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. rice, bryan

    you ask any republican, they will believe that this is all the democrats fault. they might even believe that bill clinton had this arranged. i am sure that fat boy limbaugh, and funny boy hannity, will lead their flock believe that the burn heart liberals are to blame for everything the this admistration has done illegally. and tell you the truth if you read this book you may not even believe everything either, but behind every lie is a little bit of truth. just keep listening, and sooner or later the truth comes out. and bush you are the biggest liar this country ever produced.

    May 28, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  2. That's Reality

    Sneaky little guy waiting for his opportunity to strike. I wouldn't trust anything he says if this is the way he operates.

    May 28, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  3. Vig

    Why is it that every time someone exposes the sleaze they get tagged as "disgruntled". I think it's the American public that is disgruntled – all Bush has to do is look at his disapproval ratings. Bush is the fraud and the American public know it. So that can throw mud and every other piece of garbage on McClellan and it just isn't going to stick. The Bush administration has stunk since it stole the election.

    May 28, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  4. Brian

    "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" is the best White House Damage Control could come up with? Give me a break.

    May 28, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  5. Phil in KC

    In other words, the Bush administration can dish it out but they can't take it. They'll use and abuse their help but expect unquestioning loyalty. Doesn't sound like much of a relationship to me.

    May 28, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  6. Wake Up America

    Bayou Joe hit the nail on the head. Starting with the election in 1992 we have been gradually been tearing our country apart from within. Winning at all costs is the new motto in this country. The liberal extreme of the Dem party wanted the whitehouse back at any cost in 1992 and changed the rules of engagement. In 2008 the extreme right has jumped into the fray thinking all fair in War and Politics. Now with both of them pulling together it's just a matter of time. The mainstream media and political surrogates want you to believe that it's doomsday unless their chosen one is elected to save us from ourselves. In the process they believe it's ok rip apart the flesh of everything this country stands for. Most american's are followers and therefore are jumping into the fray without realizing they to are tearing our country to shreds. I'm not as worried about Iran or Al Queda as I am of the politician's and society that have chosen the extreme fringes of this country's political system. Our generation is weak, selfish and ignorant. God help our children 20 years from now. What an example we are setting for them. Maybe it's time for a new party. Maybe it's time we've told Washington enough is enough. Maybe it's time for term limits. Maybe it's time to say no more free rides for those who say they want to serve our country in the form of life time benefits when they don't contribute a dime. Maybe it time for us to quit accepting high taxes and nothing in return. The list goes on.

    May 28, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  7. Nija

    Oh!!! I love this country. If this guy served under any president in Africa he will sychophant to that administration. Only in America. If the content of this book is false or the truth, only time will judge him. Because you cannot aprobate and reprobate at the same time.

    May 28, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  8. NickNas

    This title should read.


    May 28, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  9. Conservative Buyer- CA

    This is the beginning of the end for John McCain's "Double Talk Express".

    May 28, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  10. Gabe in TX

    Go Scotty Go!!!! I'll be buying your book when it hits the shelves! Don't let anyone keep you down. It's about time an Impeachment Hearing gears up. Anyone? Anyone?

    May 28, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  11. Tony





    May 28, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  12. Tony


    May 28, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  13. TonyNJHC

    What happened to our country and election system? At times, I think I should pinch myself to confirm the fact that I am fully awake and witnessing what is going on, as it seems like a once very good play, which has gone bad. The founders of our Great Democracy would be sad today, or maybe they are looking down from above, some laughing, some crying, still others watching in shear amazement. Some might be saying, for all we did for that generation, they now do this? Are we to wander is some strange wilderness, aimlessly without direction. How happy I was in 1989 when the awful wall finally fell in Berlin and across eastern Europe. Now look at us now, we can't even count our own votes. Don't look to outside powers as destroyers of our Democracy, as we are doing a good enough job of it on our own. To this the sad label will be affixed, Made in America. We destroyed our own Democracy

    May 28, 2008 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  14. Pistoff

    The McLellan they knew bent over daily for Bush, but now that he's having trouble getting the blood stains off his hands he has a tinge of remorse. And .. it's hard to ignore the mint his book might make him. What a tool.

    May 28, 2008 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  15. D Frank

    The White House says this is not the McClellan that they knew. Well is seems that the white house has consistent problems with acquiring the necessary knowledge for just about everything.

    Is that a surprise since they did not get the necessary information on WMD in Iraq before they committed America to a war that seems to have no end.

    So why is not knowing about McCellan and his opinions, any different??

    May 28, 2008 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  16. Phil Newton

    Congress: Begin using your subpoena power.


    May 28, 2008 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  17. carrie sean

    well,he actually said the truth
    these people are in a constatnt state of denial,like billary
    old washington really has to go

    May 28, 2008 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  18. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I find it interesting that I am not the only one to see that they have attacked the person (Scott McClellan) rather than the content of what he said. Until they do that, why should he retract his words and book. Maybe it is the idea that John Roberts mentioned; being hung out to dry can really change a person.

    May 28, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  19. Al

    Nobody is comfortable doing crimes, like launching uncalled war. Sooner or later something human comes up even in hardcore Bush-like morons. Let's just not forget that all who voted for that war (including McCain and Hillary) must be swiped out of any government offices.

    May 28, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  20. D Frank

    Just a quick comment on the latest Obama's faux pas regarding Auschwitz. This is not such a big deal after all it is just another incident of a politician over exaggerating.

    It also reminds me that Obama is not anything special and he is just as likely to blow things out of proportion as Hillary Clinton or John McClain. But one thing that is different from the other 2 politicians is that they do not go around and preach "CHANGE" as he does saying that he does not want to play old style Washington politics.

    This is the very thing that peeves me about him and why I have difficulty in supporting him as the Nominee. He is a BS'er. He plays the same game and he is dishonest about it. Bill Clinton is absolutely correct when he made suggestion that the race card was first used or played by the Obama Campaign.

    Everyone seems to blame the Clintons but the Obama Campaign has been playing the Race Card flawlessly and CNN or other NEWS agencies do not say a thing.

    But it seem s to be OK to speak or act with gender bias , oh yes that is not a problem because it is OK to pick on women. DOUBLE standards still exist and are alive and well in America.

    May 28, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  21. JT Johnson

    McClellan has ruined himself. The democrats don't like him because they think he lied while in the White House, and the republicans don't want him because he can't be trusted to do his job within his own integrity.

    May 28, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  22. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    If the Rove and Libby conspiracy meeting disturbed McClellan so much, he should talk to AUSA Fitzgerald about it if there's anything he hasn't already told him about the case.

    May 28, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  23. FedUpDem

    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. WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM? PERHAPS HE SHOULD BE STRIPED OF HIS ENDORSMENT POWERS. ITS LIKE DEALING WITH A CLOWN.


    LOL such hypocrisy from you obamidiots

    May 28, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  24. john williams san diego, ca.

    john roberts wants to be the next keith olberman or dan blather, whichever comes first.

    May 28, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  25. Generation X

    FRED2- I would like to let you know that Hillary Clinton sent a memo to all the superdelegates with charts and graphs showing her leading in all different categories....the problem with that is that the charts and the graphs have KARL ROVE & CO logo at the top of it! So she is sending Demorcratic superdelegates information from a Republican....LOL. And FRED you wonder why your candidate is losing?

    May 28, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
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