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

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

[cnn-photo-caption image= 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. noemi in los angeles

    This book will become best-seller and every American should read it. We cannot allow our government to continue the way it is......we are headed down the same road if you vote for McCain!!

    Democrats Unite 08

    May 28, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  2. Impeach Bush & Cheney

    It is a shame that we cannot retroactively impeach a President and Vic President. Surely, in 5-10 years, the whole sordid truth of the Bush-Cheney white House years will surely be made public, and what Americans are likley to see if a government and its two mpst powerful leaders gone mad. Not only will these two republicans go downin history as the worst ever administration, they are as likely to be voted the most dishonest and most worthy of impeachment.

    May 28, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  3. No Bush

    We see that the truth of the Bush admin is coming out slowly ...

    With all these news from his own circles, how will Bush be remembered: No preseident ever lied to the American people as much as Bush did. It is sad that still about 30% of Americans approve his work....

    May 28, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  4. sky

    It is the beginning of the "cut and run". Those people who want to save face historically . Who went along on the ride because it was the only ride in town....and now are willing to tell all. Now there is no real fear or retribution because these guys are on their way out. They are over and so it will become ok for people who were scared into being part of the game.....can come forward and tell us all about it. I have a feeling this guy is just the beginning. Anyone who wants to save face will have to do the same or look like they were one of these guys.

    May 28, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  5. Jeff

    I'm a little puzzled by all of this. Supposedly, Bush is an imbecile and/or complete idiot. Yet, he has outsmarted Kerry, HRC and others who voted for the Iraq war. How can he outsmart people but still be an idiot? Maybe Bush isn't some stupid after all. When Teddy Kennedy stands firm, you call it conviction, when Bush stands firm, you call it blind, stubborn and refusing to adapt. Make up your mind!

    So this guy is trying to sell books. If he wrote a book that was positive about Bush, would he be getting the same coverage?

    And a note to Peter in PA: Liar is spelled LIAR, not lier. I hope you were typing quickly and just missed it. Your point is still taken because I know when the name-calling starts, then the battle of the issue is over.

    May 28, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  6. Christopher, Madison, WI

    Could the Hillary supporters please post your rants in the appropriate blog. You lost the court battle in Florida. We over Hillary and we don't need you in November! Move along!

    May 28, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  7. stan.

    Well the truth is out now the white house are trying to spin it.well this where I say that john mcain have a real prolblem come november,it is going to be a clear choice for the voters are you for the war or not the people that support the war vote john the ones are not for it will barack so I happy and for johns, info I am a republican but over my dead body will I vote for him.

    May 28, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  8. Major Michael in Lorton, Virginia

    I guess the question is, who is telling the truth? Did McClellan believe inthe Bush Administration and the information he provided to the American people? Or was he duped by the political puppet masters in the White House? It would appear that the individuals mentioned in McClellan are running to defend themselves, including Ms. Perino. Truth is so rare in politics that it is delightful to tell it. This is all about trumps everything.......and when money speaks the truth remains silent. Good luck Scott.

    May 28, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  9. Bayou Joe

    With Hillary out of the running., Obama is toast in the GE.

    Obama is not electable.

    We will not abandon our Freedom loving people in the Middle East.

    Semper Fi

    May 28, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  10. GM Maryland

    Wow, does it surprise anyone all the things this guy is saying? This administration has been nothing short of a debacle, and people are surprised at this!! WOW! Not the Scotty you know huh? PLEASE...

    May 28, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  11. Gary

    Funny that they never came out said that Mr. McClellan was lying!!

    Maybe Mr. Cheney should take him out on a hunting trip and ask him why he is so "disgruntled"???

    May 28, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  12. Elmo

    Look at the bright side, Bush gets to save money by cancelling the order for that second rocking chair.

    May 28, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  13. Charlotte

    To out a agent is treason in my book. If Nancy Pelosi and this congress would do their job and impeach this administration we would be a lot better off. Why is sex impeachable, and treason is not?

    May 28, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  14. FreshAir


    May 28, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  15. Kjetil

    He should have credit for telling the truth and thats something the Bush & Co that are still in white house never does. They lied about the war and they lie about the economy. Lets throw them out and let the GOP be out in the shodows for the next deccade.

    May 28, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  16. Dave, SC

    CNN is enjoying this charade. I sent my comments earlier, they were not published. Once agian. CNN must hire Scott as their commentator now. Or perhaps Scott can get a job in Obama administration.

    May 28, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  17. Chicago Architect

    I believe this is just a concrete example and is an accurate account in depicting how bad this president has been in taking care of this country and its people. The apathetic nature of this president, his obvious "out of touch" relationship with the common citizen and their current plight, and his unwillingness to look at their basic needs as well as their future, truly illustrate how short sighted and cordoned off this man is to countries real needs. It shows how much he has gone to fabricate facts and information to promote his own agenda.

    If half of the money he wasted on this war (and all his cronies who benefited from it) was used to help the needs of this country, (i.e. poverty, education, infrastructure, environment) the US would be better poised to help other needy countries around the world. This is not even mentioning all the goodwill the US would earn by truly acting as world leaders.

    Its a real shame to realize that the actions and inaction of this president will greatly harm the future of my children and their children, mainly because of his lack of humanity, foresight, and simple common sense. Mr. Bush, may your legacy teach future generations that the good of the many truly outweigh the good of the few. The world will suffer because of your mistakes, but hopefully, God willing, new leaders, with foresight and the welfare of the people and true goodness in their hearts, will emerge this November.

    May 28, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  18. Melvin

    Right, because the Scott you knew was the person you lied to, and he accepted those lies. This Scott is the one who is standing up to the lies of the past and the Bush policies.

    Congrats to you Scott, I hope your book sales go through the roof.

    May 28, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  19. John McCloy

    Let me see if I've got this straight: only if you lie about your sex life is it grounds for impeachment? I'd rather have a president who cheats on his wife than one who cheats on his country.

    May 28, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  20. martin

    and the republican smear campaign begins ,against the only honest person ,besides colin powell,ever to be in the bush admin. maybe he,[mcclellan], doesn't want to be sitting next to bush cheney and rumsfeld ,during their war crimes trial.

    May 28, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  21. Tejano

    Pretty pathetic when you have to back to a sole Grandparent to find a member of the military in your family. He was probably drafted since back then we had the draft. Today all of our sons and daughers served voluntarily. Why? Because they love our country and want to defend it from our enemies.
    If Obama is elected we will become the Republic of Texas. You think you are paying a high price for oil, wait till we leave and see how much you pay for it then.

    May 28, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  22. Crush Rush

    Limbaugh is having a tough time spinning today,he must be low on meds.His pinheads know they are losing, as the rushing tide of Truth sweeps over the bow of the good ship 'Rushtanic".

    May 28, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  23. Texican

    Long Live the Republic of Texas. The colors will fly again over Austin.

    Don't make us do it America. Vote for McCain.

    May 28, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  24. linda hemmingsen

    scott is just telling the truth of the bush administration.Just like the military who came out and said bush was wrong they were retired. so scott waited till he could leave and is now speaking up and the bush people do what they always do they try to destroy a good man.and make it look like he is lying. well people aren't buying it. obama is like bush he is using the media the same way instead of your unpatriotic if you say anything negative about bush he uses the racism crutch. the media is already in bed with him so how much truth will we once again get if he is president. another whitewash?

    May 28, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  25. William, Ca.

    There are two type of thought; to be played and those who play; which one is this?

    May 28, 2008 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
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