Push-back against McClellan book begins

Republicans aren't happy about the former press secretary's tell-all; Karl Rove even likens McClellan to a "left-wing blogger."

By Alex Koppelman
May 28, 2008 6:40PM (UTC)
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News about the contents of former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's new book leaked only Tuesday night, but by Wednesday morning the counterattacks had begun in full force. It's not surprising to see that, of course: Republicans were bound to be unhappy with a book that roundly criticizes George W. Bush's administration, suggests the president had indeed once done cocaine, and says that there may have been collusion between two key figures in the Valerie Plame scandal.

The Drudge Report's headline on the Politico's article on the book this morning is "Scott the Snitch." An unnamed former White House senior advisor told NBC, "This book has left many of Scott’s closest friends puzzled and shocked ... He never expressed any reservations while serving. To do so in a highly publicized book is what makes people lose faith in those who work in Washington."


Appearing on Fox News Tuesday night (video of the appearance is below), Karl Rove questioned one part of McClellan's book, an account of a 2005 meeting between Rove and Scooter Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Without direct knowledge of the content of the meeting, McClellan wrote that it may have been so that the two men could get their stories straight as they were becoming the focus of inquiries into the leak of Plame's identity:

I have no idea what they discussed, but it seemed suspicious for these two, whom I had never noticed spending any one-on-one time together, to go behind closed doors and visit privately ... I don't know what they discussed, but what would any knowledgeable person reasonably and logically conclude was the topic?

Read part of that quote by Fox host Sean Hannity, Rove responded, "Well, look, it goes to show how out of the loop [McClellan] was, that he didn't think we spent much time together." He also specifically denied McClellan's suggestion about the purpose of the meeting. Later, in response to another question from Hannity, Rove said of McClellan, "This doesn't sound like Scott. It really doesn't. Not the Scott McClellan I've known for a long time ... It sounds like somebody else. It sounds like a left-wing blogger ... If he had these moral qualms, he should have spoken up about them. And frankly, I don't remember him speaking up about these. I don't remember a single word."

Bloggers on the right have also been critical of McClellan. At the Weekly Standard's blog, Stephen F. Hayes, who's previously written two books sympathetic to the Bush administration and its worldview, said, "Ask fifty Washington reporters for an assessment of Scott McClellan and forty-nine of them will give you some version of this: He's a nice guy who was in way over his head. (Most of them will be tougher in their analysis of his intellect.)" At the National Review's the Corner, Kathryn Jean Lopez wrote, "The question: Is he a liar then or now? He should have resigned in protest if he thought Bush was the liar and dolt he claims he was. What a disgrace this kind of book is."


It is true that this kind of book isn't the most honorable thing anyone could do -- it's not exactly savory to keep silent, to even be complicit in telling stories you feel are untrue, while serving in the administration and then only open up after you get a big payday. But, sadly, that's how these things tend to happen, and not just on the Republican side.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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