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. Bayou Joe

    The year of the Traitor continues. Clinton is stabbed in the back by
    Richardson. Rev. Wright takes it to Obama. Where is the loyalty?
    Gone with all the rest of our core values. No wonder Obama is making such a headway politically. America is destined to be destroyed not by invasion but from our own enemies within the country.
    THESE ARE INDEED THE LAST DAYS OF THE NEW ROMAN EMPIRE.

    May 28, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  2. Bush caught red handed

    you know when someone is telling the truth? WHEN EVERYONE COMES OUT YELLING, SCREAMING, CRYING, SUING AND FALLING OUT.

    This only proves to ME Scott McClellan is telling 100% of the truth!

    May 28, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  3. neverobama

    THIS GUY IS A LOSER!

    STILL LOVE MCCAIN AND WANT HIM TO BE OUR NEXT PRESIDENT.

    VOTE MCCAIN
    VOTE MCCAIN
    VOTE MCCAIN

    May 28, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  4. A Nobody

    O-bamboozle. Really the great uncle liberated the wrong concentration camp? Perhaps he (Obama) should at least get the facts straight when reciting a tall tale

    May 28, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  5. JP

    Scott McClellan... lied to by the White House (Rove, Cheney, et al)? What a shocker! Always check which way the breeze is blowing while in DC. That way, you can avoid the stench emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    May 28, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  6. dwho

    This is nothing strange. Most people are afraid of the president when his tenure is not over. This might have been in the case of McClellan. He could have been listened to when every American in this country were still favoring George W. Bush and his fear tactics of political inneuodo. Raising the bar of terrorism and lowering the bar. At the time Bush's bar of favoritism was high but people are getting to know the truth that is why McClellan is not stepping up to unvile the hidden treasures of the Bush's Administration.

    John McCain is doing more harm to himself by wanting to continue such failed policies.

    May 28, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  7. Ralph

    I guess, if he never criticized the president and his administration in the past, we should imply he is a liar. Maybe he liked his job. As far as this not being the man they knew – they obvious lt didn't know him that well. I must say, a nicely coordinated attack on his credability. Very lawyerly indeed.

    May 28, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  8. Kenneth M

    THIS IS THE SAME THING GEORGE STEPHONOPOLIS DID TO THE CLINTONS. SOME HOW THE TRUTH ALWASY COMES OUT. SOMETIMES IT IS TOO LATE.

    May 28, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  9. Bush v. Clinton loyalty

    McClellan is not saying anything new – what's new is how close in the inner circle this takes us to confirm what we all know to be true.

    What is news is how much the Clintons will claim 'loyalty' over principal in their battle of the DNC. Hillary and Bill have invoked every boogieman to try to defame Obama and plead victim themselves. It is a travisty to themselves and the Party. The DNC will be vilified no matter what, but they stand on much firmer ground of maintaining the Party and not causing further splintering (caused by the Clintons), if they are consistent in past practice (however inelegant) and find a way to penalize the state parties, seat the delegates, and not over-enfranchize Hillary, because she's screamed the loudest. We'll see...

    Bush has lost his loyalty because he lost the legitimacy to lead even with those who sided with him ideologically. The Clintons have done the same – let's see if the chickens come home to roost.

    May 28, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  10. Steve in DC

    "Not the Scott McClellan you knew?" ohh yeah...you thought he would take that crap to the grave like everyone else. Here's a clue...me thinks he wont be the last!

    May 28, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  11. Joe Regis

    That goes to show the level of integrety of this administration.

    Wanton desire to put Americans in arms way.

    America will stand up for herself this time.

    A new orthodoxy is coming to town.

    Obama/Webb 08&12.

    May 28, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  12. John, CA

    Wow, Scott. I can respect you now. In fact, I'm proud of you.

    May 28, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  13. Mary

    'not the Scott McClellan we knew'

    Oh my, he now SPEAKS THE TRUTH!!!!

    May 28, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  14. Glenn

    The truth is always the truth no matter when it is revealed or who reveals it. It could not be easy for Scott to bring the truth out at any time. I always disliked him for his protection and covering up for Bus when he was Press secretary. I can admire him for finally coming forward. Any crap you hear from Rove and the coconspirators just proves Scott is true. Coverups are always revealed in the long run. Politicians never learn that they come out best by telling the truth and not trying to spin or deflect or lie or coverup. Thanks Scott for coming forward.

    May 28, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  15. Kelby

    Where is the Scott McClellan we knew?
    I remember whatching this guy on CNN and thinking to myself, "How do you lie like this and then look at yourself in the mirror? Do you have to give up your soul to lie like that?
    Now, everyone he used to work with is so surprised now that he is coming out. Maybe he can see the future and doesn't want to be tried for WAR CRIMES without getting his version of the truth out there on paper.
    Remember Tenet? The guy from the CIA who said WMDs in Iraq was a slam dunk. See the connection? I would expect to see more Bush administation officials come out of the fog of lies and ignorance produced by this administration and try to save their souls by spilling their guts

    May 28, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  16. Alice

    he's not the McLellan they knew – the one they knew was an unquestioning foot soldier

    May 28, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  17. kim portland, oregon

    nice spin, karl, but your words are EMPTY!!! 78% of us know everything mclelland says is true-and so do you.

    how do these people keep their lies straight? they'd impress even satan with their lying "skills".

    give it up, all of you, all you can do now is pray (since you're such GOOD christians) that you get out of prison before you're 80!

    May 28, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  18. Republican in Idaho

    Finally someone has the balls to tell the truth. We should be holding our president accountable for his actions. We are the people, not the government.

    May 28, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  19. Ehsanul Haque

    One does not need to write a book to say the current government invaded Iraq for no reason. I watched most debates in support and against invading Iraq prior America got in to it. I'm a very ordinary person and if I understood there was no any reason to invade the country and everything was manipulated just to do that to satisfy the purpose of some, John Roberts understood that and still he continued his job in the White House.
    He now wrote the book to tell the truth behind the Invasion, to make some money (that's not bad), to cover him up for playing dis honest to mankind and so on.

    May 28, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  20. Vietnam Veterans Against McCain

    McCain is a fraud and a backstabber.

    No wonder he and Bush get along so well.

    May 28, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  21. Austin, TX grrl

    I"d bet money Scott McClellan is planning to run for something in his (very liberal) hometown of Austin, Texas. A die-hard Republican couldn't get elected dogcatcher in Travis County. McClellan's just pandering to the home folks. Trust me, we've had to put up with this family for years.

    May 28, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  22. Ehsanul Haque

    One does not need to write a book to say the current government invaded Iraq for no reason. I watched most debates in support and against invading Iraq prior America got in to it. I'm a very ordinary person and if I understood there was no any reason to invade the country and everything was manipulated just to do that to satisfy the purpose of some, 'Scott Mclellan' understood that and still he continued his job in the White House.
    He now wrote the book to tell the truth behind the Invasion, to make some money (that's not bad), to cover him up for playing dis honest to mankind and so on.

    "sorry for mistaking the name" in the previuos text.

    May 28, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  23. Amused, Las Vegas

    How did this story get to be about Clinton? Obama-mania at full tilt again?

    May 28, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  24. Christopher, Madison, WI

    Hey Oil Rules...you're actually saying it was okay for Bush to lie us into war, borrow trillions of dollars from the commies in China to pay for it, get our troops killed, threaten our national security and our standing in the world, eavesdrop on it's citizens, not provide adequate health care for our troops, ruin our economy...and you're still hung up on Obama's pastor?!?! You must be part of the 23% still approving of Bush the village idiot. Please stay home on election day. You have done enough damage!

    May 28, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  25. Crush Rush

    Yes, lets all believe that lying snake Carl Rove.They all signed "signing statements" relieving them from guilt so they cant ever be prosecuted next year or ever.Bet you didnt know that did you?

    May 28, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
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