04/01/2009 01:31 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

David Letterman: 'Dick Cheney Couldn't Care Less About Americans'

Former White House flack-turned-tell-all author Scott McClellan made a guest appearance on CBS' Late Show With David Letterman, whose host, is, how shall we say...not the biggest fan of the current administration. In one remarkable sequence which covered internal White House decision drivers, Cheney's hunting accident (or was it!?), and the Valerie Plame leak, Letterman, with a combination of merriment and acrimony, led a thorough excoriation of the White House, culminating with the blunt assessment of Cheney and Bush, that "they don't care about Americans."


LETTERMAN: Is Cheney, is he--is he a goon? ( laughter ) I don't mean that to sound like a smart-ass. He seems like he might be a goon.

McCLELLAN: No. He is quite an interesting guy. He has a very dark view of the world and he certainly believes that some of the means justify the ends. and this president showed him way too much deference, I think, in terms of carrying out policy, whether it was detainee policies or energy policies or policies relating to the war itself.

LETTERMAN: In deferring to Cheney, was it because he's intellectually lazy? Is that why he would defer to Cheney?

McCLELLAN: Well, there certainly is a little bit of a lack of intellectual curiosity on the part of the president. He is a gut instinct player. He doesn't like to sit around and debate policy. He likes to govern from the gut and make decisions and then go from there. That's something I talk about in the book as well.

LETTERMAN: Now, was it on your watch that Cheney shot his hunting buddy?

McCLELLAN: It was, and it sprayed me, too.

LETTERMAN: What is that like? I don't think you have to go back to Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, the last time a vice president shot somebody.

McCLELLAN: It was something I never could have predicted when I became press secretary. You go down a list of things and that was not one on it.

LETTERMAN: Were they forthcoming with you?

McCLELLAN: No, he wasn't. The vice president prefers that, in terms of the press, well, just "No comment." He doesn't have much regard for the press corps. I was actually advocating, we have to get the information out now to the national press corps. Do a phone call. He was down in Corpus Christi, and he took my advice and called the Corpus Christi Times and gave it to them on their website and said the national press corps can find it there. And for three days I had to go out there and take my own bullets from that before he went on TV.

LETTERMAN: Did the people in the press that you talk to everyday, did they like you? Do they have respect for you?

McCLELLAN: Actually, when I went through the very difficult period when it turned out in the Valerie Plame leak episode that something I had said was false, unknowingly so - I'd been misled by two advisors to the President - some of the press corps were my strongest defenders during that time. The White House counsel said, "You can't comment, it's an ongoing investigation." And the press corps actually stood up on TV and said, he's a straight shooter. His credibility is unquestioned. and so I appreciated that. It shows the relationship that we had.

LETTERMAN: My feeling about Cheney and also Bush, but especially Cheney, is he just couldn't care less about Americans. And that the same is true of George Bush. And all they really want to do is somehow kiss up to the oil people so they can get some great annuity when they're out of office. "There you go, Dick, nice job. There's a couple of billion for your troubles." ( applause ) I mean, he pretty much put Halliburton in business, and the outsourcing of the military resources to private mercenary groups, and so forth. Is there any humanity in either of these guys?

McCLELLAN: Look, I still have personal affection for the president. I can't speak to the vice president's thinking that well because he's someone that keeps things himself and he believes in doing it his way, and he doesn't care what anybody else thinks. He is going to do what he feels is best and that's not always in the best interests of the country. As we've seen.

LETTERMAN: You told me backstage that you thought he was a goon!