NO SHIT, Scott!!!
Bush's Former Mouthpiece Tells All
In his "scathing" new memoir, which will be released next week, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan accuses his former colleagues in the Bush administration of not being "open and forthright on Iraq," arguing that they engaged in a "political propaganda campaign to sell the war to the American people." President Bush "signed off on a strategy for selling the war that was less than candid and honest," writes McClellan, "not employing out-and-out deception but by shading the truth." McClellan, who is "the first longtime Bush aide to put such harsh criticism between hard covers," also claims in his book that former Bush adviser Karl Rove and former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney Scooter Libby "allowed" and even "encouraged" him to "repeat a lie" about their involvement in the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity. In one shocking revelation, McClellan "suggests that Libby and Rove secretly colluded to get their stories straight at a time when federal investigators were hot on the Plame case." The White House reacted with indignation yesterday, calling McClellan "disgruntled about his experience at the White House." Though current White House Press Secretary Dana Perino initially said Bush was not likely to comment on the book, she later told CNN that Bush "didn't recognize the same Scott McClellan that he hired and worked with for so many years." On background, White House aides were even more blunt, telling MSNBC's Kevin Corke that McClellan is a "traitor."
LOYAL BUSHIES STRIKE BACK: Bush was only one voice in a "chorus" of current and former Bush administration officials pushing back against McClellan's explosive allegations, often in very personal terms. "This now strikes me as self-serving, disingenuous and unprofessional," former Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend said on CNN. Rove, whom McClellan describes in the book as willing "to push the envelope to the limit of what's permissible ethically or legally," responded on Fox News by calling McClellan "irresponsible," adding that he "sounds like a left-wing blogger." Former White House Counselor Dan Bartlett called allegations in the book "total crap," saying that in hearing McClellan's criticisms, "it's almost like we're witnessing an out-of-body experience." McClellan's predecessor, Ari Fleischer, told NPR that he was "heartbroken" by the harsh tone of the book. Interviewing Fleischer for the CBS Evening News last night, Katie Couric noted that the former Bush administration officials now criticizing McClellan all sound like they "are operating out of the same playbook" by claiming "this doesn't sound like the Scott McClellan they knew."
THE USUAL AUTOMATIC SMEAR RESPONSE: McClellan is experiencing the same automatic smear response the White House deploys against former allies who dare to criticize the administration, including former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and former head of faith-based initiatives John DiIulio. In 2004, when Bush's first Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said publicly that "the Bush administration began planning to use U.S. troops to invade Iraq within days" after Bush took office, White House aides pushed back hard with personal attacks. One senior official told CNN that "we didn't listen to [O'Neill's] wacky ideas when he was in the White House, why should we start listening to him now." Last year, Bush's former chief campaign strategist Matthew Dowd publicly broke with the President by claiming that Bush had "become more, in my view, secluded and bubbled in." Bartlett dismissed Dowd's criticisms by saying Dowd had been "going through a lot of personal turmoil." Ironically, before he published his own criticisms, McClellan was often the one responding to critical books as the White House's top spokesperson. In 2004, when former counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke wrote a book charging that President Bush had "ignored terrorism for months" before 9/11, McClellan led the White House counter-charge, claiming that Clarke was a bitter ex-employee who "wanted to be the deputy secretary of the Homeland Security Department."
MCCLELLAN'S CREDIBILITY CHALLENGE: As ABC News's Jake Tapper pointed out yesterday, "some of the same language now being used to trash McClellan he himself used to trash previous administration authors." For instance, when Clarke published his tell-all book, McClellan claimed he was doing it for money because "he has written a book and he certainly wants to go out there and promote that book." But McClellan's credibility challenge goes beyond the fact that he once attacked people in his current position. McClellan charges the White House with not being "open and forthright on Iraq," which is a drastic shift from his past rhetoric regarding the war. As a White House spokesperson, McClellan repeatedly defended the conduct of the war, justified the case that was made to launch it, and defended Bush's handling of the war. "There were irresponsible and unfounded accusations being made against the administration, suggesting that we had manipulated or misused that intelligence. That was flat-out false," said McClellan in a 2006 press briefing. "We've been very straightforward about where we are, in terms of the theater in Iraq," he claimed in another. In 2004, he insisted, "This President is someone I think the American people recognize as a straight shooter."