May 28th, 2008
10:40 AM ET
13 years ago

Roberts: White House says 'not the Scott McClellan we knew'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/05/28/art.mcclellan.ap.jpg caption="The contents of McClellan’s book surprised many of his former colleagues."] (CNN) - When Karl Rove was first asked about the incendiary allegations in former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan’s new book ‘What Happened,’ he said it was ‘irresponsible’ for McClellan to assume that a meeting between him and Scooter Libby was about getting their stories straight regarding the Valerie Plame leak.

And when current Press Secretary Dana Perino, who cut her teeth in McClellan’s press shop said the White House was ‘puzzled’ by McClellan’s assertions, and repeated what now appears to be the official White House line on this latest turncoat - “not the Scott McClellan we knew”.

Who is the Scott McClellan I knew? I spent 6 years at the White House for CBS News. I first met Scott as the deputy to Ari Fleischer and got to know him pretty well. He was a good guy, though something of a tightwad with information - always frustrating when your job is to pry tangy little nuggets of news out of the Administration. He was a man of good humor, fair and loyal to a fault. I had never known him to cross anyone in the White House, or break a confidence. I think you would hear the same from my former colleagues.

But something changed when McClellan found out he had been duped by Rove and Libby in his October of 2003 assertion that they had not been involved in the Valerie Plame leak. I talked to him about it in his office one day, and while he didn’t give away outward emotion, I could see in his eyes that something had shifted. He had been hung out to dry and he did not appreciate it one bit. McClellan remained the loyal soldier, but from that day forward, you could see that he no longer believed.

That betrayal of trust was much deeper than anyone, including myself could have imagined. His criticism of the White House and the president - extraordinary for a former press secretary - runs the gamut from the CIA leak to an “unnecessary” war in Iraq to Bush’s “lack of inquisitiveness.” I have never known a press secretary to be anything more than mildly critical of his or her former boss. Scotty has very nearly set fire to the building.

And in expected fashion, White House officials, current and former have cranked up the machine to destroy his credibility, dismissing McClellan as ‘out of the loop’, suggesting he was basically a flack and not really a part of the president’s inner circle. Perino even called him a ‘sad’ figure. In the past, the White House has flensed its turncoats with the expertise of a 19th century New England whaleman. Just ask Paul O’Neill or Richard Clarke - former Bush loyalists who dared to transgress the unwritten code.

But I have a sense this time will be different. McClellan is stating the now obvious - the accepted - the widely believed. A minority of Americans think the Iraq war was necessary. A court of law has ruled that Scooter Libby lied. And there’s pretty good reason to conclude that Rove only escaped prosecution by the skin of his teeth.

So the problem with the White House taking the long knives to McClellan is this: With the benefit of hindsight, more reasonable people are likely to believe him than those who denounce him.


Filed under: John Roberts
soundoff (152 Responses)
  1. jeremy

    how is it that Bill Clinton was impeached for getting it on with an intern and this administration hasn't been impeached?

    put these people in jail already.

    May 28, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  2. "The Great Elephant Is Wounded"-Kareem From Hampton, Va

    Have you all noticed that they have YET to attack what he said! They have YEt to say the claims were falseThey've just been sitting there shocked! Do you all see this?!! Makes you wonder doesnt it? All they say is that he breached their trust! Only way that happens is when you tell something that isnt supposed to be told...

    May 28, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  3. boered1

    Guess it is not, this is a man who can speak the truth, something you have never seen before, and like in the last last article, it explains why you are so puzzeled.. you see it is TRUTH something you know nothing about

    May 28, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  4. Kenneth M

    WHAT IS WITH THIS GUY DNC Kevin Rodriquez (VI)? HE HAS Switched from Obama to Clinton. He switched from Clinton to Obama on 5/10. We got confirmation from the Clinton campaign that he has re-endorsed Clinton. WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM? PERHAPS HE SHOULD BE STRIPED OF HIS ENDORSMENT POWERS. ITS LIKE DEALING WITH A CLOWN.

    May 28, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  5. oil rules

    Yes, we all know Bush "lied" even when he had the support of Kerry, Clinton, many dems, etc to go to war. But, who gives a rip about what some disgruntled press secretary said and as far as I know, Bush isn't running for a 3rd term......This guy's word will be like gold to Bush haters, but Obama and Wright are totally excused, no harm done. What a joke!

    May 28, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  6. the antiBush OBAMA 08!

    This is just proof positive that there’s just too much deception in Washington. We, the American people, are in desperate need of change and soon! Hillary doesn’t offer it, plain and simple. She' s just business as usual and we DONT need that! McCain is the exact opposite of what we need to fix all the wrong bush inc has perpetrated.

    May 28, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  7. FLorida

    The white house is a bunch of LIARS obviously they will denied everything this guy says!! But we know the truth, we want Bush GONE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 28, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  8. Chief lagosboy, NJ

    George Bush's chickens have come home to roost!
    President Bush aka “The Worst President Ever” as been a puzzled individual for the past 7+ years. This guy is stuck on stupid! Bush do the American public a favor and resign, you are a failure and a disgrace to the presidency. This buffoon has single handedly destroy this country, we are the laughing stock of the world. He is so out of touch with everyday people, Let see: High Food Prices, High Unemployment, Foreclosures in the thousands, All Time High Gas Prices, illegal and Unpopular War, Civil Rights Violations, The Economy in Shambles, and the list goes on and on and on, Mission accomplished indeed! May God forgive you because the American Public will sure not! A vote for Grandpa McCain = Bush 3rd Term, America we can’t afford to make this mistake again!
    Congratulation Obama, we are almost home!

    Our President Obama 08′ & 12′

    May 28, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  9. Venus

    Hey – I hope Obama can use this guy on our team!

    Way to go Mr. McClellan!

    May 28, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  10. Rebecca

    The Bush/Cheney administration are all criminals to some extent or another and will pay for it one of these days. Congress needs to do it's job and have these criminials brought under charges.

    May 28, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  11. LA

    Not the one you knew? The one you knew was a liar like the rest, right?

    May 28, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  12. Spare

    So, once again, guilty until proven innocent ... all based on your perception of the look in McClellan's eyes at a single meeting.

    Or, more accurately, he is saying what you want to hear, so therefore, it must be true. But then, anything else wouldn't sell books, would it?

    Thank you for your opinion ... but then, like other things ... everybody has one.

    May 28, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  13. Enlightened Voter

    Why, becuase he broke from the typical republican mold and told the truth for a change?

    May 28, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  14. What if?

    IS THAT RIGHT? NOTTTTTT!!!!

    May 28, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  15. JJ

    I don't know why this current administration seems surprised he wrote a book or "disappointed". You hang someone out to dry, you will get what's coming to you eventually. It's karma baby.

    May 28, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  16. NickNas

    All of this does is make me wonder out loud.

    WHY IS THIS NOT SWORN TESTIMONY IN FRONT OF THE IMPEACHMENT COMMISSION???

    May 28, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  17. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Bush and Cheney used the fear factor with all employees and if they didn't say yes Cheney would let his "attack dog" attorney lose on them. The White House comments sound exactly what is expected of an employer that has screwed you over then turns around and tells you they don't understand why you feel that way. Bush and Cheney aren't exempt from law or impeachment.

    May 28, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  18. peter in PA

    All those Hillary supporters saying "If not HIllary, I will vote for McCain", look what you will be voting for another 4 years. A vote for McCain is a vote for the liers Bush and Cheney. If these two criminals ever believe in God, they will rot in hell for killing 4000 US soldiers and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens.

    May 28, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  19. Gorbashov, Long Beach, Ca.

    Well, we opponents of Dumbya's failed policies were right all along.......................hmmm, who would have thunk it!

    All politics, all the time for these criminals!

    It's time for a clean sweep!

    Yes, we can!

    May 28, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  20. Ian

    "The truth? Hmmm. Never heard of it."

    May 28, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  21. New job for McClellan

    McClellan should start flacking for Hillary Clinton – he has no moral scruples about working for liars and then profiting from it later. He can explain all about her non-linear delegate math and the sniper fire.

    May 28, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  22. for realsies

    Sadly, they are all going to get away with it. Every single one of these people should be thrown in jail for war crimes, crimes against humanity, gross misconduct, conspiracy, treason and anything else the courts can possibly make stick to their sliming, lying traitorous hides. I say if some sort of world court or UN court asks for Bush we hand him over on a silver platter with his cronies as side dishes. We have been betrayed.

    May 28, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  23. Doris,Memphis, TN

    He might not be the one they knew, but he is the one we need to hear!

    May 28, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  24. fred2..since another stole my name

    Go Hillary....all the way to the Convention!!

    Kenneth M May 28th, 2008 12:17 pm ET

    WHAT IS WITH THIS GUY DNC Kevin Rodriquez (VI)? HE HAS Switched from Obama to Clinton. He switched from Clinton to Obama on 5/10. We got confirmation from the Clinton campaign that he has re-endorsed Clinton.
    =====================

    He is seeing the writing on the wall....Obama will NEVER win in November!!

    GO Hillary!!

    May 28, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  25. Vic

    Why doesn't everyone come to the conclusion that McClellan needs the money and that's why he wrote such sensational . Those who say he doesn't sound like the "Scott we knew," are right. He was rather boring in his job, but "boring" doesn't sell.

    May 28, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
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