Scott McClellan, former White House press secretary, has a new book coming out in April. His publisher has released a very short excerpt on its website:
The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.
There was one problem. It was not true.
I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President’s chief of staff, and the President himself.
This is obviously big news. Scott came with Bush from Texas, he had a very public role in the administration, he was trusted by many. The excerpt appears to be a bombshell.
That is, of course, what his publisher wants – although releasing that material now, five months before its scheduled late-April launch is a bit odd. The more buzz the better.
But there are several reasons to be cautious of jumping to any bombshell conclusions:
– It lacks any context. There are, quite literally, innumerable things that could precede or follow those words. He could say that the reason those five people were involved in passing along false information was because it was all Scooter Libby’s fault. He could say Elvis told them to do it. We have no clue.
– He does not say they knowingly mislead him. He simply says five people were involved in giving him misleading information; he doesn’t say it was an orchestrated disinformation campaign.
– In all likelihood the book isn’t even finished yet. It isn’t due out for another five months. By the time it is finally put to bed he will have ample opportunity to change it. I am sure he is getting a lot of calls encouraging him to not make any more waves.
For Scott to break with Bush and his friends from Texas would be extraordinary. He is certainly capable of it. He is a man who values his integrity and his faith. If he felt that there were things to say “for the sake of history” I have no doubt he’d say them no matter the cost.
Will he? The first indicator will come this week. If he remains silent throughout the week then the White House may have reason to worry. If clarifications and backtracking and apologies from the publisher for printing those paragraphs of an “incomplete” book are issued then there’s little need for White House worry. Stay tuned.