Every so often, something happens -- sometimes big, sometimes small -- that forces you to contemplate the possibility that George W. Bush isn't a stupid as he seems to be. ... that somehow, he actually does know what's going on around him, and that worse, he is in on it. This used to happen to me with Ronald Reagan from time to time -- those moments when you got the feeling that he may have only seemed senile, but in fact, was the mastermind behind all the bad things being done in his name (Iran Contra was such a moment, but looking back, I'm leaning more toward his being used by people like Ollie North and Elliot Abrams...)
This is that kind of moment for GWB, and it comes courtesy of a doughey, sweaty little Texan named Scott, who used to work at the White House... Today, the company that's publishing his "tell all" book issued a couple of tantalizing paragraphs related to Scott's role in the cover-up following the outing of CIA covert agent Valerie Plame. Bloomberg picks it up from there
Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan writes in a memoir that he unintentionally misled the public about the leak of a CIA operative's name because of misinformation given to him by President George W. Bush, political adviser Karl Rove and other top officials.
A three-paragraph excerpt from the book released today by the publisher doesn't give details of what the president told McClellan. The case eventually led to the indictment and conviction of Lewis ``Scooter'' Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.
``I stood at the White House briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby,'' McClellan, 39, wrote. ``There was one problem. It was not true.''
McClellan wrote that he ``unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest-ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff, and the president himself.''
The White House, through its current flaks, has of course denied that Georgie would EVER ask anyone to lie, much less about the leaking of classified information -- something he claimed back in 2003 he knew not a thing about. As for McClellan -- the White House is implying that "he thinks the paragraphs were taken out of context." How Dana Perrino knows what Scott McClellan thinks is not explained, unless of course Dick Cheney is somewhere in a secret location, to which poor Scott has been dragged, bound and gagged, and is now telling him what he thinks.
What's intriguing about the McClellan eruption is that it brings us back to the fundamental question that Patrick Fitzgerald was never able to answer for us during the Plame leak investigation, because of the sand thrown in his eyes by the perjurious Scooter Libby: namely, who inside the White House knew that Scooter Libby was peddling classified information that the White House hoped would discredit Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had blown the whistle on the Bush administration's foreknowledge of the emptiness of their charges about Iraq and yellowcake from Niger. Who knew, and who may have ordered Libby, and perhaps others (Newsweek's new golden boy Karl Rove comes to mind... kudos to the editors at Time, by the way, for having higher standards
...) to leak Plame's identity, outing and endangering her and anyone who worked with her, and blowing years of weapons intelligence that had been gathered by her through the CIA front company Brewster Jennings.
Fitzgerald's indictment of Libby clearly suggests that he believes that the vice president was involved -- perhaps even the key player in the treasonous game of hardball. But McClellan's little paragraphs open the door to the possibility that the culprits in the unprecedented betrayal of a covert agent by her own government -- something brand new in American history -- may have gone all the way to the top.
A reporter on MSNBC tonight suggested that the book is "Scottie's revenge," and says that McClellan left the White House bitter and angry at having been misused by the White House in the Libby affair. David Gregory disagreed with the revenge thing (he would, he doesn't often go out on a limb when it comes to politics...) but he did agree that McClellan left the White House a bitter man. He certainly seems to be putting some distance between himself and the 22 other administration officials
involved in either the leak itself, or the cover-up. ... including one rather dim, but maybe not-so dumb ... George W. Bush. More on the case against Bush in the Plamegate affair from Thinkprogress here