Exclusive: McClellan whacks Bush, White House By: Mike Allen May 27, 2008 06:43 PM EST Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan writes in a surprisingly scathing memoir to be published next week that President Bush âveered terribly off course,â was not âopen and forthright on Iraq,â and took a âpermanent campaign approachâ to governing at the expense of candor and competence. Among the most explosive revelations in the 341-page book, titled âWhat Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washingtonâs Culture of Deceptionâ (Public Affairs, $27.95): âMcClellan charges that Bush relied on âpropagandaâ to sell the war. âHe says the White House press corps went too easy on the administration. âHe admits that some of his own assertions from the briefing room podium turned out to be âbadly misguided.â âThe longtime Bush loyalist also suggests that two top aides held a secret West Wing meeting to get their story straight about the CIA leak case at a time when federal prosecutors were after them â and McClellan was continuing to defend them despite mounting evidence they had not given him the full facts. âMcClellan asserts that the aides â Karl Rove, the presidentâs senior adviser, and Lewis âScooterâ Libby, the vice presidentâs chief of staff â âhad at best misledâ him about their role in the disclosure of former CIA operative Valerie Plameâs identity. A few reporters were offered advance copies of the book, with the restriction that their stories not appear until Sunday, the day before the publication date. Politico declined, and purchased âWhat Happenedâ at a Washington bookstore. The eagerly awaited book, while recounting many fond memories of Bush and describing him as âauthenticâ and âsincere,â is harsher than reporters and White House officials had expected. McClellan was one of the presidentâs earliest and most loyal political aides, and most of his friends had expected him to take a few swipes at his former colleague in order to sell books but also to paint a largely affectionate portrait. Instead, McClellanâs tone is often harsh. He writes, for example, that after Hurricane Katrina, the White House âspent most of the first week in a state of denial,â and blames Rove for suggesting the photo of the president comfortably observing the disaster during an Air Force One flyover. McClellan says he and counselor to the president Dan Bartlett had opposed the idea, and thought it had been scrapped. But he writes that he later was told that âKarl was convinced we needed to do it â and the president agreed.â âOne of the worst disasters in our nationâs history became one of the biggest disasters in Bushâs presidency. Katrina and the botched federal response to it would largely come to define Bushâs second term,â he writes. âAnd the perception of this catastrophe was made worse by previous decisions President Bush had made, including, first and foremost, the failure to be open and forthright on Iraq and rushing to war with inadequate planning and preparation for its aftermath.â McClellan, who turned 40 in February, was press secretary from July 2003 to April 2006. An Austin native from a political family, he began working as a gubernatorial spokesman for then-Governor Bush in early 1999, was traveling press secretary for the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign and was chief deputy to Press Secretary Ari Fleischer at the beginning of Bushâs first term.