Just reading about excerpts from a book by one of the men most responsible for President Bush’s rapidly declining poll numbers in the first fifteen months of the President’s second term. And it shows how this man whose tenure as White House press secretary was best defined (to paraphrase Bill Kristol’s expression) as being in a constant “defensive crouch” now accuses administration officials of being “involved” in his “unknowingly pass[ing] along false information” about the involvement of some of those officials in “outing” then-CIA analyst Valerie Plame.
I’m sure denizens of the netroots already whipping themselves into a frenzy and pulling out their worn-out old bromides about the administration’s deceptions.
While the media will focus on the alleged efforts of the much-maligned (in the MSM) White House officials to slander Ms. Plame, they will neglect an important story about Mr. McClellan’s incompetence. He was the White House press secretary at the time. And he was more interested in playing defense, handling queries about Ms. Plame rather than going on offense and challenging the credibility of her dishonest husband.
That spouse, netroots hero Joe Wilson claimed that President Bush lied in his January 28, 2003 State of he Union address when he spoke these sixteen now famous words, “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” That Mr. Wilson said that he knew the president was lying because he had been to the African nation where Mr. Hussein supposedly was trying to buy Niger and reported that the then-Iraqi dictator was doing no such thing.
But, it turns out that CIA believed Wilson’s report lent credence to the notion that Hussein was indeed trying to get yellowcake uranium from Niger. (Basically, Mr. Wilson’s report didn’t say what he publiclhy said it did.) Not only that, Mr. Wilson lied about how he got his job. And he had didn’t know whether not the president (or any of his advisors) had seen his report. While he was accusing the president of lying, he was the one spreading falsehoods.
Instead of playing defense to the press’s queries, a responsible White House Press Secretary would have taken the time to discredit point by point that Democratic partisan’s deceptions.
There likely never would have been a scandal had Mr. McClellan gotten out of his defensive crouch and done his job. Instead, several conservative journals (and blogs) and at least one non-partisan web-site have done it for him. One wonders why the president did not appoint someone more aggressive for the job.
It’s too bad the president wasn’t as sensitive to his public image as was his predecessor. Or was as concerned with telling the truth about his record — and getting that message out — as he was with stubbornly standing by his staff.
So far it seems the MSM has focused on only one aspect of the story. Perhaps, when Mr. McClellan’s book comes out, people will discuss more that man’s inability to deal with an aggressive and antagonistic press corps.
By all available evidence, it’s clear that Scott McClellan is a decent man, a nice guy and loyal to George W. Bush. But, he was clearly not cut out to be White House Press Secretary at a time when the media was hostile to the administration and skeptical of the president’s every action, indeed every word that he spoke.
UPDATE: It’s almost amusing reading AP’s coverage of this. No wonder Vince P (in comment #1) called this “the story that refuses to die.” AP headlines its story (at least the version I got via Yahoo!) Former aide blames Bush for leak deceit, but the text of the article doesn’t provide any statement from McClellan allocating such blame. AP seems to have so convinced itself that Bush is a liar that it need not provide evidence to make the case.
Yes, McClellan says the “president himself” was “involved” in his passing along “false information.” But, he doesn’t show (nor has anyone showed) that the president knew any of his aides mentioned Ms. Plame’s name to the media. (If the president did know that his aides had done so and told McClellan otherwise–and McClellan said as much, then and only then would the headline be accurate.)
(For that matter, Rove never mentioned her name either, only responding to one reporter that he had heard she worked at the CIA while encouraging another to steer clear of the Wilson story because his wife worked at the CIA.)
As AP reporter Matt Apuzzo himself writes, the excerpt from McClellan’s book “doesn’t get into detail about how Bush and Cheney were involved or reveal what happened behind the scenes.” He says they were involved, so we’ll have to wait for the book’s release to see what that involvement was.
I wonder if McClellan will address in his book why he did not, as White House Press Secretary, challenge Joe Wilson’s long-since discredited statements which made him a cause celebre among Democrats and the netroots. Perhaps, he’ll reflect on his own failure to deal with that Democrat’s deceptions.
For the real issue here is the White House’s ham-handed response to a dishonest partisan. Because of that ham-handed response, this issue is one which refuses to die. And the MSM continues to dwell on the “leak” while giving short shrift (if any shrift at all) to Wilson’s deceptions.