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May 28th, 2008
09:25 PM ET

I know his voice, and this is not it.

Richard Benedetto
Former USA Today Reporter

Editor's note: Richard Benedetto covered the White House for USA Today during the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He retired in 2006 and now teaches political science and journalism at American and Georgetown Universities.

Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's indictments of the Bush White House, some three years after the fact, ring a bit hollow to me. I say that because he was such a staunch and seemingly naive defender of President Bush and his policies during the time he was press secretary; even more so than his predecessor, Ari Fleischer, and his successor, Tony Snow.

Having seen McClellan during his days as press secretary come out every day and robotically press the administration view in the daily gaggles and briefings, even in the face of tough and sometimes badgering questioning from reporters, led most in the White House press corps to conclude that Scott was a true believer and there was no way were going to shake him or get him to tell tales out of school.

His most common tactic when continuously hectored by reporters to answer a question that they felt he tried to evade was to repeat the same obviously scripted line, over and over, until we finally gave up. We often walked away from the briefings in frustration, shaking our heads and muttering to ourselves.

So for him to come out now and tell us in his book that much of the information he was peddling to the media was false, or at least misleading, causes me to ask why he waited to long to tell what now he preceives as the truth. He charges that he was misled by high level White House aides such as Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. Did he know that he was misleading us, or was he a total rube?

While I have not read the book the things I have heard reported about it make me wonder if McClellan really wrote it. Having heard him speak many, many times, formally and informally, I know his voice. The lines being reported are quite candid, something he never was a press secretary.


Filed under: Raw Politics • Scott McClellan
soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Tee

    I'm not buying his book. It will be just like B.Walters' book. We won't have to buy it, because we will know the stories before we have to buy it.

    May 29, 2008 at 8:57 am |
  2. David

    I just read the comments on the CNN blogs. It's absolutely amazing how many IDIOTS

    May 29, 2008 at 3:45 am |
  3. J.V.Hodgson

    Wow guys, whats all the fuss? He obviously needs the money or something!!
    Welcome to freedom of speech (in the constitutional sense) and buy his book if you are even remotely interested. Remember when you do this guy certainly did not set policy, and simply put out the party line!
    Should he have resigned at some point when it trepassed on his Journalistic pride or integrity, of course ,Yes.
    So thats the point. It is not relevant whether what he NOW says is true or not, it for sure will change nothing in any effective way that has any influence on anything. If more than 50 % is true where was his integrity at the time as a Journalist?
    I believe, by the way MR.Wigand was ultimately vindicated in a US Court, that comment should therefore have been moderated out!!
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    May 29, 2008 at 3:41 am |
  4. Robert Grover

    The media is still not doing its job. I did not see one person from the opposition party, or the congress ona any show today. Instead we got the usual neocons doing their slash and burn. He could not tell the truth, he would have been disgraced and fired. Where are the investagions!!!!

    May 29, 2008 at 2:49 am |
  5. Pam Moller

    People keep saying this is about Bush's ego. I feel this is about money and power. Who has made the money off the Iraq War? Follow the money that is what Bush and his buddies were after. They have made fortunes but they will not have to visit thier loved ones graves.

    May 29, 2008 at 2:19 am |
  6. Trenton Sims, Los Angeles, California

    Better late than never..

    Thought he could look himself in the mirror forever..then take the lies to his grave...?

    May 29, 2008 at 2:09 am |
  7. David Ondo

    Watching the coverage on AC360 Tonight, when the focus was on the Valerie Plame issue, it almost sounded like Karl Rove & Scooter Libby were somehow involved???

    I was waiting for Anderson to interject and clarify for the viewing/listening audience that in fact we know who was involved in the revealing of Plames ID and it was not Rove or Libby.

    May 29, 2008 at 1:50 am |
  8. Wade Fredericks

    I knew back before the 2000 election that if George Bush got in he wanted to go after Saddam just because Saddam had threatened to kill his father, George Bush, Sr. I believe I saw a speach? I also hear other say the same and even some initial staff members said when he first took over the first this he said was what can we do to get Saddam.

    Before the election I was at my hometown for Thanksgiving and we needed to make a liquor store run. Well, my father in law as doctor, a soon to be doctor my brother in law, and a Pharmaceutica high exec my sister in law's husband all ganged up on me about voting for democrats. I said that I voted for whichever is the best candidate and in this case the clown G W Bush was very dumb, was going to go after Saddam in any way he could, and I was afraid he was going to ruin our standing in the world and was worried about other things such as also getting into was with other countries in that area such as Iran, Pakistan, etc.. I was worried that he would start WWIII or a holy war. Since he has done more dumb things than I even thought he was going to do. I knew he scared me in this area. He was going to get what he wanted, Saddam, and he did not care what it took or who got killed, or anything or anyone, he did not care about what after.

    I know that I was not the only one that knew this, I believe I heard it from others on TV. I believe someone initially in his cabinet that left said when he first got in, the asked his cabinet what do we do to get Saddam.

    May 29, 2008 at 1:46 am |
  9. Ruel Alexander

    RE: Anderson's discussion with reporters about Benedetto's charges that the press was irresponsible during the last couple of years.
    The news media should really take a good look at the medium and how it has changed since being conglomerated. It seems that investigative reporting of serious matters has become scarce and something such as Watergate might not surface today.
    The press have become like sheep reporting on the same stories, prolonging and dwelling on what is easy to report on while ignoring major issues. Issues are being ignored because of political correctness and world news is lightly covered. Does money and politics affect the tone and the airing/printing of stories?
    Maybe someone as unfettered by editors as Anderson, can do an expose on his industry.
    I would also like it to include the personal power of newscasters in the comments they make and special investigative issues that they highlight.
    News has also become blips and blurbs without proper context and history. I have seen the Middle East reported on without a brief background that would contextualize the story for people who know nothing of the culture and history. Without this many Americans might think that the mindset of those being reported about in other cultures are the same as their own.
    And yes, I do not think the media has vetted and informed the public about Mr. Obama's record during all these months. Especially since, in the last decade, it escalated the issues that led to millions of dollars worth of investigations on the Clintons.

    May 29, 2008 at 1:45 am |
  10. Dannon Stewart

    When I seen this on AC360 I see that McClellan is a "naive' person who really was not ready for the job as press secretary. First, his job is to be a replacement for the president at press conferences. I am not a rocket scientist, but what happend to finding what is right in terms of facts? If you defend something, especially an advisor or a policy for an example, shouldn't a person back their defense with facts? This is seen when he defended the one of the advisors of the Bush administration and then two years later discovered that he was wrong because the media leaked out the right evidence. In addition to this, in answering the questions of the press, I feel that the former Bush loyalist was irritating. You can't defend something or someone by repeating the samething. When it comes to his book, personally I think it will be a load of garbage. The young woman who was on CNN (I think she was the national advisor for the station) explained that he couldn't get enough information so having this book to i guess to redeem himself from his involvement with the current administration is rediculous. I believe that half of the topics that he explains in the book is not proven by him but by the media itself. I also find it that its going to be contradictiary to what he said two years ago. I can't wait to finish my philosophy book so I can read this one!

    May 29, 2008 at 1:35 am |
  11. Jo-Anna

    Get real Fleisher......I am a citizen that recognized the propaganda that the Bush administration was dishing out about Iraq when it was happening. I did not need to be in the same room as our incompetent president to recognize that he was lying to the American public. One thing that you can say about this Bush is that he is good at lying and using the tactic of fear to execute his own hidden agenda to invade Iraq. I thought that Bush was a Christian. Does he not know about the commandments that say "Thou shall not lie" and "Thou shall not kill." It is amazing that this country can spend so much time and effort taking down a presidency over sexual misconduct. Yet, let this man send America's brave men and women fight the wrong war and kill thousands of innocent Iraq's....Just disgusting.

    May 29, 2008 at 1:33 am |
  12. maurice, florida

    I find it odd and strange how this administration and its pundits don't discredit Scott's comments but find it "Strange" that he would come out and say these things, remember his job and the job of the President is to the American people. And to the fact propagandizing one thing is this or is this isn't the Administration who kept the Dead American Soldiers coming home from the war from being filmed by the media as to manipulate the press as to not putting a picture and a face on the consequences and casualties of war, but reducing them to numbers, why didn't we all see it then.

    May 29, 2008 at 1:28 am |
  13. Jay

    Well this guy is what you call a business man. He has no regards for ethics or being considered a sell out but he knows he is profitable to our country. He knows many Americans will believe he is an insider just like they believe Obama is a savior. So he decides he will write a book that will appeal to the 70% of Americans that disapprove of Bush (I still havent been asked if I approve but whatever) and totally back stab a friend. Hopefully our country will be smart enough to know that a press secretary is not an insider they are simply told what the public should know and often times already know and then released to the media. Good job Scott at trying to look cooler than you really are!

    May 29, 2008 at 1:24 am |
  14. Joe

    I find it puzzling how the McClellan book is dominating the news coverage.

    To people like Ari, who debunk the comments, I will concede the point that the book should not be taken as fact, because McClellan was not Press Sec. in 2002.

    But people who say, oh, that's "not the Scott I knew" and try to discredit the book are failing to acknowledge an obvious point. That McClellan is simply stating his opinion after sufficient cognitive dissonance in the area of Bush's intentions and motives in the Iraq War build-up.

    C'mon Anderson, McClellan is the perfect person to exercise freedom of speech and state their feelings. He is in the spot light.

    And the majority of the US public feels the same way, this book is not a bombshell, its a statement of what the majority of America has already agreed on.

    May 29, 2008 at 1:17 am |
  15. sandy

    It is easy to criticize Mr. McClellan for not speaking up earlier. When he was in the White House he was under the direction of good old George. Now he can freely speak his mind and I , for one, thank him for doing so. He only gives credence to what Americans already suspected about Bush and his cohorts. Perhaps it is because his conscience got the best of him. It must be very dificult living in a swarm of liars, deceivers, and cheaters. The really scary thing is McCain is rounding up many of those "cohorts" into his own camp for re-election purposes.

    May 29, 2008 at 1:07 am |
  16. Pat M

    "While I have not read the book the things I have heard reported about it make me wonder if McClellan really wrote it. Having heard him speak many, many times, formally and informally, I know his voice. The lines being reported are quite candid, something he never was a press secretary."

    Richard this is quite a report on pure heresay from things you heard reported. Maybe you should read the book first and then report on your own unique gut feelings.

    I write much differently than I speak. In written discourse one has the time to give thought to the message they wish to convey, to choose their words, tone, and style of expression. And I wouldn't expect there are many who have held such a position that would willingly allow another the priviledge of penning their experience in such a candid manner and then sign their name to claim ownership. An interesting theory but not very plausible.

    May 29, 2008 at 12:33 am |
  17. GAIL Centre,Al;

    Scott MCclellan .Republicians are embarssed and are doing everything to discredit him Everyone knows what a liar Bush is,he has misled the american people from the very start. they say he is not the person they new, give me a break. The Bush administration has been a big blunder since the start from the war to the economy. and who gives a hoot what Newt thinks. they are all liars.

    May 29, 2008 at 12:09 am |
  18. Bobbie

    I find it disgusting that CNN "reporters" are shocked that McClellan did not give them straight answers at the time he was press secretary! Do they really think that is what the White House does, give straight answers?

    His job was to feed the press and therefore us just what the administration wanted us to hear.

    May 28, 2008 at 11:36 pm |
  19. PJ

    McClellan brought up a very good point about National Press Corp, and 'liberal media' being too lenient with the current administration and that country would have been better served if it had not. This also concerns the Valerie Plame issue.

    Something I cannot understand regarding the Valerie Plame exposure is that the Press never asked – or for that matter no one ever said – Why exposing Valerie Plame's identity was/is not considered treason? Isn't exposing a spy of your own country constitute treason? And, what is the punishment for treason? Isn't it death penalty?

    May 28, 2008 at 11:34 pm |
  20. Brian Malin

    He sold the country out for a paycheck!And now he is selling his friend out for a paycheck I sure hope osama binladen dose not have a way to get in touch with him.

    May 28, 2008 at 11:31 pm |
  21. Arnold Anaya

    I think that it's about time the country knew what this administration is capable of, lying,deception,etc. I think this administration is just what Mr. McClellan says it is. Thank you Mr. McClellan for doing the right thing and exposing Bush and his staff.

    May 28, 2008 at 11:25 pm |
  22. Joe

    It's obvious that McClellan was selling out, saying whatever he needed as long as he needed so he could be in a powerful position. I never bought any of it and he probably didn't either. My question is: why does CNN put Ari Fleischer in my face now? Every time I turn on CNN to find out what's going on, there's Ari with his flag pin giving me the same Bush administration propaganda ... but now as a member of the CNN team. It's disgusting! Makes me turn off CNN whenever I see his smirking face ... especially the time he attacked Obama for not having the flag pin when we should all be attacking him for lying to the country day after day. That's what un-American! Please wake up CNN! I used to have some respect for you. No more CNN-sponsored Bush propaganda. You've passed on enough of that to the American people already!!

    May 28, 2008 at 11:23 pm |
  23. Bobbie

    Who is actually suprised that all the Bush loyalists are bashing Scott McClellan? Perhaps, he truly could not live with the lies he had been asked to tell to all of us, and in turn the number of lives lost due to those lies. Maybe the reason Republicans don't recognize this Scott McClellan, is because none of them are capable of facing the truth behind his words.

    May 28, 2008 at 11:20 pm |
  24. kevin bell

    The press secrery being "naive" is ridiculious..he got that job because he was, and is, most decidely not naive. It wasn't his job to tell the press what they wanted to here, nor was it his job to tell the truth. It was his job to get the administrations story out, propaganda and all. His job was to get in the news what the administration wanted to get in the news and deflect any facts the administration did not want the public to know..he did his job well. I agree, the press gave this administration such huge passes on every issue, serious and sublime, that came about during the bush years..an example, did anyone ask what weapons of mass distruction saddam used to take out the twin towers??? sounds stupid now, doesn't it? No, Mr McClellan was not naive, nor was he blind, deaf or dumb..he was doing his job. and WE let him.

    May 28, 2008 at 11:00 pm |
  25. Barbara Hollis

    "All the President's Men & Women...Again"–Come on, ditto heads out there–we all know what happens to "whistleblowers". Is Jeffery Wigand still alive?

    May 28, 2008 at 10:59 pm |
  26. Don

    I am not a journalist; but if I were I would check into the Middle East Doctrine that was first pushed in the first Bush Administration by Wolfowitz, Cheney, and Rumsfield. There in lies the whole reason for War. The WMD was good fuel for the plan. How come Ari isn't asked about that ??

    May 28, 2008 at 10:35 pm |
  27. Denise Scotti-Smith

    The book may have been written for alternative motives besides a loyalty to our country and democracy, however, it may also have been because this man does not feel that what happened was correct...Wasn't a big part of the controversy around the Karl Rove connection to the outing of a CIA agent that it was "retaliatory"......

    come on! Give us a break....

    If Colin Powell couldn't get the president to listen to him, why would this "young man" think that he had an opportunity to speak to the Bush Administration about his concerns. Take this and all of the other issues with the Bush administration, ie., the lobbyists and over 100 representatives of polluters, banks, etc,, who are responsible now for overseeing those agencies....you get an administration that is crooked and full of it....Period. The fact that this story shouldn't surprise anyone is the real Headline~

    Scott is being touted as a "disloyal person with no character, etc" for not coming forward sooner or expressing his concerns with the administration...typical republican pundit response...I, for one am not falling for this anymore....(meaning, that at one time I did!)

    May 28, 2008 at 10:27 pm |
  28. Dale Steele

    Apparently the Republicans think that the BIGGER the flag pin, the more we'll believe them. It must be difficult for Ari Fleischer to hold himself up on his feet under the sheer weight of that gigantic flag pin. It's laughable, really.

    May 28, 2008 at 10:19 pm |
  29. Tammy

    I'm hoping that McClennan was just staying in his position to gather as much information as possible to expose Bush and his fellow circus actors (Cheney, Rove, Libby etc) to finally epose them for the crooks and traitors to this country that they are and that hopefully that he would have enough evidence to have them tried and not get away with it anymore and be justly held accountable and punishable

    May 28, 2008 at 10:17 pm |
  30. Annie Kate

    Perhaps this is the first time McCellan could actually be himself and say what he thinks – Bush doesn't deal well with dissent. Just remember back to when the Iraq war was starting – if you disagreed with it or Bush's arguments for it you were branded as unpatriotic. Freedom of speech seemed to only apply to those that agreed with Bush.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    May 28, 2008 at 9:58 pm |
  31. Jack, Long Island, NY

    "His most common tactic when continuously hectored by reporters to answer a question that they felt he tried to evade was to repeat the same obviously scripted line, over and over, until we finally gave up."

    That sentence from your essay should lead you to believe him now.

    May 28, 2008 at 9:39 pm |