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. Mark in FL

    Mr. McClellan, for one, has stopped drinking the purple kool aid which continues to flow through the pipes at 1600 Pennsylvannia Avenue. I've been saying this to family and friends for the past year and half. This administration and this President will go down as the worst in the history of this country.

    May 28, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  2. the antiBush OBAMA 08!

    Of course not. If he was the truth telling honest McClellan then you never would have hired him!

    Bush/McCain are a bunch of scumbags laughing all the way to the bank with my and every other taxpayers $$$.

    May 28, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  3. Richard

    Im glad scott finally is honest about the hideous Bush regime. He has alot to tell and i might buy his book to find out the shady deals Bush and Cheney have been into.

    May 28, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  4. Unreadable

    Yeah, well, get to know a new, more honest Scott McClellan, then.

    May 28, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  5. Diva in Pennsylvania

    Seriously, why isn't the PUBLIC outcry stronger??? If the PUBLIC pushed for the impeachment of Bush, in droves, then it would happen. America, you have one LAST chance to take vengeance for your trounced votes in 2000 & 2004!!! If you don't take it, then you cannot feel used and abused by this administration. I have PUBLICLY called for it on my internet radio show... The rest is up to you, or he and Cheyney'll be laughing at you well into 3008!!!!

    May 28, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  6. JC

    Tell the truth and shame the devil". The truth shall set you free scott. Thank you.

    May 28, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  7. Diva in Pennsylvania

    @ fred2..since another stole my name:

    Are you KIDDING??? PUH-LEEZ tell me you're kidding!!! So someone who flip-flops back and forth (which is EXTREMELY disloyal if he's done it so many times as sighted in your quote) is worth having on your sinking ship?

    I agree wholeheartedly! We'll keep the more loyal and focused delegates over here!!!


    May 28, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  8. bud in NC

    It seems to me that McClellan wants to cut himself loose because he knows the truth is going to eventually come out exposing the bunch of scum bags in the White House for what they have done to America and the rest of the world. He may be self serving but he will help to expose the axis of evil in the white house.

    May 28, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  9. FRED, Atlanta GA

    Scott McClellan ALWAYS looked nervous and spoke like he wasn't telling the truth. This book just confirm what was really going on in the white house.

    OBAMA 08/12!

    May 28, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  10. hakeemsdad, Florida

    So when one of yours cannot take the crap anymore and decide to tell the truth, you claim that he is a liar and and he is not the person we knew.
    Late or not justice will prevail and criminal will face charges.

    May 28, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  11. Susan

    Not one member of his staff has come out and called him a liar. They are scurrying like rats in the night. He should have been impeached a long time ago, along with Cheney!

    May 28, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  12. Harris

    Great insights, Mr. Roberts. Thanks for your take on the "discredit" machine now being stoked by all the usual suspects. It's gonna take years to fully unravel and bring to light all the heinous things done by the Chimp-in-Chief and his minions. Talk about "Shock & Awe." Just wait.

    May 28, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  13. Yrag

    Hey CNN..... in case you didn't get it...... this guy is talking about YOU and your incredible ===licking posture pre-war.... get off your phony high horse and admit the crappy job you did.

    May 28, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  14. Canadian feminist

    Americans seem to now agree with the rest of us who believe Bush & co. to be liars and war criminals. Why then are so many still planning to vote Republican to continue the occupation of Iraq? Wake up Americans and join the rest of the world again. I hope that you can get past your racism and vote Obama.

    May 28, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  15. Dave Greenwell

    Obama and Wright are totally excused? oil rules, how can you even compare these two? McClellan was an active participant - the voice - of the Bush Administration. You'd fault Obama for listening (not acting upon, just listening) to the ramblings of a nut case? If that is the standard by which we are to be judged, then I shall gladly no longer listen to You...

    May 28, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  16. kelly WI

    He's got his nose bent out of shape because he was only a press sec. and not part of the inner circle adm.

    May 28, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  17. Chipster

    I'm not sure what Kevin Rodriquez (VI) has to do with this subject but the Super Delegates can change their minds any time they want until they cast their votes at the convention.

    May 28, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  18. Brian from Fort Mill, S.C.

    That's right. It's not the Scott McClellan they knew. They knew him as a naive little wuss.

    Now he's not. So deal with it!

    May 28, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  19. Jose


    May 28, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  20. Brian from Fort Mill, S.C.

    "Venus May 28th, 2008 12:20 pm ET
    Hey – I hope Obama can use this guy on our team!
    Way to go Mr. McClellan!"
    Maybe you have a point. How does Obama/McClellan 08 sound? 🙂

    May 28, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  21. George

    Let's see how fast they can circle the wagons. Scott McClellan clearly has them on the run.

    May 28, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  22. Brian from Fort Mill, S.C.

    Perrino is next. Mark my words! 🙁

    May 28, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |


    May 28, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  24. Debbie,NJ

    Nothing happened to him. He feels he's not going to be the fall guy and go down by himself. He's going to take the rest of the administration with him. Kind of what Hillary's doing too. If she can't win the election no democrat will.

    May 28, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  25. proud army and navy mom

    what is so sad is that scott had to feel personally betrayed before he resented the lies and the proproganda.

    first our brave troops paid for his silence and then the victims of Katrina, not the mention our economy and our integrity before scott decided he was offended by bush and his co-horts crimes

    i appreciate him setting the record straight now, but over 4500 us troops dead, tens of thousands injured, mentally and physically, untold innocent iraqs deaths had to occur before he spoke up.

    May 28, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
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