CBS ‘Early Show’: Scott McClellan’s ‘Bombshell Memoir’

Still Shot of Scott McClellan, May 28 On Wednesday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Maggie Rodriguez teased an upcoming segment on former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan’s new book attacking the Bush Administration: "Breaking news this morning -- a bombshell memoir. President Bush's former press secretary accuses him of misleading the nation on Iraq." Co-host Harry Smith then introduced the segment by declaring: "Sharp attacks on President Bush by his former Press Secretary, Scott McClellan, who is releasing a memoir."

Correspondent Thalia Assuras then reported that: "...in a book to be released Monday, former Press Secretary Scott McClellan takes direct aim at the administration. On the war in Iraq, which he defended daily – In some 350 pages of 'What Happened Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception,' McClellan accuses President Bush and his advisers of confusing a propaganda campaign with the honesty needed to ensure public support."

Later, Smith quoted from the book and emphasized McClellan's credibility as he talked to Mike Allen from the Politico, who broke the story:

I want to read a little bit from the book. 'Waging an unnecessary war is a grave mistake,' these are the words of Scott McClellan. 'But reflecting on all that happened during the bush Administration, I've come to believe that an even more fundamental mistake was made. A decision to turn away from candor and honesty when those qualities were most needed.' These are the words of a loyalist, whose roots with George Bush go all the way to Texas and the governor's mansion. Put this into perspective for us.

Allen then responded to Smith by further explaining that:

Scott might have been one of the least likely people on the Bush White House staff to do this. He, as you well know, was always thought of as being one of the most on message people who was in the White House. As you know, he came with the president from Texas. He worked in the governor's office. And from behind the podium, he was almost like a robot in repeating their talking points. But, Harry, Scott took off his administration's flack hat and put on a historians hat here and gave what he says is a clear-eyed view of what he saw.

Smith went on to quote from the book again: "There's another quote from the book. 'Rather than choosing to be forthright and candid, they chose to sell the war and in so doing they did a disservice to the American people and to our democracy.' These are damning, angry words." Allen responded: "Yeah, well, and Harry, what's fascinating about them is that they echo both the substance and even the rhetoric, the phraseology of left wing liberal critics." Of course there was no suggestion that McClellan's motivation may have been to sell books. 

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASER:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Breaking news this morning -- a bombshell memoir. President Bush's former press secretary accuses him of misleading the nation on Iraq.

7:01AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: Let me get right to the top of the news this morning, sharp attacks on President Bush by his former Press Secretary, Scott McClellan, who is releasing a memoir. CBS News correspondent Thalia Assuras is live at the White House with more. Good morning, Thalia.

THALIA ASSURAS: [Inaudible] He stood at the podium defending his boss for three years, explaining policy, answering questions, at times bickering with reporters. But in a book to be released Monday, former Press Secretary Scott McClellan takes direct aim at the administration. On the war in Iraq, which he defended daily --

SCOTT MCCLELLAN: The Iraqi people have shown through their courage and determination that they are determined to live freely and determined to build a brighter future.

ASSURAS: A different tone in the book. In some 350 pages of 'What Happened Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception,' McClellan accuses President Bush and his advisers of confusing a propaganda campaign with the honesty needed to ensure public support. On Hurricane Katrina, for which the administration was so severely criticized, McClellan claims to have been uncomfortable with a photograph of Mr. Bush scanning the enormous devastation. Then there is one of the most controversial scandals to plague the Bush White House. The CIA leak case.

MCCLELLAN: There will be a time to talk about this, but now is not the time to talk about it.

ASSURAS: : McClellan claims that among those who misled him was Karl Rove, the president's former advisor, and Louis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Earlier this week you told us that neither Karl Rove, Elliott Abrams nor Lewis Libby disclosed any classified information with regard to the leak. I wonder if you could tell us more specifically whether any of them told any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA.

SCOTT MCCLELAN: I spoke with those individuals, as I pointed out, and those individuals assured me they were not involved in this. And that's where it stands.

ASSURAS: Well, as it stands this morning, the White House has no comment on the book. Harry.

SMITH: Not surprised. CBS's Thalia Assuras at the White House, thanks. Joining us now is the man who broke this story, Mike Allen, chief political correspondent for politico.com. Good morning, Mike.

MIKE ALLEN: Good morning, Harry.

SMITH: I want to read a little bit from the book. 'Waging an unnecessary war is a grave mistake,' these are the words of Scott McClellan. 'But reflecting on all that happened during the bush Administration, I've come to believe that an even more fundamental mistake was made. A decision to turn away from candor and honesty when those qualities were most needed.' These are the words of a loyalist, whose roots with George Bush go all the way to Texas and the governor's mansion. Put this into perspective for us.

ALLEN: Well, Harry, I think that's a great point. Scott might have been one of the least likely people on the Bush White House staff to do this. He, as you well know, was always thought of as being one of the most on message people who was in the White House. As you know, he came with the president from Texas. He worked in the governor's office. And from behind the podium, he was almost like a robot in repeating their talking points. But, Harry, Scott took off his administration's flack hat and put on a historians hat here and gave what he says is a clear-eyed view of what he saw. Now the people inside, his former colleagues, take that as a personal betrayal. As you might imagine, they are furious. They described it as pathetic. They say that Scott was out of the loop. They say that Scott didn't voice any of these concerns at the time and they're even making a cruel joke. The title of the book is 'What Happened.' And they are saying it should be 'What Happened?' with a question mark.

SMITH: There's another quote from the book. 'Rather than choosing to be forthright and candid, they chose to sell the war and in so doing they did a disservice to the American people and to our democracy.' These are damning, angry words.

ALLEN: Yeah, well, and Harry, what's fascinating about them is that they echo both the substance and even the rhetoric, the phraseology of left wing liberal critics. Here, Scott McClellan, or 'Matrix,' as we learn in the book, his Secret Service code name is, says that the White House Press Corps was too deferential to the administration. That's something we've heard for years. Clearly not from the inside. He says that the White House Press Corps should have asked tougher questions going into the war and even says that some of the things that he's said from the podium himself turned out to be badly misguided.

SMITH: Right. Mike Allen, thanks so much. Good job breaking the story. Do appreciate it this morning.

ALLEN: Thank you Harry.

Foreign Policy Iraq Political Groups Liberals & Democrats Conservatives & Republicans CBS Early Show Mike Allen Maggie Rodriguez

Sponsored Links