The Bush administration and its surrogates are stepping up attacks against former press secretary Scott McClellan over his explosive White House memoir.
Ari Fleischer, President Bush's first press secretary and McClellan's old boss, elaborated this morning on previous statements from several current and former Bush administration officials that "this is not the Scott I know."
Speaking with NBC Today co-host Matt Lauer, Fleisher said, "You know, Matt, the guy we all knew seemed completely willing to disseminate lies about a war of choice that would lead to the senseless deaths of over one million Iraqis and 4,000-plus American soldiers. In other words, we knew him as a loyal, soft-spoken and honorable man. Scott led us to believe that he, like us, was little more than a soulless husk of a human being. A ruthless, unethical, democracy-killing zombie. Sadly, that's apparently not the case."
"So you're saying he lied to you, Ari?" asked Lauer. "That he misled the administration and the American people?"
"Yes. I'm saying he was not the doughy-faced Goebbels comfortable with seeing his country irrevocably slip into the grip of murderous fascists that he presented himself to be," Fleischer clarified. "And I think it's incredibly dishonorable for Scott to do this now. He could've at least waited until President Bush left office. But," Fleischer said, shaking his head in disgust, "I guess that vestige of decency is gone. I'm heart-broken. It makes me wonder if Scott ever believed the propaganda he said from the podium."
Last night, former White House counselor Dan Bartlett discussed the allegations in McClellan's book with CNN's Campbell Brown.
"Dan, you knew Scott pretty well," said Brown. "Could you imagine he would write such a scathing portrayal of this White House?"
"I mean, before you continue, did I mention what an incredibly scathing indictment this is?"
"Truly puts the s in scathing, don't you think? I'm tempted, Dan, to do a quick scat call about how scathing this book is. But since I'm part of the best political team on television and not an improvisational jazz singer, let's stay on topic."
"Sure, Campbell. I'd first like to point out that innocent people suffer greatly when false allegations are made without hard evidence. Words like 'propaganda,' used with such reckless disregard for the consequences and truth, put the American people in grave danger. And, you know," Bartlett also noted, "he forced this book on us. We had no say in the matter, no input into the process. And maybe that's why the book is so fundamentally wrong. I would never portray anything in which I've participated, Campbell, as a propaganda effort. I mean hello, that kind of defeats the whole purpose of participating in such activities, doesn't it?"
"Dan, I know you and Scott were pretty close. Are you still friends?" asked Campbell. "Do you still consider him a friend?"
"Campbell, if by friend you mean someone whom I've dedicated myself, along with other honorable patriots, to portraying as a disgruntled, lying, schizophrenic out-of-the-loop mental patient, then, yes, of course he is still a friend. That hasn't changed."
Condoleezza Rice, addressing McClellan's charges that the Bush administration misled the public into invading Iraq, told ABC Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts today, "The record on weapons of mass destruction appeared to be very clear. There's no denying that Saddam Hussein was a threat and we took the responsible action. We believed we couldn't afford the smoking gun to come in the form of a mushroom cloud. Our only mistake," Rice admitted, "was not realizing another mushroom cloud might take the form of Scott McClellan. And for that, many of us in the White House, myself included, will have to take responsibility."
President Bush, however, as he boarded Air Force One this afternoon with a few "Shakespeares" under his arm, downplayed distress over McClellan's accusations.
"You know, I don't think about Scott so much. I'm not so concerned with him. There are much greater threats to our country right now. Um, you know, he's just a threat. But I don't think he's the threat. And as president, I think it's my job to keep my eye on the biggest threats to our country. So I'm truly not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run." Bush added, "Look, when the, uh, levees of honor are breached, that's when once good men think, 'Forget the truth, I'm looking for a big payday.' In other words, greed takes precedence over any catastrophic effect on people's lives. And, well, Scott McClellan is going to have to live with that. What the American people should know is that we're working closely with other governments to deny Scott sanctuary, or training, or a place to hide, or another place to raise money."
A New York Times op-ed scheduled for publication Saturday by Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy for the Competitive Enterprise Institute and an outspoken critic against the predominant theory that global warming is man-made, might signal a new tack taken by the White House and it surrogates.
Ebell writes, "I've found no measurable proof that McClellan ever served as press secretary in the Bush administration. Therefore, all of Mr. McClellan's accusations are based on the flimsiest of empirical evidence and seem to be supported wholly for partisan reasons. Once again, alarmists are attempting to use the illusory power of truth to misinform the American people. I'm not sure what could be more un-American than that."
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