The Corner

McClellan on “Today”

Scott McClellan appeared a few moments ago on the Today Show.  He said there were “two defining moments” that caused him to grow “increasingly disillusioned” at the White House.  Both had to do with the Valerie Plame Wilson affair.  The first was when McClellan told reporters that he had talked to Karl Rove and Lewis Libby and that neither had anything to do with the disclosure of Wilson’s identity.  “Karl Rove and Scooter Libby both, I asked them point blank,” McClellan said this morning.  “Both assured me in unequivocal terms, no.”  McClellan then passed on their word to reporters, and he says he was deeply disillusioned when he found out that that was not true.

The second defining moment, McClellan said, was in April 2006, “when I learned that the president had secretly declassified the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq,” also as part of the Wilson matter.  McClellan said when that revelation came out, he went to the president and told him that reporters were saying Bush had secretly declassified the NIE so that it could be used in the White House’s defense.  Approaching the president on Air Force One, McClellan said, he described what reporters were saying.  Bush, according to McClellan, replied simply, “Yeah, I did it.”

“For me,” McClellan said, “I came to the decision that at that point I needed to find a way to move on.”

All that is fine — it’s the stuff of Washington memoirs — but at the same time McClellan is sticking to a set of high-minded talking points that the “larger message” of the book has been lost in the controversy.  “My hope is that by writing this book and by sharing openly and honestly what I lived and learned, that in some small way it might move us beyond the destructive partisan warfare of the past 15 years,” he said on Today.

Byron York is a former White House correspondent for National Review.

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