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. Tony

    HELLO, ANYONE WITH AN OUNCE OF COMMON SENSE STILL LFEFT OUT THERE?????

    WHAT ELSE DO YOU EXPECT THE WHITE HOUSE TO SAY? WAKR UP PEOPLE, OF COURSE THE WHITE HOUSE WILL NOW TRY TO SMEAR MCCLELLAN, WHAT ELSE IS NEW?

    PROBLEM IS, MCCLELLAN IS AS GUILTY AS BUSH AND EVERYONE ELSE IN HIS ADMINISTRATION. THEY ARE ALL BLOOD-THIRSTY, WAR MONGERING, LIARS, CHEATERS AND FRAUDS.

    MCCLELLAN KNEW ABOUT IT, LIED ABOUT IT, WAS BUSH'S MOUTHPIECE AND HAD NO MORALS, INTEGRITY OR CONSCIENCE.

    THIS IS ALL ABOUT WHAT THE REPUBLICANS KNOW BEST! MONEY! AND BACKSTABBING! MCCLELLAN HAS A BOOK TO SELL AND WILL DO SO ANYWAY HE CAN. NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND, (REPUBLICANS EXCLUDED) BELIEVE FOR ONE MOMENT THAT MCCLELLAN WAS UNAWARE OF ANYTHING.

    IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY, RIGHT SCOTTY BOY?

    May 28, 2008 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  2. Never Again

    Thanks to honest and courageous men like Scott McClellen, George Bush will go down in history with a terrible but well-deserved disgrace as his legacy.

    I pray we never make such a horrific mistake again.

    That's why I am voting for Barack Obama.

    May 28, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  3. Patrick, Lake Stevens, WA

    It's ironic that this man, McClellan, would release a tell all book airing the dirty laundry of the White House now that he no longer works there – it's all for the purpose of creating publicity for his book and making money. If McClellan had these concerns back then, why did he not say something when he had the inclination? It would appear that he just played along. This, in my opinion, makes him just as deceitful and conniving as the Bush administration and in no way a hero as he help send fighting men and women to their deaths for the wrong cause. He shares the blame because he stood at that podium in the White House and gave press conferences supporting this war. Now McClellan wants to make money for telling what he really knew – what a shame!

    May 28, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  4. response to peter

    Liars* is the term. And Bill Clinton sent over 70 soldiers to there deaths and countless of somalis to there deaths for ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.. Clinton stood by and watched Rwanda get raped, he allowed slobadon milsovic to murder hundreds of thousands of innocent albanians. Perhaps you're not a supporter of Bill Clinton, Perhaps you're homeboys with JFK?!? who's failed bay of pigs invasion cost lives? they weren't American so who cares right? but maybe we should blame him for the escalation of troops in Vietnam which end result would be 58,000 american kids. Or perhaps the democrat Truman?? he only killed 52,000 americans. Or FDR maybe the most heralded democratic president since its inception. He can be responsible for oooo say 10 million lives roughly?!?!? all hellbound eh?

    May 28, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  5. Tim

    One word for Bush and McCain...Busted!!!! Wonder how McSame will spin a war that their own insider says was not necessary? There goes the only area he thought he was strong in...

    Obama 08/12

    May 28, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  6. Tony

    THIS IS JUST THE FIRST OFNMANY, MANY BOOKS TO COME ONCE OLD GEORGIE BOY GOES BACK TO THE COW PADDIE PASTURES OF TEXAS WHRE HE BELONGS.

    BUSH/CHENEY/RUMSFELD/RICE AND A LIST AS LONG AS MY ARM SHOULD BE TRIED FOR CRIMES AGAINST HUMANINTY AND EITHER EXECUTED OR SENT TO PRISON AND HARD LABOR FOR LIFE, BUT WE ALL KNOW THAT THE US HASN'T THE BACKBONE TO DO THAT, AT LEAST NOT TO THOSE CLOWNS.

    WE ONLY DO THAT TO PEOPLE WE CAN'T PROVE OUR CASE AGAINST OR PEOPLE WHO CAN'T AFFORD TO DEFEND THEMSELVES FOR LACK OF MONEY OR CONNECTIONS. GOD BLESS AMERICA!

    May 28, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  7. Dylan

    For years Scott McClellan made my cringe every time he opened his mouth to spew another Bush/Cheney/Rove lie...

    But I have gained a lot of respect for him for having the courage to tell the truth about these monsters.

    We cannot let McBush continue this disaster.

    May 28, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  8. Tony

    Add McClellan to the list of morons in the Bush White House. The list is never ending!

    Can't wati for Dana Periono's book, once she leaves Fantasy Land, gets back to reality and needs to make a few bucks. Be interesting to hear her excuses.

    May 28, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  9. Good heavens

    Scott McClellan of Obamas team,,,,the team has already too many traitors. America drop obamer.

    May 28, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  10. Francesca

    Thanks for Mr. McClellan coming forward; old news, though! We already knew the Good Ole Boys are a bunch of crooked hypocrits.

    May 28, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  11. David O

    When the Democrats get elected, VILLIANS and ROGUES like Karl Rove and others are GOING TO JAIL.

    May 28, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  12. Nia

    Intresting...Funny how all the BS comes out when I president is about to exit. The same thing happened when Bill Clinton took his exit after eight years. People were coming out of the wood work with stories. I'm not a fan of either, but it will be intresting to see what happens.

    May 28, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  13. Dylan

    This is typical of the Bush White House. Every time a former insider calls you out for the crimes you have committed...

    DISCREDIT, DISCREDIT, DISCREDIT...

    I guess McClellan is just another "disgrunteled" employee, huh?

    These war criminals need to be thrown in prison for life.

    May 28, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  14. Felly

    Bush needs to be tried at the World Court, in Hague. We have not seen the last of these books until after the general election. Where is Collin Powel's book? Bush can run, but cannot hide.

    May 28, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  15. Tony

    Kenneth:

    George Stephanopolous knew a lot more than he said while serving in the Clinton administration and kept silent as well.

    Saved it for his book and to cut a deal for his own Sunday show. Another backstabber with no morals or conscience. I live in Washington and see George on the street several times per week. Before he had his own show, "This Week with G.S." I would see him in the Dupont Cirlce area of DC and many times NOT ALONE. He had to give up a lot to get his own show, and change his image to the all American MAN, if you get my drift. Know many people in the city who can confirm that and I'm sure G.S. is shaking in his shoes waiting for the day he gets his.

    May 28, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  16. Nia

    I think Bushes record speaks for itself and this book might be the icing on the cake and prove what others have been saying for years but got set aside as consperacy theories.

    May 28, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  17. Uncle Sam

    Although members of the Republican party, Pres. Bush and Sen. McCain are two very different people. The truth is that Sen. McCain opposed the president's execution of the Iraq War from the start, risking his presidential chances for advocating a strategy that has proven correct. In fact, had Sen. McCain's proposal been adopted earlier, in all likelihood the loss of life and treasure would have been greatly reduced.

    Americans for McCain '08

    May 28, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  18. Candis

    It's the truth that makes us free. Thanks Scott for telling the truth. My question to Mr. Bush, Cheny, Rove and all those responsible for this terrible atrocity inflicted on so many people is ; how can you live with yourselves? Do you really have fish skin – cold and callous individuals; all this done for the sake of greed? Hell has been enlarged for all of you and your cronies. Bush, Karl Roves, Libby, Cheny are all walking around like proud peacocks while there are so many people suffering because of their lies and deception. My prayer is that you hell is 100 times worse than the hell you have put so many people through.

    May 28, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  19. nannie bouroughs, Kenosha, WI

    NO ONE in America has ever BELIEVED anything coming out of the Pravda White House – WH Press Secretary – EXCEPT the LIBERAL MEDIA which believes that the Matrix Movie(s) are REALITY!

    May 28, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  20. Just Sayin..

    THANK YOU SCOTT. You have been redeemed....Time to impeach cheney, bush, and time to put Rove, Cheney and Bush in jail...

    May 28, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  21. Brandon

    Spare – The facts have been obvious for years and now they have been confirmed by one of Bush's inner circle. What does it take for you people to face the facts?

    Go back to your corner, put you fingers in your ears and continue to chant "I can't hear you, I can't hear you" like the other 27% of the country who choose to remain deaf and dumb.

    May 28, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  22. No McSame

    Of course not because he is telling the truth.

    May 28, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  23. Nuwan Samaranayake

    The problem with all the republican administrative staff and the congress is that they followed Bush just because he is the leader of the party and out of loyality. Even when they all knew his judgement was wrong regarding many things including Iraq war. Now these people after serving in this failed administration points the finger at it. There is no pride in doing that. No one should just follow a leader blindly knowing that leader is doing the wrong thing. I have no regard for Scott McClellan. He is one of them who followed a leader who has destroyed this nation. He can now say whatever he wants. Well that does not count. He should have done it a long time ago. It is like asking sympathy from the people after u do the wrong thing purposely.

    We will see a lot of books like this or comments like this when the Bush leaves the White House in 2009. I am not simply interested those books written by traitors. Everyone serving in white house and republican congress who supports president are responsible for all this mess the people of America is going through. They should have acted conciously at the right time instead of criticizing after leaving the job. That is just a cowerdly act.

    May 28, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  24. DJ, LA, CA

    Oh please...so did Scott McClellan have some sort of mutliple personality syndrome or is just fabricating all of this to sell books?

    Scott McClellan is just ONE of several others very close to Bush that have made similar claims.

    May 28, 2008 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  25. Bob Stephens

    This White House is full of and Liars and law breakers. It is refreshing to have someone that worked there actually come out and tell the truth to the American People. I wonder what John McSame is going to have to say now.

    May 28, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7