McClellan Book Confirms Bush's October 2003 Plamegate Lie
On October 7th, 2003, President Bush famously declared of the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, "I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official." Now we have more insight as to Bush's misplaced confidence that the truth would remain hidden. In his new tell-all book, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan claims President Bush himself played an instrumental role in the failed cover up.
In his new book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and What's Wrong with Washington, McClellan claims the President and Vice President were central in the disinformation campaign he waged for over two weeks from the White House podium in the fall of 2003:
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.
McClellan's desire to clear his name is understandable. After all, as the investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame and the smearing of her husband Joe Wilson gathered steam in September 2003, McClellan distributed patent falsehoods to the White House press corps on an almost daily basis.
For example, in an almost comical briefing on September 23, 2003, McClellan insisted that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby had nothing to do with Plame's exposure by columnist Robert Novak:
Q All right. Let me just follow up. You said this morning, "The President knows" that Karl Rove wasn't involved. How does he know that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I've made it very clear that it was a ridiculous suggestion in the first place. I saw some comments this morning from the person who made that suggestion, backing away from that. And I said it is simply not true. So, I mean, it's public knowledge. I've said that it's not true. And I have spoken with Karl Rove --
Q But how does --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to get into conversations that the President has with advisors or staff or anything of that nature; that's not my practice.
Q But the President has a factual basis for knowing that Karl Rove --
MR. McCLELLAN: I said it publicly. I said that --
Q But I'm not asking what you said, I'm asking if the President has a factual basis for saying -- for your statement that he knows Karl Rove --
MR. McCLELLAN: He's aware of what I've said, that there is simply no truth to that suggestion. And I have spoken with Karl about it.
Just two weeks later on October 7, McClellan repeated his prevarication about the professed innocence of Rove and Libby:
Q Scott, you have said that you, personally, went to Scooter Libby, Karl Rove and Elliot Abrams to ask them if they were the leakers. Is that what happened? Why did you do that, and can you describe the conversations you had with them? What was the question you asked?
MR. McCLELLAN: Unfortunately, in Washington, D.C., at a time like this, there are a lot of rumors and innuendo. There are unsubstantiated accusations that are made. And that's exactly what happened in the case of these three individuals. They're good individuals, they're important members of our White House team, and that's why I spoke with them, so that I could come back to you and say that they were not involved. I had no doubt of that in the beginning, but I like to check my information to make sure it's accurate before I report back to you, and that's exactly what I did.
Q So you're saying -- you're saying categorically those three individuals were not the leakers or did not authorize the leaks; is that what you're saying?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's correct. I've spoken with them.
With his cognitively challenged press secretary safely leading the way, it's no wonder President Bush declared the same day that the Plame leaker would likely never be found:
"Well, the investigators will ask our staff about what people did or did not do. This is a town of -- where a lot of people leak. And I've constantly expressed my displeasure with leaks, particularly leaks of classified information. And I want to know, I want to know the truth. I want to see to it that the truth prevail. And I hope we can get this investigation done in a thorough way, as quickly as possible...
Randy, you tell me, how many sources have you had that's leaked information that you've exposed or have been exposed? Probably none. I mean this town is a -- is a town full of people who like to leak information. And I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official. Now, this is a large administration, and there's a lot of senior officials. I don't have any idea. I'd like to. I want to know the truth. That's why I've instructed this staff of mine to cooperate fully with the investigators -- full disclosure, everything we know the investigators will find out. I have no idea whether we'll find out who the leaker is -- partially because, in all due respect to your profession, you do a very good job of protecting the leakers. But we'll find out."
Americans, of course, can be forgiven for doubting the veracity of Scott McClellan. After weeks of serving as the White House whipping boy over PlameGate, McClellan switched to his incessant "ongoing investigation" defense. As in October 2005 following the indictment of Scooter Libby, he is now claiming that his prior statements are "no longer operative."
As for President Bush, we now know the truth. One "senior administration official" was convicted on four charges of obstruction of justice and perjury, only to see his sentence commuted by the President. And as for candidate George W. Bush's 2000 promise to "ask not only what is legal but what is right ", there was one problem. To use the words of Scott McClellan: it was not true.