White House Media Corps Goes On Attack Against McClellan Today
Scott McClellan today: a deer in the headlights.
It took being lied to for two years about Karl Rove's involvement with the Plame outing for the media to shake off its shackles and go on the attack. Not the deaths of nearly 1800 soldiers based on lies, not the lies about WMDs, and not any of the other lies told from the same podium. But because the White House has been caught lying about Karl Rove's role, suddenly the media wakes up.
For the last several weeks, the White House press corps has ignored the Karl Rove-Valerie Plame story. Not so today. With blood in the water, and after hearing the White House spin them for months that Rove didnít talk to anyone about Plame while the investigation was underway, the press gaggle today turned into a bloodbath.
Scott McClellan got lit up. Remember that the White House has had no problem setting the public frame and telling the media of Roveís innocence for these last two years while Fitzgerald has conducted his investigation. But today, with the media pouncing, they wanted to know why the White House was hiding behind the ďwe canít comment because an investigation is underwayĒ excuse. Read the transcript of the savage beating McClellan took from the media today, even the question as to whether or not McClellan has himself obtained an attorney, and tell me that the worm hasnít turned now.
And it wonít be getting any better for the White House from here on folks, and not because Waxman is jumping in now, although that will help a little. Many of you are justified for being cynical that this means anything at all, after watching how this team has cowed the media for the last four years. But this attitude change is significant because the issue of credibility has been put front and center by the White House press corps, the people who get massaged by this team every day, and who are willing accomplices in the messaging. These aren't the pundits or Democratic activists doing the trashing, its part of the message machine itself: the day to day water carriers inside the press room. And it is significant for another reason: the Rove-Plame story is really only a small part of what is about to unravel, namely the other larger activities of this crew that trampled on national security through a flouting of the espionage laws of this country. And if the media is already on the attack for being lied to on just this part of the overall story, then they will be much more receptive when any bigger stories come out subsequent to this one.
Read some excerpts on the extended entry. It isn't pretty, and frankly I never remember hearing the media going after Mike McCurry like this during the Lewinsky fiasco.
MCCLELLAN: And so thatís why we are not going to get into commenting on it while it is an ongoing investigation ó or questions related to it.
QUESTION: Scott, if I could point out: Contradictory to that statement, on September 29th of 2003, while the investigation was ongoing, you clearly commented on it. You were the first one to have said that if anybody from the White House was involved, they would be fired.
And then, on June 10th of 2004, at Sea Island Plantation, in the midst of this investigation, when the president made his comments that, yes, he would fire anybody from the White House who was involved, so why have you commented on this during the process of the investigation in the past, but now youíve suddenly drawn a curtain around it under the statement of, Weíre not going to comment on an ongoing investigation?
QUESTION: So could I just ask: When did you change your mind to say that it was OK to comment during the course of an investigation before, but now itís not?
QUESTION: Do you stand by your statement from the fall of 2003, when you were asked specifically about Karl and Elliot Abrams and Scooter Libby, and you said, Iíve gone to each of those gentlemen, and they have told me they are not involved in this ?
QUESTION: Do you stand by that statement?
MCCLELLAN: And if you will recall, I said that, as part of helping the investigators move forward on the investigation, weíre not going to get into commenting on it. That was something I stated back near that time as well.
QUESTION: Scott, this is ridiculous. The notion that youíre going to stand before us, after having commented with that level of detail, and tell people watching this that somehow youíve decided not to talk.
Youíve got a public record out there. Do you stand by your remarks from that podium or not?
MCCLELLAN: Iím well aware, like you, of what was previously said. And I will be glad to talk about it at the appropriate time. The appropriate time is when the investigationÖ
QUESTION: (inaudible) when itís appropriate and when itís inappropriate?
MCCLELLAN: If youíll let me finish.
QUESTION: No, youíre not finishing. Youíre not saying anything.
You stood at that podium and said that Karl Rove was not involved. And now we find out that he spoke about Joseph Wilsonís wife. So donít you owe the American public a fuller explanation. Was he involved or was he not? Because contrary to what you told the American people, he did indeed talk about his wife, didnít he?
QUESTION: Do you think people will accept that, what youíre saying today?
MCCLELLAN: Again, Iíve responded to the question.
QUESTION: Youíre in a bad spot here, ScottÖ
Ö because after the investigation began ó after the criminal investigation was under way ó you said, October 10th, 2003, I spoke with those individuals, Rove, Abrams and Libby. As I pointed out, those individuals assured me they were not involved in this, from that podium. Thatís after the criminal investigation began.
Now that Rove has essentially been caught red-handed peddling this information, all of a sudden you have respect for the sanctity of the criminal investigation.
QUESTION: Scott, I think youíre getting this barrage today in part because it is now clear that 21 months ago you were up at this podium saying something that we now know to be demonstrably false.
Now, are you concerned that in setting the record straight today that this could undermine the credibility of the other things you say from the podium?
MCCLELLAN: Again, Iím going to be happy to talk about this at the appropriate time.
You and everybody in this room ó or most people in this room, I should say ó know me very well, and they know the type of person that I am. And Iím confident in our relationship that we have.
But I will be glad to talk about this at the appropriate time, and thatís once the investigation is complete. Iím not going to get into commenting based on reports or anything of that nature.
QUESTION: Scott, at this point are we to consider what you said previously, when you were talking about this ó that youíre still standing by that or are those all inoperative at this point?
MCCLELLAN: Again, youíre still trying to come at this from a different angle, and Iíve responded to it.
QUESTION: Are you standing by what you said previously?
MCCLELLAN: Youíve heard my response.
QUESTION: According to todayís Gallup poll, 62 percent of the American people believe that a terrorist attack like the one we saw in London could happen here.
In the presidentís speech today, we havenít heard anything new. What is the plan, exactly, to protect the American people?
QUESTION: In your dealings with the special counsel, have you consulted a personal attorney?
MCCLELLAN: Again, Iím just not going to say anything further. I expressed all Iím going to say on this matter from this podium.