Commentary: Sam Dissects the Value of McClellan's Tell-All Book

The following is a commentary by ABC News' Sam Donaldson. Click here to view a video version of Sam's latest essay

Former presidential press secretary Scott McClellan has discovered there was gambling going on in the White House when he was there and, borrowing the line from Inspector Renault in the movie "Casablanca," declares himself "shocked" to learn that.

But what is it we learn from reading his new book? That George W. Bush and his White House crew manipulated, deceived, rearranged the facts and bullied friends and foes alike in order to build a public case for striking Iraq? We knew that.


And as for McClellan's portrait of the president as a stubborn, willful man, unable to admit error, plunging ahead in the certitude of righteous truth, well, that portrait is already hanging in the National Gallery of Public Opinion.

Still, McClellan's book is valuable, coming as it does from an insider, someone who was there, who saw it and heard it firsthand.

McClellan overhears Bush telling someone on the phone that he really can't remember whether he ever used cocaine. Concluding that Bush convinces himself that unpleasant things haven't really occurred, that the truth is what he wants it to be. Indeed.

McClellan tells us that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby go into a room together and shut the door at a crucial moment in the Valerie Plame affair. Were they getting their stories straight, McClellan wonders? Who knows, but in light of what later unfolded, not out of the question, we conclude.

McClellan was fired from his job as press secretary — and White House loyalists suggest he is nothing more than a disgruntled failure, vindictive and money-hungry. The problem with such a total dismissal, however, is that while the building blocks he lays are not new, it is the mortar he supplies to cement the cracks that makes this book so interesting and so damning.

Still, the author is no hero. He was complicit in all he now condemns. He went along without complaint with what he now finds so unworthy. But, there is something else.

Scott McClellan was a member of the president's inner circle, a trusted confidant, family if you will … and to some who read his book it is not the line from "Casablanca" that comes to mind, but one from Julius Caesar: "I love treason, but hate a traitor."

Sam Donaldson, a 41-year ABC News veteran, served two appointments as chief White House correspondent for ABC News, from January 1998 to August 1999 and from 1977-1989, covering Presidents Carter, Reagan and Clinton. Donaldson also co-anchored, with Diane Sawyer, "PrimeTime Live," from August 1989 until it merged with "20/20" in 1999. He co-anchored the ABC News Sunday morning broadcast, "This Week With Sam Donaldson & Cokie Roberts," from December 1996 to September 2002. Currently, Sam Donaldson appears on ABC News Now, the ABC News digital network, in a daily show, "Politics Live."