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What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception | [Scott McClellan]

What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception

Scott McClellan belonged to President Bush's select inner circle of trusted advisers during one of the most challenging, contentious periods of recent history. Over a period of more than seven years, he witnessed, day-to-day, exactly how the presidency veered off course, not only by its decision to topple Saddam Hussein, but by an embrace of confrontational politics in the face of an increasingly partisan Washington and a hostile media.
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Publisher's Summary

Scott McClellan belonged to President Bush's select inner circle of trusted advisers during one of the most challenging, contentious periods of recent history. Over a period of more than seven years, he witnessed, day-to-day, exactly how the presidency veered off course, not only by its decision to topple Saddam Hussein, but by an embrace of confrontational politics in the face of an increasingly partisan Washington and a hostile media.

In this refreshingly clear-eyed book, McClellan provides his unique perspective on what happened and why it happened the way it did, including the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina, and two hotly contested presidential campaigns. He gives listeners a candid look into who George W. Bush is and what he believes, and explores the lessons this presidency offers the American people as they prepare to elect a new leader.

©2008 Scott McClellan; (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"The former press secretary of President Bush (No. 43 version) empties out his notebooks, and all of Washington will be holding its breath." (Seattle Times)

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  •  
    Frank J. Regan Rochester, New York USA 07-24-08
    Frank J. Regan Rochester, New York USA 07-24-08 Member Since 2002
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    "Something is Missing"

    Scott reads well and his account of his years as the press secretary during a very tumultuous time of war is a wonderfully open glimpse into an extremely closed administration. The reader gets the sense that the former press secretary is trying very hard to get at the crux of what went wrong in the buildup and aftermath of the Iraq War. Scott's answer, which he maniacally holds to, is that recent administrations are always in perpetual election mode. So, one gets caught up in infighting and politics and forgets why one went to Washington in the first place.

    To like "What Happened" or not rests on why you would read this book in the first place. If you want to know how the Bush administration worked during the Iraq War from the inside, then it's a pretty good read. But, if you want to know what really did go wrong, and why most American are very suspicious of the way the Bush Administration conducted themselves after 9/11, then you are going to have to read beyond Scott's flurry of words to see into his soul. And, that will be difficult because what you have here is a very clever man who helped in the most public and concrete way to mislead the American people and/or himself into an unnecessary war. What is truly missing in "What Happened" is the answer as to why people like Scott McClellan (and several other key players in the Iraq War) did not resign or go public when they should have.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    stephen burlington, VT, United States 07-25-08
    stephen burlington, VT, United States 07-25-08 Member Since 2005
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    "what happened?"

    while somewhat simplistic, i found this to paint one of the most sympathetic portraits of a much maligned President. I was at a complete loss to understand why Bush and his allies felt this was an attack. For someone with as dismal a record as the current president, the kind words and sympathetic observations at least humanised Bush. He comes forth as well meaning yet manipulated by Rove, Rumsfield and Cheney, the true axis of evil. After listening to this, I cannot help but feel had Bush been left to his own devises, and not "advised" by such aggressive and self-serving people, this country may well be in a far better place. The narration was somewhat forced and did not flow as well as some, however it was listenable. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a beter idea of how a basically descent man was put in over his head, and made the fool by those with an outdated failed agenda from the past.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ronald Lynn Haven, FL, USA 06-13-08
    Ronald Lynn Haven, FL, USA 06-13-08
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    "Still on message"

    For years I wondered how this seemingly bright young man could stand before the press and the nation and mutter statements that seemed incredible. This book underscores the culture of deception and outright lying that has been the calling card of the Bush Administration. I was hoping that this book would lay bare the culture of corruption, but instead we find a young man who is still in a severe state of denial. Scott comes across as a likeable fellow, although incredibly naive for someone who grew up within the political environment. While he carefully reveals bits of the truth that most of us had long ago accepted, he cloaks the facts in the shroud of the continuing campaign that has become the cultural norm for Washington. This theme allows him to give a skewed perspective to the earth shaking decisions and deceptions that led our nation into the war in Iraq. Under this continuing campaign culture he seems to equate all misdeeds as just another example of the game in Washington, regardless of the global impact. Scott is clear in his continued support of George Bush as a strong leader, but gives examples of countless poor leadership characteristics of this man throughout the book. I wonder, how given the facts of the past 7 years, he still concludes this man is a great leader. In fact, I wonder if Scott has a full understanding of what leadership really is. He seems to have a good grip on politics and spin, but almost no understanding of leadership as we came to understand it in the military. He still confuses steadfast with stubborn and a lack of intellectual curiosity with laziness. Many people question why he waited so long to tell his story, but it is abundantly clear that he has not yet decompressed from his time under the bubble. Like a brain-washed cult member, he still reveals the traces of the stay on message mindset, and narrow focus of words on issues while missing the larger picture all together.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Salt Lake City, UT United States 06-02-08
    Susan Salt Lake City, UT United States 06-02-08 Member Since 2005

    slc_reader

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    "Not much new, but insteresting 1st hand look"

    The author reads the book himself which I found distracting at first. In the end I found it enhanced the book because the real story here is how a true believer comes to see he was duped. It seems more intimate with the author doing the reading. He's not the most ultra sophisticated person which his voice helps answer the question "how did he do it as long as he did?"

    It's fascinating how seemingly innocuous statements come to have greater significance when the puzzle slowly comes together. He would have ignored most of them had they not made him lie about the Plame affair. He's not at all happy about that and names names, including the Prez and VP.

    Scott McC ultimately seems a decent fellow. You can see how/why he became starstruck and how/why he slowly backed away. His background growing up in a political family (his mother was the mayor of Austin Texas, elected 3 times as a democrat) might have contributed to his inability to drink the Koolaid and become a true believer. Which might also explain why he was not the best press secretary.

    It's one of many books about Bush 43 that are must reads if you think we got off track and want to try to understand why.

    33 of 38 people found this review helpful
  •  
    HB Sugar Land, Tx 08-05-08
    HB Sugar Land, Tx 08-05-08 Member Since 2005
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    "Self agrandizement and justification"

    I found the forward the most interesting part of the book and fell asleep trying to finish it. To hear the author he has more martyr experience than Ghandi. I am very sorry I encouraged him by purchasing the book.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lewis Port Angeles, WA, USA 06-11-08
    Lewis Port Angeles, WA, USA 06-11-08
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    "A good man, but. . ."

    I can't disagree this is a book written by a good man who was duped by machinistic politics played out by Bush's team. Scott lays out his seven years of ultra-devotion to Bush, showing how Bush was a centrist and uniter as a Governor and a hard line rightist as a President. He speaks with total disdain about the "perpetual campaign" (from a book published in 2000) and explained how Bush went from trying to create consensus to manipulating public opinion to support his ideals, and that bothers Scott. It's also clear that part of Scott's reason for writing the book was to clear his name after being lied to by Rove and Libby.

    Having said all that, it's clear Scott doesn't get it, either. He stated that Bush "didn't lie" when Bush said the reason for the Iraq war was WMDs because "there was some evidence" of yellow cake somewhere. But, in the same breath, Scott admits that Bush's real reason for going into Iraq was to create a democratic government, something Bush's media manipulators knew would not "sell" the war. Most people with a strong moral center, which Scott claims to have, would recognize that Bush lied and manipulated the American people.

    On the positive side, Scott's narration adds to the personal mea culpa / I was a good guy attraction of the book. He also provides excellent detail about the unfolding events that dogged the white house during his seven years with Bush.

    On the negative side, it's clear he wrote this book with an attorney standing over his shoulder: He can't even make negative comments about Rove and Libby. Everyone is his friend and an incredible person. The presentation sometimes comes across like cotton candy.

    In the end, I doubt this book will convince anyone that Bush was not a manipulator and created an unnecessary war in Iraq.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol Herndon, Vatican City State (Holy See) 08-26-08
    Carol Herndon, Vatican City State (Holy See) 08-26-08
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    "Boring and self-serving"

    I've been listening to recorded books for 20 years, and this, by far, is the worst ever. The first half of the book is about the author's college days and early career. Who cares?! I fast-forwarded to the second half of the book to get some info about "What Happened?" And the narration was painful to listen to. Words like "ideals" pronounced "idills". AAARGH!!! He should never, ever, narrate anything again.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Roseville, CA, United States 06-22-08
    Scott Roseville, CA, United States 06-22-08 Member Since 2006

    Don't you just love a great story well told?

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    "Down with the "Permanent Campaign""

    This not the gotcha book that many liberals, (myself included) wish it was. Thus, McClellan's credibility is enhanced since What Happened? implies a very negative bias that the book does not contain. Rather it sensibly deplores how Washington has gotten into a Permanent Campaign Mode. The writer is fair to Bush even as he recalls him bungling key moments and statements.. One of these is the -16 words controversy- in a State of the Union address (about uranium for Saddam) leading to the Plame incident as part of the Permanent Campaign. Considering all Scott did for this administration, What Happened?; is extraordinarily bile free in a time when many make their millions selling books written specifically for those leaning left or right. Some may complain that the book is downplays Bush and his seeming total lack of competence to be president. You should not expect differently from a guy who worked for Bush for 17 years. But, as a Bush critic might point out, the Bush rationale for war on Iraq (as repeated by the author) is a direct contradiction of ideas! One must read the book to understand that statement. (Critics should not be spoilers.)McClellan, understandably as former press secretary, is an excellent reader with a perfectly modulated voice. The best author reader I have ever heard and a professional reader would never hit each word note for intended note. He concludes with suggestions for avoiding the The Permanent Campaign. This book should be required reading for anyone, liberal or conservative, who wishes to see a more properly governed nation... and these days, who does not?

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John APO, AE, USA 06-21-08
    John APO, AE, USA 06-21-08 Member Since 2008
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    "Very Insightful"

    I thought this book was a great read. It answers a lot of questions about why things happened the way they did in the Bush Whitehouse. It also imparts a good understanding of how things work in Washington DC and why we seem to be perpetually disappointed with politicians.

    I agree with some of the comments about the chapter dealing with Scott's background being a bit tedious. We spend a bit more time than seems necessary in Scott's youthful days. I was baffled why he thought the anecdotes about his grandfather where pertinent but after getting through that part, the relevance becomes clear when taken in context with the subject matter.

    Ultimately, the number of "ah ha" moments rise from a trickle in the first half of the book to a torrent in the last half. As I got the "behind the scenes" view of events I watched unfold on CNN, the president's abysmal approval rating made a lot more sense.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen McLeod New York, NY USA 06-17-08
    Stephen McLeod New York, NY USA 06-17-08 Member Since 2007
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    "Depressingly unsurprising"

    Scott McClellan has been criticized widely as having given us too little too late in this book. I disagree. Even though there's little here you didn't already know or suspect, this book is confirmation from one of the closest of sources that the catastrophe that was the presidency of George W. Bush was every bit as sinister and sordid as most of us knew. After all, McClellan isn't the first Bush defector to show us the dark side of the Bush administration.

    As to the narration, McClellan's congenial reading conveys, without being sentimental, the author's ultimate indigation with his former employer. McClellan was a mouthpiece who was lied to by his masters, and who passed those lies along to the White House press corps, and to the nation. This is his confession and apology. I believe him.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
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