Monday, June 2, 2008

Great Scott? Hardly.

So what did happen? Well, it would appear to be a case of Scott McClellan trying to serve two masters and failing to serve either. Though I've never visited the West Wing, I understand that the Press Secretary's Office is located at a (more or less) equal distance between the press room and the Oval Office - symbolic of the Press Secretary's responsibility to serve the President and the citizenry.

What I find interesting of course is that we somehow accept the notion that serving both parties represents competing rather than complementary interests. The President and the Press Secretary should be serving the true client here - the American people. You know, the people who pay the taxes, elect our leaders, and send their sons and daughters to war. Yes, those people.

When I was a little kid, I remember waiting for a haircut when a fight broke out between a mother and a petulant little brat who was screaming about how he wanted his hair cut (like it really mattered). Finally, the barber, who was ready to give both of them a crew cut at this point said, "who's paying for this?" The kid continued to scream, but the barber took his instructions from the mom who was paying the bill. Simple barber shop wisdom.

Future press secretaries would be well advised to consider that while the government may sign the check, the American people are the ones paying the salary. There's only one client here, not two.


  1. Well said, Leo. I agree with your point, but I also feel McClellan's position cannot be viewed with exactly the same lens as all other PR positions. I took a look at a different angle of this argument here - .

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  3. (Pardon the previous deletion, just corrected a few typos; here's the comment).
    I agree, it cannot. I think it's extremely important for people not to confuse the role of press secretary with that of the communication director and to understand that the role of the press secretary is also different from the responsibilities of the typical Director of PR/Communication in the private sector. But that said, doesn't the press secretary bear any responsibility for what he/she is saying? Plausible deniability is not a virtue - at least last time I checked.

  4. I think that you spell this out correctly, that the president and his men and women serve at the pleasure of the people. I also liked how you described where the press secretary sits as symbolic. Nice imagery.

  5. Thanks Kami, I'm getting a range of views to a related question I posted on Linkedin, which speaks to this notion of whether it's about serving two masters or working with the President to serve one.



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