On "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" Thursday Scott McClellan sat down for a nearly hour-long interview with the MSNBC host to discuss his new book, "What Happened". The wide-ranging interview covered everything from the CIA leak to Fox News to McClellan's critics to the possibility of military action in Iran.
Towards the beginning of the interview Olbermann noted a passage in McClellan's book where he says Bush's foreign policy view was grounded in a "philosophy of coercive democracy." Olbermann noted, "it's a marvelous phrase, but is it an oxymoron?" McClellan said it was:
"[C]ertainly those [policies] have tarnished the reputation of the United States in a very negative way. And I think that has been harmful over the long term. But in terms of the coercive democracy, that was -- and you bring up a very good point about the oxymoron there -- but that was always the strategy for going into Iraq in first place. And I think that is what really drove the president's motivation to push ahead and rush into this. When I think that there were probably other options -- there were definitely other options available to him. He didn't have to box himself in. But when he went to the United Nations he said, either he disarms and the U.N. -- if he doesn't, then the U.N. goes in, or the security council authorizes it, or we will do it ourselves."
McClellan also struck back at the former colleagues who have emerged to speak out against his new book, pointing out that despite their criticism of his actions none of them have so far refuted anything specific about his account:
One, some of the people that are making those comments are almost trying to judge the content of the book, judge me and my motivations for writing the book, and they haven't even read the book. And the second, which you bring up, is that I haven't seen people refuting specific parts within the book. Dan Bartlett earlier today, when he was doing an interview right after me or in between segments with me, said, well, we need to set the leak episode to the side. And the other day, he said, well, I'm not going to talk about the Katrina part, because that's internal deliberations. So I did find that very interesting.
McClellan shed some light on the administration's, in particular Dick Cheney's, relationship with Fox News and its role in disseminating information:
OLBERMANN: What was Fox News to you and to the White House? Was it a friendly cousin, house organ, was it the choice for funneling propaganda? What was it?
MCCLELLAN: Well -- there certainly are allies there that work at Fox News and there's one story that I've told before, I didn't include it in the book, but during the vice president's hunting accident, which was another disillusioning moment for me because I was out there advocating get this news out and get it out now and of course the vice president said, no no, no, and then decided to send it to the Web site where the Corpus Christy Collar Times (ph) Web site, as opposed to getting it out widely to the national media.
OLBERMANN: I remember.
MCCLELLAN: And caused me a lot of fun at the podium for three days before the vice president decided that he was going to go out and talk about this after a little nudging from the president. And we were standing outside the Oval getting ready for a meeting and he looked at me, and he said, you already know why I picked Fox News to do this, because I want everybody else to have to cite Fox News when they do their report. It's just kind of the attitude of the vice president about things.
McClellan also suggested that some Bush officials may still be considering military action on Iran, and urged viewers to be skeptical of the current press secretary Dana Perino's statements on the matter:
MCCLELLAN: [T]hey are still in this permanent campaign mode. They haven't backed away from that. I can't speak specifically to what the intent is in some of the people's heads there. I think that our options are certainly limited with all of our commitments right now, but I hope that when people look and read this book, that they will learn some of the lessons from Iraq and that we won't make some of the same mistakes that we've made elsewhere.
OLBERMANN: So knowing what you know, if Dana Perino gets up there and starts making noises that sound very similar to what you heard from the administration, from Ari Fleischer in 2002, from other actual members of the administration and the cabinet, you would be suspicious?
MCCLELLAN: I would be. I would be. I think that you would need to take those comments very seriously and be skeptical.
Read the entire transcript here.