Scott McClellan, US President George W. Bush’s former press secretary who angered old colleagues with a tell-all book earlier this year, said on Thursday he is backing Democrat Senator Barack Obama for US president.
McClellan is the second former administration official to back the Democratic candidate this week. Former US secretary of state Colin Powell came out Sunday for Obama.
While Powell chose Meet the Press to make his announcement, McClellan did it at the taping of comedian DL Hughley’s new talk show, which is premiering at 10pm tonight on CNN.
Hughley found a little begging helped.
“We are a new show and your endorsement would probably mean a lot,” Hughley said. “But don’t look at the fact that I am black or, no pressure. Endorse somebody, damn it!”
McClellan, who was Bush’s chief spokesman from July 2003 to April 2006, said he’s always planned to support the candidate that has the best chance for changing the way Washington works and getting things done.
“I will be voting for Barack Obama,” he said.
McClellan is also giving an extended interview on Larry King Live on Friday to talk about his endorsement.
McClellan grew disillusioned after leaving the administration and wrote a book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception, that surprised many for its blunt talk. He admitted to being part of a White House effort to shade the truth about the case for war in Iraq.
The White House said Bush was surprised and saddened about the book.
Meanwhile, Obama quit the White House trail for Hawaii, where he arrived yesterday for an emotional reunion with his gravely ill 85-year-old grandmother, 11 days before the US presidential vote.
Madelyn Dunham, who raised the 47-year-old Obama for much of his childhood, is his sole remaining link with his tight-knit family after his mother died of cancer more than a decade ago.
The Democratic nominee’s compassionate leave comes with Republican John McCain searching for a sudden lurch in momentum and new polls showing Obama well positioned in the vital battleground states set to decide the Nov. 4 election.
Obama arrived early on Friday in his native state, after an 11-hour flight from Indiana where he held a morning rally on Thursday.
Obama told CBS television that he decided to make the exhausting journey half-way across the Pacific to see Dunham — nicknamed “Toot” — despite the crush of campaign events as he “got there too late” when his mother Ann Dunham died.
“We knew that she wasn’t doing well but, you know, the diagnosis was such where we thought we had a little more time and we didn’t. And so I want to make sure that I don’t — I don’t make the same mistake twice,” Obama said. “My grandmother’s the last one left. She has really been the rock of the family, the foundation of the family. Whatever strength, discipline that I have, it comes from her.”
Dunham is reportedly suffering from a broken hip and generally failing health. Obama was due to return to the trail in Nevada today.
The Democrat’s absence — unprecedented this close to election day — gives McCain the chance to grab the limelight as he searches for a way to suddenly shift the momentum of a race that seems to be slipping away.
Obama’s place will be filled by wife Michelle and the campaign will saturate the airwaves with Obama ads.