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Page last updated at 14:27 GMT, Thursday, 29 May 2008 15:27 UK

US ex-aide defends Bush critique

Scott McClellan announces his resignation, flanked by George W Bush, April 2006
Mr McClellan said the book's main message was lost in the initial reaction

A former White House spokesman has defended his new book criticising the Bush administration, after angry reaction to its content from officials.

Scott McClellan told the NBC network's Today programme he initially believed the US was right to go to war in Iraq but came to see the move as a mistake.

Ex-colleagues of Mr McClellan have attacked him for not airing concerns about Mr Bush's policies sooner.

His 341-page memoir is to be published on Monday.

Extracts of the book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception, give an often scathing view of both the president and his highest-ranking aides.

From July 2003 to his resignation in April 2006, Mr McClellan was a loyal defender of the Bush administration. He had previously worked for Mr Bush when he was Texas governor.

'Playing the game'

Mr McClellan said in the interview that the main message of his book - to change the culture of Washington government - had been "lost in the mix of the initial reaction".

Because of my belief and trust in the president and his advisers, I gave them the benefit of the doubt, and looking back on it now I don't think I should have
Scott McClellan

"I had all this great hope that we were going to come to Washington and change it," he said.

"Then we got to Washington, and I think we got caught up in playing the Washington game the way it is being played today."

He said he was publishing the book now in the hope that it would encourage debate on the culture of government during the presidential election campaign.

Asked to explain why he had not expressed concerns about the Iraq conflict earlier, Mr McClellan said he had different beliefs then and trusted the president's judgement.

"Because of ... my belief and trust in [the president] and his advisers, I gave them the benefit of the doubt, and looking back on it now ... I don't think I should have," he said.

But the former spokesman said he did not believe anyone in the administration consciously lied, rather that officials became wrapped up in trying to sell the story.

'Puzzled'

Former and current White House officials have attempted to portray Mr McClellan as a disgruntled employee and a turncoat.

Copies of Scott McClellan's book
The author has been accused of selling out the administration
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in a statement on Wednesday she was "puzzled" by the book and that "this is not the Scott we knew".

Former senior Bush adviser Karl Rove, now a political commentator for Fox News, said he should have spoken up sooner if he had concerns about White House policies.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has also commented on Mr McClellan's claims that the administration misled Americans over Iraq.

She said Mr Bush had been "very clear" that concern about Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's suspected weapons of mass destruction was the fundamental reason for going to war.

In the book, Mr McClellan also criticised the government's response to Hurricane Katrina and accuses Mr Rove and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice-President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, of misleading him about a CIA leak case involving White House staff.


SEE ALSO
Rice defends Bush over Iraq claim
29 May 08 |  Americas
Ex-aide criticises Bush over Iraq
28 May 08 |  Americas
Profile: Scott McClellan
19 Apr 06 |  Americas
White House spokesman steps down
19 Apr 06 |  Americas


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