McClellan's replacement: The shortlist, plus one

Experienced administration spokesmen may be the favorites, but how about William Bennett?

By Tim Grieve
April 19, 2006 7:55PM (UTC)
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The White House is said to be considering all sorts of Bush loyalists as possible successors for Scott McClellan.

If the president wants to dance with the ones who brung him, there's Fox News commentator Tony Snow, a former speechwriter for Bush I. If he really wants to remind everyone of the smashing success that the war in Iraq has been, there's former Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor and former Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke. If he wants to keep it an inside job, as seems to be the plan in this shake-up that isn't really, there's counselor to the president Dan Bartlett, deputy press secretary Trent Duffy and former Treasury spokesman Rob Nichols. And if he wants to reach out to Republicans in Congress, there's Ron Bonjean, the communications director for Denny Hastert who, as the National Journal's Hotline notes, served as a spokesman for Trent Lott during his darkest days.


But if the decider in chief wants someone in the McClellan mold, why not pick up the phone and see if William Bennett is up for the job? When McClellan was asked last week whether the president knew that a team of experts had concluded that two trailers found in Iraq weren't mobile weapons labs at the time he was saying that they were, McClellan turned things around by demanding to know whether ABC News was going to apologize for reporting on the story in the first place. Now Bennett, a former Bush I and Reagan administration official, has taken things one step further. In response to the news that the Washington Post's Dana Priest and the New York Times' James Risen and Eric Lichtblau had won Pulitzer prizes for revealing the Bush administration's use of secret prisons overseas and warrantless surveillance back home, Bennett suggested that the reporters should be put behind bars.

As Editor and Publisher reports, Bennett told CNN that the reporters "took classified information, secret information, published it in their newspapers, against the wishes of the president, against the request of the president and others, that they not release it. They not only released it, they publicized it -- they put it on the front page, and it damaged us, it hurt us ... As a result are they punished, are they in shame, are they embarrassed, are they arrested? No, they win Pulitzer prizes -- they win Pulitzer prizes. I don't think what they did was worthy of an award -- I think what they did is worthy of jail, and I think this investigation needs to go forward."

Of course, if Bennett were to get the job and the investigation were to go forward, he'd have to stop talking about it. Remember, the White House never comments on ongoing criminal investigations.

Tim Grieve

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

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