McClellan: Plame leak the 'turning point' in his disillusionment
(Update at bottom: Ex-spokesman reveals Bush authorized leaks, Plame blogger reports)
Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan has been blasted by the people he formerly worked with since the release of excerpts from his memoir of his years with the Bush administration.
Current press secretary Dana Perino released a statement saying, "Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience. ... It is sad -- this is not the Scott we knew." Karl Rove similarly told Fox News, "This doesn't sound like Scott ... not the Scott McClellan I've known. ... It sounds like a left wing blogger."
In his first interview since the firestorm broke, McClellan spoke on Thursday with NBC's Meredith Viera about his reasons for writing the book. "It's important to look back and reflect," he stated. "The White House would prefer that I not talk openly about my experiences, but I think there's a larger purpose."
McClellan indicated his doubts started early, when "we got to Washington, and I think we got caught up in playing the Washington game the way it's played today." However, it was his unwitting role in the cover-up of the Valerie Plame leak that caused his final disillusionment and eventual resignation and provided "the launching-off point for the book."
"By the last ten months or so of my time at the White House, I grew increasingly disillusioned by things," McClellan told Viera. "When the first revelation came out that what I'd been told by Karl Rove and Scooter Libby -- that they were in no way involved in the leak of Valerie Plame's identity, which we now know was not true, despite the fact that I went to the podium and said these people assured me they were not involved -- I started to become a little more disillusioned about things."
"I have a higher loyalty than my loyalty necessarily to my past work," McClellan explained. "That's a loyalty to the truth and it's a loyalty to the values I was raised on. I talk about my upbringing in a political family that talked about the nobility of public service and the importance of speaking up and talking about making a positive difference. I hope that this book will help do that."
Vanity Fair points out one other striking passage from McClellan's book, in which he states, "It’s ... clear to me that Scooter Libby was guilty of the perjury and obstruction crimes for which he was convicted. When the president commuted Libby’s prison sentence and thereby protected him from serving even one day behind bars, I was disappointed. This kind of special treatment undermines our system of justice."
In contrast, Senator John McCain said of Libby last summer, before the commutation, "I think that you can make a case that he was singled out unfairly. I think that the appeals process goes forward. I happen to be one who admires Scooter Libby. I think he was a dedicated servant."
Ex-spokesman reveals Bush authorized leaks, Plame blogger reports
Marcy Wheeler, who received prominent media attention during the Scooter Libby trial and who blogs under the pseudonym Emptywheel at the popular site firedoglake believes that McClellan "doesn't know it yet" but he let a big cat out of the bag on the Today show.
Wheeler calls attention to this exchange:
McClellan: But the other defining moment was in early April 2006, when I learned that the President had secretly declassified the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq for the Vice President and Scooter Libby to anonymously disclose to reporters. And we had been out there talking about how seriously the President took the selective leaking of classified information. And here we were, learning that the President had authorized the very same thing we had criticized.
Viera: Did you talk to the President and say why are you doing this?
McClellan: Actually, I did. I talked about the conversation we had. I walked onto Air Force One, it was right after an event we had, it was down in the south, I believe it was North Carolina. And I walk onto Air Force One and a reporter had yelled a question to the President trying to ask him a question about this revelation that had come out during the legal proceedings. The revelation was that it was the President who had authorized, or, enable Scooter Libby to go out there and talk about this information. And I told the President that that's what the reporter was asking. He was saying that you, yourself, was the one that authorized the leaking of this information. And he said "yeah, I did." And I was kinda taken aback.
"Now, for the most part, this is not new," emptywheel writes. "We have known (since I first reported it here) that Scooter Libby testified that, after Libby told Dick Cheney he couldn't leak the information Cheney had ordered him to leak to Judy Miller because it was classified, Cheney told Libby he had gotten the President to authorize the declassification of that information."
She continues, "Thus far, though, we only had Dick Cheney's word that he had actually asked Bush to declassify this information. We didn't have Bush's confirmation that he had actually declassified the information. In fact, we've had Dick Cheney's claims that he--Dick--had insta-declassified via his super secret pixie dust declassification powers.
"But now we've got George Bush, confirming that he, the President of the United States, authorized the leaks of 'this information,'" Wheeler argues.
Excerpts from McClellan's book are available here.
This video is from NBC's Today Show, broadcast May 29, 2008.