'Welcome to Judiciary Committee's First Book of the Month Club Meeting,' Snarks Ranking Member, Comparing Former Press Sec to Judas, During Oversight Hearing Concerning First-Ever Outing of Covert CIA Operative by an American White House
By Brad Friedman on 6/20/2008, 8:39am PT  

Blogged by Brad from the road...

The testimony was interrupted by House floor votes shortly after it began, but not before opening statements from Chairman John Conyers (D-MI), ranking member Lamar Smith (R-TX), and Scott McClellan himself (text here), as well as a single round of questions from Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Howard Coble (R-NC).

Not surprisingly, the Dems were respectful to the former WH Press Secretary, and even Coble was restrained and decent-ish in his first set of questions on behalf of the Republicans, following Smith's predictable attempts to try and smear McClellan and his publisher (as little more than operatives of the evil evil master overlord of all things not-Republican: George Soros).

Smith's opening statement --- characterized as "character assassination" which "has no place in this committee," as Nadler described it --- likely portends what's to come from the bulk of the Republicans should the hearings ever get re-started this morning.

In the meantime, McClellan, to his credit, again has refused to back off of his claims even one iota. As legendary "Pentagon Papers" whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg wrote to us recently, following McClellan's recent Fox "News" appearance, in which he stood up to bully boy Bill O'Reilly, "he sounded to me as though he had ACQUIRED, even if belatedly, the instincts of a whistleblower (and he's paying the usual social price for that with respect to all his old colleagues, though compensated by royalties)."

With all of that in mind, Smith's opening statement (video now posted at left, text posted below), described the hearing as "the Judiciary Committees first book of the month club meeting" before proceeding to plug Ann Coulter's book. He then accused McClellan of "selling out the president and his friends for a few pieces of silver." It was something to behold, and demonstrated (yet again) just how far these guys are willing to go to protect the Administration (versus offering oversight, as required by the Constitution) when they need to.

Remember, this hearing has to do with an administration, for the first time in the history of this nation, having revealed the identity of a covert CIA operative...and one who was monitoring WMD traffic in the Middle East, of all things.

The text of Smith's complete opening statement follows in full...


Prepared Remarks of Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lamar Smith
Hearing on "Revelations by Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan"

Welcome to the Judiciary Committee's first book of the month club meeting. Today it's Scott McClellan's "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception". I propose that next time we consider Ann Coulter's recent book, How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must).

It's hard to take Mr. McClellan or this hearing seriously. Despite what Mr. McClellan says regarding Iraq, three different studies - the Senate Intelligence Committee report of 2004, the Robb-Silberman report of 2005, and Britain's Butler report - conclude that intelligence reports were not altered in the lead up to the Iraq war.

And, despite the book's innuendo, a three-year independent criminal investigation found that no White House officials "leaked" Valerie Plame's name to the media in violation of the law.

Also, it should be of no surprise that there was spin in the White House press office. What White House has not had a communications operation that advocates for its policies? Any recent Administration that did not try to promote its priorities should be cited for dereliction of duty.

Many have asked why Mr. McClellan did not object to what he saw while he was at the White House. The reason is clear: There was nothing to object to.

Last Monday, at the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport, I had a conversation with an airline employee who asked me what I was working on. I mentioned this hearing and she, a self-proclaimed Democrat, replied, "Why are you having him? All he did was write a book." It appears many Americans might have trouble taking this hearing seriously.

Motives are important. We don't really know Mr. McClellan's motives-he says he had a revelation, which contradicts everything he said and did for two and a half years.

There are some questions we may never get the answer to:

  • What really explains going from a loyal and trusted staff member to a person who makes biting accusations?
  • Since Mr. McClellan has included no footnotes in his book, and few direct quotes or written memos are cited, is the book just a typical opinion piece, without evidence to support its assertions?
  • Mr. McClellan was asked to leave his job. Did this color his views? Did he just want to strike back at those who showed him to the door?
  • What role did money play? So far, he has not revealed what he was paid for the book-or what he stands to gain by promoting it. Clearly Peter Osnos, the Editor-at-Large for Mr. McClellan's publisher PublicAffairs, would have known that an inflammatory book would sell more copies and make more money for all concerned.
  • How much influence did a biased editor have on the finished product? What edits were made to the original manuscript to make it more critical of the Administration? We do know that Mr. Osnos and PublicAffairs have published six books by George Soros. Mr. Soros was the largest donor to Democratic 527 groups during the 2004 presidential election, giving over $23 million. And we know that Mr. Osnos himself has been highly and publicly critical of the Bush Administration. Also, Mr. McClellan's project editor for the book, Karl Weber, has written venomous statements about the President, for example, calling him "a clearly horrible person".

So, who is the real Scott McClellan? The one who actually wrote in his book that the administration did not employ "deception" and said: "Some critics have suggested that sinister plans were discussed at the [White House Iraq Group] meetings to deliberately mislead the public. Not so." Or the one who elsewhere in the same book leveled self-serving accusations?

While we may never know the answers, Scott McClellan alone will have to wrestle with whether it was worth selling out the President and his friends for a few pieces of silver.

He will have to confront whether he was manipulated by extremely biased editors with a partisan agenda.

And finally, sooner or later, he will have to answer to his own conscience.