CNN’s John Roberts wasted no time to herald Scott McClellan’s "revelation" on how the Bush administration supposedly used "propaganda" to push the Iraq war. After reading an excerpt from McClellan’s book on the issue, Roberts responded, "He finally articulates what we all came to believe... and further goes on to say that this war was unnecessary."
Roberts, who, during McClellan’s time as White House Press Secretary, was the White House Correspondent for CBS, made the comment during an interview of the Politico’s Mike Allen, who broke the McClellan story on Tuesday. Allen, like Roberts, was a White House correspondent during McClellan’s time as Press Secretary, first for the Washington Post, and then for Time magazine.
Allen, in reaction to Roberts’s commentary on McClellan, replied, "Well, John, I think that's right, that these aren't particularly novel observations." He continued that McClellan "has put on a new hat. He's put on a historian's hat. He's not an administration flack anymore...."
Roberts must have "come to believe," to use his own phrase, the liberal talking points about the Iraq war pretty early on. During the broadcast of CBS Evening News on June 9, 2003, Roberts repeated the liberal finger-pointing already being pushed after the invasion of Iraq: "Accusations are being leveled that at the very least, administration officials embellished the evidence [of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction] – at worst, misled the world....It could be a significant scandal for the Bush White House, potentially worse than Watergate, says one man who remembers that era well."
Almost two months later, during a July 30, 2003 press conference, Roberts made a similar statement before a question he addressed to President Bush himself : "The world is a better place, and the region certainly a better place, without Saddam Hussein. But there’s a sense here in this country, and a feeling around the world, that the U.S. has lost credibility by building the case for Iraq upon sometimes flimsy or, some people have complained, nonexistent evidence. I’m just wondering sir, why did you choose to take the world to war in that way?"
Later on in the segment, Roberts ran a clip of former Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend attacking McClellan, and commented afterwards that "not only is he [McClellan] being thrown under the bus, but they're backing up the bus and they're running over him again."
The transcript of the relevant portion from Roberts’s interview of Allen on Wednesday’s "American Morning:"
JOHN ROBERTS: Mike Allen of Politico.com broke the story late yesterday. He joins us now live from Washington. Mike, this is an extraordinary book, and you could certainly tell by the level of pushback coming towards Scott McClellan from administration officials or former administration officials.
MIKE ALLEN, POLITICO.COM: Well, John, that's right. And you hear Republicans saying things like 'pathetic' and even making fun of the title, saying that instead of being called 'What Happened' it should be called 'What Happened?'
ROBERTS: He claims that President Bush used 'propaganda to sell the war.' Let's look at what he says in the book. 'And his advisers confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war.' He finally articulates what we all came to believe, Mike, and further goes on to say that this war was unnecessary.
ALLEN: Well, John, I think that's right, that these aren't particularly novel observations. But -- and as you and Karl suggested, who knew that there would be coming from Scott, and that's the power of them, is that they come from someone that was -- no one who's closer to the President. He's taken -- closer personally, as you know, was one of the first to come with the President from Texas, was with him since '99, traveled with the President on the campaign plane in 2000. But John, now Scott has put on a new hat. He's put on a historian's hat. He's not an administration flack anymore, and that's why there's such great unhappiness with him, and people saying that he's given up the only good quality that he had, in their view, which was loyalty.
ROBERTS: Right. He's getting ripped not only by Karl Rove but by Fran Townsend, the former National Security Adviser to the President, or the Homeland Security Adviser to the President rather. She's now a CNN contributor. Let's listen to what she said last night about this.
FRAN TOWNSEND, FMR. BUSH HOMELAND SEC, ADVISER: People need to understand that as an adviser to the President, I or Scott have an obligation, responsibility, to voice concerns on policy issues. Scott never did that on any of these issues, as best I can remember, and as best I know from my White House colleagues.... So for him to do this now, frankly, strikes me as self-serving, disingenuous, and unprofessional.
ROBERTS: Mike, not only is he being thrown under the bus, but they're backing up the bus and they're running over him again.
ALLEN: But we did see in this book glimpses of things that we might have imagined, but nobody had seen. For instance, in here, Scott says that he is the one who told the President this was definitely an undesirable task, who informed the President that the Chief Economic Adviser, Larry Lindsey -- remember in the run-up to the war -- had told the Wall Street Journal that it could cost $100 billion to $200 billion. Now, that turns out to be the low ball of all low balls, but at the time, that was heresy, and he says the President was steamed, clearly irritated. And, John, when they say the President is clearly irritated, you know what they're talking about there.