Will McClellan talk about the leak?

The White House spokesman offers an interesting new guideline under which officials may discuss the leak case.


Farhad Manjoo
July 26, 2005 4:00AM (UTC)

Yes, we've been talking about Alberto Gonzales quite a bit today. But we've got to point out one final thing about the attorney general, brought to us courtesy of Think Progress. For the last few weeks, White House press secretary Scott McClellan has declined to answer any questions about the Plame leak on the grounds that such questions are part of an "ongoing criminal investigation." We've previously wondered why Robert Luskin, Karl Rove's attorney, was allowed to talk about the investigation despite this prohibition. And now we wonder the same thing about Attorney General Gonzales.

As we've been saying, Gonzales defended his Plame-related actions freely -- if not ultimately successfully -- on a morning news show yesterday. So if Gonzales is allowed to talk about the Plame case, why can't Scott McClellan, or Karl Rove, or, more to the point, George W. Bush? Today at the White House, a reporter asked McClellan about this. Here's how he answered: "Well, what he said was already said from this podium back in October of 2003, and I don't think he got into commenting in any substantive way on the discussion," McClellan said of Gonzales' Sunday comments.

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According to McClellan, then, the new test for whether White House officials can talk about the Plame leak is whether or not they're going further than what they've already said in the past. That would seem, actually, to be quite a reasonable test. For example, under that scenario, McClellan would be able to say if he stands by what he's previously said from the podium. Remember how, for instance, McClellan told reporters in Sept. 2003 that Rove "was not involved" in leaking Plame's name, and that any suggestion to the contrary was "ridiculous"? Under McClellan's new principle, he'd be able to say if he still stands by that assessment -- or if he now thinks fingering Rove was not so ridiculous after all.

As Think Progress points out, what's now necessary is for White House reporters to ask him the question. Let's hope they do that tomorrow.


Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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