So many questions, so few answers

Scott McClellan says that Bush has confidence in everyone who works at the White House. But that's about all he's saying about Karl Rove and Valerie Plame.

Published July 12, 2005 4:56PM (EDT)

Scott McClellan is back in the White House briefing room, and he's got to be feeling a little like Bill Murray's character in "Groundhog Day."

The White House press corps is giving McClellan another opportunity to answer many of the questions he declined to answer at yesterday's briefing -- and McClellan is declining to answer them again. Every time something even tangentially related to Karl Rove is asked, McClellan says that the question arises "in the context of an ongoing investigation" and that he won't be able to answer it until the investigation is over.

Among the questions McClellan has declined to answer so far today: Does he regret that he went so far in defending Rove in 2003? Regardless whether it was illegal or not, was what Rove did right or wrong? Should Rove's security clearance be suspended while the investigation continues? What was Rove trying to accomplish when he spoke with Time's Matthew Cooper? Does the president think what Rove did was fair? How long has Bush known that Rove spoke with Cooper about Valerie Plame? Has Rove apologized to McClellan for telling him that he wasn't involved? "He put you on the spot," Helen Thomas told McClellan. "He put your credibility on the line."

When a reporter asked if the White House now has a credibility problem, McClellan said: "These are all questions that you're bringing in the context of an investigation that is under way. This is coming up in the context of news reports. I appreciate those questions, and I think you're trying to get at the specific news reports, wanting me to comment on those specific news reports." When another reporter followed up, McClellan vouched for himself and for his boss: "You all in this room know me very well. You know the type of person that I am. You ... have dealt with me for quite some time. The president is a very straightforward and plain-spoken person."

When a reporter asked McClellan if he'd let his attorney talk to the press -- as Rove has apparently allowed his own attorney to do -- McClellan again refused to respond.

On just one point, McClellan said at least a little more than he did yesterday. McClellan refused to say Monday whether the president still had confidence in Karl Rove. In response to repeated questions on that subject today, McClellan repeated a carefully crafted line: "Any individual who works here at the White House has the confidence of the president. They wouldn't be working at the White House if they didn't have the confidence of the president."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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