The news of former White House spokesman Scott McClellan’s tell-all memoir, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and What’s Wrong With Washington, hit the blogosphere full force this week, with a two-paragraph excerpt generating most of the excitement. This publicity play on the part of PublicAffairs Books may have worked too well, however, and the publisher’s founder and editor-in-chief, Peter Osnos, is now trying to contain the storm he helped create.
On the PublicAffairs website Monday, McClellan wrote about the Scooter Libby-Valerie Plame scandal, saying in 2003 that while exonerating Libby and Karl Rove, he had “unknowingly passed along false information.” He then goes on to specifically implicate President Bush and Vice President Cheney, saying they, along with White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and Libby and Rove, were involved in the spreading of this false information.
Osnos has told NBC, however, that McClellan isn’t saying that Bush lied and intentionally misled the public. Apparently those remarks were part of an unfinished manuscript, and McClellan is working under an April deadline. According to Osnos, Bush didn’t lie to McClellan; in fact, Bush was himself unaware that the information that he was giving McClellan, mainly that Rove and Libby had nothing to do with the Plame leak, was false.
While Osnos’ clarifications may be intended to smooth things over and say that Bush didn’t lie, the unintended consequences are questions regarding who actually has the power in the White House. If Bush was giving false information to McClellan, then he must have been given false information, by Cheney, Rove, Card, or all three. So even if Bush comes out of this safe from investigation, he still ends up looking like a clueless puppet.