like Scott," in a tone suffused with befuddled concern.
I'm inclined to call bullshit on their false pathos, but perhaps Scott really does sound different. Perhaps it doesn't sound like him because he's not lying anymore. Or maybe he sounds different because he's so racked with guilt over his involvement in a PR farce that's cost well-counted American and countless Iraqi lives and untold amounts of unnecessary human suffering.
If you want to get a sense of what this can sound like try talking to former and now clean ex-cons speaking about their past crimes, or read about how a former aide to Colin Powell describes his involvement in Powell's speech to the U.N. on bogus intelligence as the "lowest point in his life." Here. Yeah, that does sound a lot different from "Bring it on" now that you mention it.
In any case, this strikes me as whole new strategy against what we might call the truth or (less polemically) any information that doesn't support the party line. Perhaps we've moved past the "I don't recall" defense utilized so effectively by Reagan and the "I wasn't informed of what my own staff was up to" attempted with varying degrees of success by Donald Rumsfeld and Enron executives, and moved onto variations of "He's lost it," to damage the credibility of anyone who dares to say something we don't want to hear.