Dodd, Huckabee want answers on McClellan charges

What did the president do, and when did he do it?

Published November 21, 2007 8:25PM (EST)

It's hard to imagine that Scott McClellan's allegations that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were involved in the false exoneration of Karl Rove and Scooter Libby in the Valerie Plame case will be treated as anything but another footnote in the truth-challenged history of the Bush administration. It will be the spring of 2008 before McClellan's book is published -- deep into a presidential race -- and we'll eat the paper this isn't printed on if either Democrats in Congress or Michael Mukasey will be willing to go to the wall then in a serious investigation of what really occurred back in the fall of 2003.

That's not to say it shouldn't happen, of course. As Chris Dodd said Tuesday, McClellan's allegations -- as vague as they are -- raise "several important questions that need to be answered. If in fact the President of the United of States knowingly instructed his chief spokesman to mislead the American people, there can be no more fundamental betrayal of the public trust."

Dodd is calling on Mukasey to launch an "immediate investigation" into McClellan's claims to "determine the facts of this case, the extent of any cover up and determine what the president knew and when he knew it."

We haven't heard any Republicans go quite that far. But in an appearance on "Hardball" Tuesday night, GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said McClellan's charges are "serious" and that Bush himself ought to answer them. "Oh, I think he will have to respond to it, because the closeness and the fact that Scott McClellan was one of his most trusted aides and in the position of press secretary," Huckabee said.

There's been no word from the president yet -- he's relaxing at Camp David -- but the Associated Press has the not-so-specific denial from his current press secretary. Dana Perino said she's not sure exactly what McClellan is alleging, but whatever it is, Bush didn't do it. "The president has not and would not ask his spokespeople to pass on false information," she said.

Update: McClellan's publisher says the former White House press secretary didn't mean to suggest that the president lied to him about the role Libby and Rove played in outing Plame. "He told him something that wasn't true, but the president didn't know it wasn't true," Peter Osnos, the editor-in-chief of Public Affairs Books, tells Bloomberg News. "The president told him what he thought to be the case.'' Osnos offered no similar exoneration of Cheney.

By Tim Grieve

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

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Christopher Dodd D-conn. Mike Huckabee