The end of the road for Scott McClellan?

Do plans for "refreshing" the White House involve a fresh face in the press briefing room?


Tim Grieve
April 18, 2006 7:39PM (UTC)

We should know by now that the Bush administration is unlikely ever to make the sort of dramatic, substantive changes in policy that might turn around the president's anemic approval ratings or -- God forbid! -- bring an end to the war in Iraq. But there are always windows to dress, and there's word that the White House may be ready to bring down the curtain on Scott McClellan.

The White House press secretary lost credibility with reporters -- or, at least, he should have -- when it became clear last year that he had misled them, intentionally or not, in claiming that Scooter Libby and Karl Rove played no role in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. McClellan's daily press briefings have devolved into a sort of theater of the absurd in which reporters ask questions they know McClellan won't answer, then McClellan responds by saying that it's important to remember that we're a nation at war. He says that he can't talk about this and that he never comments about that; then he goes about saying whatever he wants to say whenever it's in his political interest to do so.

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Aside from providing fodder for bloggers -- and don't think for a minute that we're not grateful -- it's hard to see how McClellan's shtick is doing anyone any good anymore. And maybe the White House is coming to the same conclusion. U.S. News and World Report cites unnamed "insiders" who say that McClellan is getting a "subtle nudge by West Wing officials" who think it's time for him to move on. The magazine says there has been some discussion of possible replacements for McClellan. Among them: Former Treasury Department spokesman Rob Nichols and former White House deputy press secretary Trent Duffy. The Wall Street Journal adds the name of Dan Senor, the former Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman and husband of NBC News correspondent Campbell Brown.

As we noted Monday, McClellan didn't say much when asked about the possibility of his departure after the first big staff meeting with Josh Bolten. "I never speculate about personnel measures," he said. But McClellan also uttered a few words suggesting that the thought of leaving had crossed his mind. "Two years in this position is a long time, " he said. "I'm very mindful of that."


Tim Grieve

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

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