Water Man Spouts

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Regarding the McClellan snippet

{1}"The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

"There was one problem. It was not true.

"I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President's chief of staff, and the President himself."
--snippet from Scott McClellan’s book

The news that Scott McClellan is attempting to distance himself from the incorrect information he provided to journalists at White House press briefings has created some renewed interest in the Plame scandal. There are over 700 articles listed in a google search, indicating that everyone from the corporate media to progressive bloggers are discussing the potential significance of the few sentences of McClellan’s book.

Is it simply an attempt to sell books? Could it lead to Patrick Fitzgerald calling for a new grand jury to examine what McClellan may know about the Plame scandal? Or might it be something different altogether?

Let’s take a closer look.

{2} " ’I’ve made it very clear, from the beginning, that it is totally ridiculous,’ McClellan said. ‘I’ve known Karl for a long time, and I didn’t even need to go ask Karl, because I know what kind of person he is, and he is someone committed to the highest standards of conduct.’ But McClellan added, ‘I have spoken with Karl about this matter ….I’ve made it very clear that he’s not involved, that there’s no truth to the suggestion that he was. …. I’ve made it clear that there’s nothing, absolutely nothing brought to our attention to suggest any White House involvement, and that includes the vice president’s office."
--Hubris; Isikoff & Corn; pages 322-323

In the fall of 2005, it had become clear that both Karl Rove and Scooter Libby had been involved in the Plame scandal. A 10-15 NY Times article "Bush Adviser Goes Before Grand Jury Again" noted that Rove had testified for the fourth time before the grand jury, which was considering handing down indictments in the case. The article’s sub-title read: "Testimony comes as a mood of foreboding grips Washington."

Three days later, the Times ran an article "Bush Crises Raise Criticism of Chief of Staff’s Management Style," in which Andrew Card’s role in the White House spin was detailed. The next week, an op-ed "Dick at the Heart of Darkness" focused on VP Cheney’s role.
However, the actual indictment of Scooter Libby, and the pre-trial court documents that followed, allowed the American public the chance to see evidence that indicated Libby and Cheney were as central to the scandal as progressive journalists had suggested.

A copy of Joe Wilson’s op-ed, complete with Cheney’s hand-written notes in the margins; a snippet of Libby’s grand jury testimony, indicating that both Bush and Cheney were involved in a decision to declassify NIE information to counter Wilson; and other related information removed any shadow of a doubt that the Plame scandal was an OVP operation.

{3} "On Monday, July 11, when Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, took the podium, the press corps ripped into him. It was as if the reporters were venting pent-up frustrations that had been gathering for years. AP’s Terry Hunt initiated the barrage: ‘Does the president stand by his pledge to fire anybody involved in the leak?’ McClellan responded that ‘while the investigation is ongoing, the White House is not going to comment on it.’ An angry David Gregory of NBC News grilled the press secretary: ‘This is ridiculous!’ Gregory exclaimed, adding, ’Do you stand by your remarks from that podium or not?’ And so it went."
--Hubris; pages 388-389

During the Libby trial, Government Exhibit 532 was made public. It was VP Cheney’s hand-written instructions to McClellan to tell the journalists, "People have made too much of the reference of how I described Karl and Libby. I’ve talked to Libby. I’ve said that it is rediculous (sic) about Karl and it is rediculous (sic) about Libby. Libby was not the source of the Novak story. And he did not leak classified information."

It was on the same page, where Cheney stressed this "Has to happen today," that he wrote "Not going to protect one staffer + sacrifice the guy the Pres then crossed off "the Pres," before continuing, "that was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder because of the incompetence of others."

Hence, at this time, what McClellan wrote in his book is not new, in and of itself. But that does not mean it is not potentially significant.

It seems unlikely that what McClellan is speaking of is unknown to Patrick Fitzgerald. In fact, it is possible that McClellan has told the grand jury what he knows about Bush and Cheney’s involvement. While it may not have reached the level that would allow Mr. Fitzgerald to prosecute for criminal violations, it is obvious that Scott McClellan is describing abuses of power in the White House.

The Congress has the ability to call Scott McClellan to testify about what he knows. Congress also has the ability to access the information from the FBI and grand jury investigation of the Plame scandal that has not been made public in the Libby trial. That includes the information provided by Bush and Cheney in July of 2004, when they each met with Mr. Fitzgerald.

Is McClellan looking to sell books? Of course. But there could be more. I’ll never forget the day that Scott "resigned," when he walked out with Bush to talk to reporters on the White House lawn. McClellan was clearly upset, and was so choked up he had trouble answering questions. Bush, who is supposed to be his friend, took a disturbing amount of pleasure in McClellan’s suffering.

I doubt that Scott has forgotten that, either.


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