It’s a tangle of competing impulses: a confused and unconvincing memoir that aims to excuse (but never explains) its author’s toadying past; a series of flailing attempts to settle scores; a lament over what Mr. McClellan calls the "Washington game" and how it led to a war he helped sell but now opposes; and an undergraduate-level analysis of the "permanent campaign" mind-set that prevails in Washingtonand has, in fact, for the past 30 years, though Mr. McClellan seems to have only just discovered the idea.

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