McClellan would be skeptical of White House on Iran
Published: Thursday May 29, 2008

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Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann in his first prime time interview since the release of his book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and What's Wrong with Washington, that he was disillusioned by his realization of his role in the White House's outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

The President's admission of responsibility for the leak during a trip on Air Force One, McClellan said, was the turning point. He further said that he wanted to know what happened to the man that promised to "restore honor and integrity in the White House."

"When I went to work for the President, I had all this great hope, like a lot of people, that he was going to come to Washington and change Washington as he had governed in Texas," he continued. McClellan put his faith, like many Americans, in the President and the foreign policy team after 9/11.

"Did you lie, as White House press secretary, at any point?" Olbermann asked.

"I did when it came to the issue of the Valerie Plame leak episode, when I unknowingly did so. I passed along false information. I'd been given assurances by Karl Rove and Scooter Libby that they were not involved in the leak. And it turned out later that they were, but they both unequivocally told me, when I asked them, 'Were you involved in this in any way?' they said no."

McClellan went on to say that the 9/11 attacks were used to further a "broad view" of what would become the War on Terror, with Iraq being incorporated as part of such a view. 9/11 was seemingly as much of an opportunity as it was a disaster, McClellan insinuated, for members of the Bush administration, including Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, to fulfill desires they may even have had before 9/11.

"What happened was that the intelligence was packaged together in a way to make it sound more ominous, and more grave, and more urgent, than it really was."

"Coercive democracy," McClellan went on, was part of the Bush administration's strategy in the Middle East. On the selling of the war, the Bush administration was perhaps zealous, but didn't actively lie, McClellan opined. "I don't think that that this was some deliberate, conscious effort to go and mislead the American people," he said, "but it was part of this 'permanent campaign' mentality that existed in Washington too often today (sic), and it was taken from other policies and brought into the issue of war and peace, where it becomes especially problematic and especially troubling."

"This White House," McClellan went on, "was too secretive, or has been too secretive--too know, too willing to embrace the unsavory political tactics that are at the heart of the excesses of the 'permanent campaign.'"

"They are still in this permanent campaign mode," McClellan added, on being questioned on whether or not the White House is making preparations to invade Iran. "They haven't backed away from that. I can't speak specifically to what the intent is in some of the people's heads there. I think that our options are certainly limited with all of our commitments right now, but I hope that when people look and read this book, that they will learn some of the lessons from Iraq and that we won't make some of the mistakes that we've made elsewhere."

"So knowing what you know," Olbermann inquired, "if Dana Perino starts making noises similar to what you heard from Ari Fleischer in 2002 and other members of the cabinet, you would be suspicious?"

"I would be," McClellan said. "I think that you would need to take the comments seriously and be skeptical."

The entire interview, as aired on May 29, 2008 on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, is available to view in five parts below: