Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Poor Scottie: As rumors swirl that Scott McClellan will be the next White House head to roll, Vanity Fair’s Michael Wolff produces an absolutely brutal profile of the beleaguered press secretary, suggesting that McClellan’s “mangled sentences, flat-footed evasions, and genial befuddlement have made him the butt of a thousand blogs, as well as of an increasingly savage press corps.”

From my perspective, McClellan has never seemed to enjoy beating reporters senseless the way his predecessor, Ari Fleischer, did. And he seems to lack the debating skill necessary to keep the briefings interesting, often repeating the same non-committal answer to the same question over and over again, not so much ducking and weaving as standing there and allowing himself to be smacked around.

Says Wolff: “It's this verbal haplessness that has made Scott McClellan… the living symbol of this White House's profound and, perhaps, mortal problem with language and meaning. McClellan himself, as though having some terrible social disability, has, standing miserably in the press briefing room every day, become a kick-me archetype.”

Amazingly, the approach worked well for a year or two, because for most of his tenure the press corps has been reluctant to throw even the softest or punches. But over the past 2 or 3 months, with the president’s approval ratings in the basement, some reporters have actually begun to challenge the administration line, albeit apologetically.

The conclusion, not implausible, is that “putting someone as strikingly out of his depth as McClellan into this job (and keeping him there) could well be part of this administration's contempt for the press.” Which makes you wonder who is being shown contempt when the administration puts people as strikingly out of their depth as Chertoff and Brown in charge of homeland security and disaster relief.

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