Rove Hits Back At McClellan: 'Sounds Like A Left-Wing Blogger'; Perino, Bartlett, Fleischer Pile On
Karl Rove responded, briefly, to the charges raised by Scott McClellan in his new book, What Happened on last night's Hannity and Colmes, where he made the case that the old Scott McClellan had been bodysnatched by some alien being with an ethical compass or something: "...this doesn't sound like Scott. It really doesn't. Not the Scott McClellan I have known for a long time...sounds like somebody else, it sounds like a left-wing blogger." Rove went on to admit that there were plenty of other people on the "White House staff...colleagues" that were willing to express their doubts and "moral qualms" about White House policy, so...I guess you have all those books to look forward to, as well!
HANNITY: Why do I always get suspicious that if he really felt this way, and I think this is a question he needs to answer. But your thoughts on it. If he really felt this way, why didn't he leave earlier?
ROVE: Two things, first of all, this doesn't sound like Scott. It really doesn't. Not the Scott McClellan I have known for a long time. Second of all--sounds like somebody else, it sounds like a left-wing blogger. Second of all, if he had these moral qualms he should have spoken up about them. And frankly I don't remember him speaking up about these things, I don't remember a single word. There were people on the White House staff, colleagues of mine that had doubts about this or that policy, they spoke out. But this doesn't sound like Scott.
Don't be surprised when you hear other White House officials advance a similar "This is not the Scott McClellan I know" line of defense. Guess ol' Karl's coordinating one last bit of White House spin for auld lang syne.
Dana Perino mimics the Rove line. From The Swamp:
Dana Perino, who succeeded Tony Snow, who succeeded Scott McClellan as press secretary, said today that McClellan's book about the "culture of deception'' at the White House and in Washington is a sign of deep personal disgruntlement.
"Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House,'' Perino said in a statement. "For those of us who fully supported him, before, during and after he was press secretary, we are puzzled. It is sad - this is not the Scott we knew.
"The book, as reported by the press, has been described to the president,'' Perino added. "I do not expect a comment from him on it - he has more pressing matters than to spend time commenting on books by former staffers."
UPDATE, part deux:
Former White House counsel Dan Bartlett raged at McClellan earlier today, calling the former press secretary's allegations "total crap."
"It's almost like we're witnessing an out-of-body experience," Bartlett said of McClellan. "We're hearing from a completely different person we didn't have any insight into."
Bartlett added that intimates of the President feel McClellan has violated his trust. "Part of the role of being a trusted adviser is to honor that trust," said Bartlett. "It's not your place now to go out" and criticize the President like this.
"What did he really believe when he was serving as press secretary?" Bartlett asked.
While he said McClellan himself has to "answer as to motive" for writing the book now, Bartlett said, "I do question his judgment."
Bartlett said the bewilderment stems from "Scott's decision to publicly air these deep misgivings he's never shared privately or publicly" with fellow Bush insiders. "To do it now, through a book, is a mistake," he added.
UPDATE: the third:
Ari Fleischer weighed in on McClellan in an interview with Alex Chadwick of NPR News Day To Day, saying that he was "heartbroken" over the matter, and that McClellan's end product didn't match up with Fleischer's recollections as McClellan was working on the book: "And I remember talking to Scott about the book and he told me how good it was going to be for President Bush."
ALEX CHADWICK: Ari Fleischer was President Bush's first press secretary up through the early days of the Iraq war. His own book about that time is "Taking Heat." Ari Fleischer, what went through your mind when you read reports of this book?
ARI FLEISCHER: Well, there's just something about it that doesn't make any sense to me, and I'm heartbroken about this. Scott was always a great deputy to me, very reliable, trustworthy, and never once did he come up to me and express any misgivings that he had or to anybody else that I know of about the war or the manner in which the White House prepared for the war.
MR. CHADWICK: He uses the term propaganda. That's quite a term. And he's talking about President Bush. I think he's talking about you as well. He's talking about the message from the White House.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, that's what really struck me is if Scott thought it was propaganda, then Scott should not have accepted the job as White House press secretary. If Scott viewed what the White House was saying was so irresponsible or wrong that it rose to the level of propaganda for him, it's not a job he should have accepted. He should on principle have declined it.
MR. CHADWICK: Did you have any discussions with him about this at the time about what you all were saying about the war in Iraq , about getting ready for it?
MR. FLEISCHER: I did, and Scott was 100 percent fully on-board. Scott helped me prepare for the briefings. Scott and I would talk about what I was going to say. His job should have been to report them to me. He worked for me. He should have said, I wouldn't say that if I were you, Ari. Or, I'm not sure I could say that, Ari.
MR. CHADWICK: Here's a specific that Mike Allen quotes. And we spoke with Mike about this. Larry Lindsay, the chief economic advisor to the president, is quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying - this is before the war starts - as saying the war might cost 100 to $200 million. And the president gets very angry and tells Scott McClellan he shouldn't be talking about that.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I remember that. And I remember it well. And I think Scott has told that accurately. The president's direction to the staff was if America goes to war, we go to war for moral reasons, regardless of the financial cost. And so he didn't want people talking about what dollars and cents might be. You either go to war or you don't go to war. And I remember standing at the podium, when I got asked about that; Scott helped me prepare for that briefing.
MR. CHADWICK: Well, in this recounting of it, it's part of this propaganda. Don't talk about how much it's going to cost. Indeed the administration said it's going to cost much less than that. In fact, it has cost much, much more than that.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, that's why again, the president's guidance was if America goes to war, we go to war whether it's a dollar or a trillion dollars because it saves lives. It's not an economic decision; it's a moral decision.
MR. CHADWICK: You're speaking about the obligations of the role of the press secretary. What about someone who feels that they've been misled by the administration, that they have lied for the administration, and that people above them knew they were lying. That's a charge that Scott McClellan levels in this book, I believe - I haven't read the book yet, but in Mike Allen's account - in regards to the Valerie Plame affair, the CIA agent whose identity was revealed.
MR. FLEISCHER: Right, and I think Scott has legitimate grounds for complaint about the way the White House staff told him about that. There's no question about that. He does. And Scott made it clear in this book that the president was also misled by the staff. And those staff members are no longer there.
But it's the statements that he made about the war and the propaganda that I just don't understand. Those are the issues that I think rise to the level of, if that's what you think, then don't take the job. This has happened before - press secretaries have resigned on principle. But if it's not in your heart, you can't do a good job from that podium.
And it always was in Scott's heart. Scott took the podium. He repeatedly defended the war and the approach to the war. Even after Scott left the White House, he went on TV shows and defended President Bush and the war. So I don't know what changed so dramatically for Scott in the last few months, several months, that led him to write a book that was so different from everything I saw about Scott personally and privately.
Something changed. And there are parts of this book that just don't sound like Scott. Scott, to me, will always be a friend and somebody who I always relied on. And I don't know what could have led him to have such a dramatic change of heart.
And I talked to Scott yesterday.
MR. CHADWICK: You did?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yeah, and Scott and I remain close. And that's one of the reasons I'm so heartbroken about this. Scott told me that this book really did change. And he said this book ended up a lot different from the way it got started. He told me he didn't know if he could write a book like this a year ago.
MR. CHADWICK: So when this story broke, you called him and spoke with him.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, actually, I called Scott because Scott and I frequently - we periodically have kept in touch ever since he left the White House. And when Scott and I, we got together - gosh -a year and a half ago for breakfast. And I remember talking to Scott about the book and he told me how good it was going to be for President Bush.
MR. CHADWICK: Well, you had a private conversation with a friend who has written this book, which you know is about to become very, very public. And in the course of that, you don't develop any greater understanding about why he says what he did over the course of a time that was critical to both your lives?
MR. FLEISCHER: He told me it was going to be a tough and honest book is how he put it to me. He said there would be things in here that the press is really going to focus on. They're going to focus on the criticisms is what he told me. And he told me that he always thought the president was well intentioned, but on the big picture that the president and Scott were not in line.
At that point, the story did not appear in Politico. So I hadn't seen yet just how tough and rough this book was. And Scott didn't read to me any of the passages in it. And then I saw the Politico story.
MR. CHADWICK: Well, did you ask him in that conversation, what do you mean tough and rough? What happened? Why are you doing this?
MR. FLEISCHER: I didn't say why are you doing this. I wish I had said to him, Scott, why are you doing this? What changed? I wish I had asked him that. I think if I had seen the Politico story before my conversation with him, I surely would have.
MR. CHADWICK: Are you going to call Scott McClellan again today?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yeah, I think I probably will. And I will always - I will always on a personal level wish Scott well. Scott was a great deputy to me. Scott was reliable. And I've nothing but good memories of the time we worked together. And I'm sure Scott is going to be very busy right now. And I think he's uncomfortable, too. In our conversation yesterday, you could tell he was a little bit uncomfortable because he was about to - but you could tell he was a little bit uncomfortable because he knew he was going to be out of sync with the people he used to work for.
MR. CHADWICK: Ari Fleischer runs Ari Fleischer Communications. It's a consulting company in New York . Ari, any more books coming from you?
MR. FLEISCHER: (Chuckles.) I had one book in me and I think that's probably about it.
MR. CHADWICK: It was "Taking Heat," his account of the White House years. Ari Fleischer, thank you.
MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you.
In another statement, Fleischer took a harsher tone, demanding an explanation from McClellan:
Nevertheless, it is Scott's book and I want to hear his explanation for why he has had such a dramatic change in his point of view," said Fleischer, who added that he continued to wish McClellan well on a personal level.