Scott McClellan: Wikis


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Scott McClellan

Scott McClellan in the press room of the White House

In office
July 15, 2003 – May 10, 2006
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Ari Fleischer
Succeeded by Tony Snow

Born February 14, 1968 (1968-02-14) (age 41)
Austin, Texas, U.S.
Political party Independent
Spouse(s) Jill Martinez

Scott McClellan (born February 14, 1968) is a former White House Press Secretary (2003–06) for President George W. Bush, and author of a controversial book about the Bush Administration titled What Happened. He replaced Ari Fleischer as press secretary in July 2003 and served until May 10, 2006. McClellan was the longest serving press secretary under George W. Bush.



Born in Austin, Texas, McClellan is the youngest son of Carole Keeton Strayhorn, former Texas State Comptroller and former 2006 independent Texas gubernatorial candidate, and attorney Barr McClellan. McClellan's brother Mark headed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and was formerly Commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration. McClellan is the grandson of the late W. Page Keeton, longtime Dean of the University of Texas School of Law and renowned expert in tort law. He married Jill Martinez in November 2003.[1] They have one son.


McClellan with President Bush as he announced his resignation as White House Press Secretary.

McClellan graduated from Austin High School in 1986. He was a top ranked tennis player in high school and served as student council president. He later graduated from the The University of Texas at Austin, where he was president of Sigma Phi Epsilon and a member of the tennis team in his early college years. He served as campaign manager for three of his mother's successful campaigns for statewide office. In addition, he worked on political grassroots efforts and was the Chief of Staff to a Texas State Senator.[2]

McClellan waves farewell following his final press conference, May 5, 2006.

Karen Hughes, then-Governor of Texas George W. Bush's communications director, hired McClellan to be Bush's deputy communications director. McClellan served as Bush's travelling press secretary during the 2000 Presidential election. McClellan became White House Deputy Press Secretary in 2001. McClellan replaced Ari Fleischer, who stepped down as White House Press Secretary on July 15, 2003. McClellan announced his resignation as Press Secretary on April 19, 2006. On April 26, it was announced that Tony Snow would succeed him in the position.

Memoir and criticism of Bush administration

McClellan criticized the Bush Administration in his 2008 memoir, What Happened.[3] In the book, he accused Bush of "self-deception"[4] and of maintaining a "permanent campaign approach" to governing rather than making the best choices.[5] McClellan stopped short of saying that Bush purposely lied about his reasons for invading Iraq, writing that the administration was not "employing out-and-out deception" to make the case for war in 2002,[6] though he did assert the administration relied on an aggressive "political propaganda campaign" to sell the Iraq war.[7] His book was also critical of the press corps for being too accepting of the administration's perspective on the war[5] and of Condoleezza Rice for being "too accommodating" and overly careful about protecting her own reputation.[4]

In a Washington Post article on June 1, 2008, McClellan said of Bush: "I still like and admire George W. Bush. I consider him a fundamentally decent person, and I do not believe he or his White House deliberately or consciously sought to deceive the American people."[8]

Speaking frequently on the TV circuit, McClellan told Keith Olbermann in an interview on June 9, 2008, regarding the Iraq War planning: "I don't think there was a conspiracy theory there, some conspiracy to deliberately mislead. I don't want to imply a sinister intent. There might have been some individuals that knew more than others and tried to push things forward in a certain way, and that's something I can't speak to. I don't think that you had a bunch of people sitting around a room, planning and plotting in a sinister way. That's the point I make in the book. At the same time, whether or not it was sinister or not, it was very troubling that we went to war on this basis."[9]

As a result of his assertions in his book, McClellan was invited to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.[10] During the actual testimony McClellan said: "I do not think the president had any knowledge" [of the revelation of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity]; "In terms of the vice president, I do not know." .[11]

Response to criticisms

The Bush administration responded through Press Secretary Dana Perino, who said, "Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House. We are puzzled. It is sad. This is not the Scott we knew."[12]

Critics of McClellan's book included former White House staffers such as Karl Rove, Dan Bartlett, Ari Fleischer and Mary Matalin. Fleischer and Matalin have claimed that McClellan had not shared similar doubts during his tenure in the White House, and that if he had held such doubts then he ought not to have replaced Fleischer as Press Secretary. Matalin also called him "Judas", although she stepped back from calling the book a "betrayal".[13] McClellan has responded by stating that he, like many other Americans, was inclined to give the administration the "benefit of the doubt" on the necessity of the Iraq War, and did not fully appreciate the circumstances until after leaving the "White House bubble".[14]

On May 28, 2008, The O'Reilly Factor host Bill O'Reilly presented a clip from an interview with Fleischer, who suggested that the book was heavily influenced by the publisher's editor. In a subsequent interview days later, McClellan told O'Reilly that was not true and also testified under oath before the House Judiciary Committee that Fleischer's assertion was false. McClellan stated on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann that "everything in the book is a clear reflection of my views and everything in the book is mine."[14]

2008 Election cycle

McClellan endorsed Barack Obama for president on CNN's D.L. Hughley Breaks the News aired on October 25, 2008. The endorsement was reported in the press two days earlier as the show had been taped prior to airing.


  1. ^ Leibovich, Mark (2005-12-22). "Unanswer Man". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-06-25.  
  2. ^ White House bio.
  3. ^ What Happened. ISBN 978-1586485566.  
  4. ^ a b Bumiller, Elizabeth (2008-05-28). "In Book, Ex-Spokesman Has Harsh Words for Bush". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-28.  
  5. ^ a b Allen, Mike (2008-05-27). "Exclusive: McClellan whacks Bush, White House". The Politico. Retrieved 2008-05-27.  
  6. ^ Shear, Michael D (2008-05-28). "Ex-Press Aide Writes That Bush Misled U.S. on Iraq". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-05-28.  
  7. ^ "Ex-aide Scott McClellan rips Bush's Iraq 'propaganda'". Associated Press. 2008-05-28. Retrieved 2008-05-28.  
  8. ^ Yardley, Jonathan (2008-06-01). "Culture of Deception". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-06-21.  
  9. ^ "McClellan: White House 'Heads in sand'".  
  10. ^ "McClellan To Testify About CIA Leak - Washington Post".  
  11. ^ "McClellan: Cheney should testify about CIA leak".  
  12. ^ Loven, Jennifer (2008-06-21). "White House calls McClellan's book sour grapes". Associated Press.;_ylt=AoDI.8.h932XBISkIsceQPis0NUE. Retrieved 2008-06-21.  
  13. ^ Fox News's "Hannity & Colmes, 2008-05-28". Hannity & Colmes. 2008-05-28.
  14. ^ a b "Countdown, 2008-05-29". Countdown with Keith Olbermann. 2008-05-29.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Ari Fleischer
White House Press Secretary
Succeeded by
Tony Snow


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Scott McClellan in a briefing

Scott McClellan (born 14 February 1968) was the White House Press Secretary to President George W. Bush.


  • If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration.
  • Jeff Gannon: Since there have been so many questions about what the President was doing over 30 years ago, what is it that he did after his honorable discharge from the National Guard? Did he make speeches alongside Jane Fonda, denouncing America's racist war in Vietnam? Did he testify before Congress that American troops committed war crimes in Vietnam? And did he throw somebody else's medals at the White House to protest a war America was still fighting? What was he doing after he was honorably discharged?
    Scott McClellan: We've already commented on some of his views relating back to that period the other day.
  • Q: But if you stand out strongly trying to let the Arab world know that this is wrong and then you have the proverbial spokesperson for the conservative party saying this, doesn't that send a mixed message?
    Scott McClellan: The President's views have been very -- have been made very clear. Go ahead.
  • Jeff Gannon: In your denunciations of the Abu Ghraib photos, you've used words like "sickening," "disgusting" and "reprehensible." Will you have any adjectives left to adequately describe the pictures from Saddam's rape rooms and torture chambers? And will Americans ever see those images?
    Scott McClellan: I'm glad you brought that up, Jeff, because the President talks about that often.
  • Jeff Gannon: Last Friday, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report that shows that Ambassador Joe Wilson lied when he said his wife didn't put him up for the mission to Niger. The British inquiry into their own prewar intelligence yesterday concluded that the President's 16 words were "well-founded." Doesn't Joe Wilson owe the President and America an apology for his deception and his own intelligence failure?
    Scott McClellan: Well, one, let me point out that I think those reports speak for themselves on that issue. And I think if you have questions about that, you can direct that to Mr. Wilson.
  • Well, I indicated yesterday that I think there were some -- a few staff-level meetings. But, no, I'm making sure that I have a thorough report back to you on that. And I'll get that to you, hopefully very soon.
  • I think I previously indicated that he attended three Hanukkah receptions at the White House. It is actually only two Hanukkah receptions that he attended. [...] I don't get into discussing staff-level meetings.
  • The President is a very straightforward and plainspoken person, and I'm someone who believes in dealing in a very straightforward way with you all, as well, and that's what I've worked to do.
  • Isn't it my right to talk and say what I want to?
  • This relationship is built on trust, and you know very well that I have worked hard to earn the trust of the people in this room, and I think I've earned it -- and I think I've earned it with the American people.
  • That's accurate.
    • White House transcript lists McClellan’s answer as "I don't think that's accurate."
    • Source: Press briefing, October 31, 2005 [1] [2]
  • No, you don't want the American people to hear what the facts are, Helen, and I'm going to tell them the facts.
  • I'm sorry, who?
  • Q: ...would he possibly stand under a sign that says "Mission Accomplished" today as he did three years ago?
    Scott McClellan: Well, Peter, I think that there are some Democrats that refuse to recognize the important milestone achieved by the formation of a national unity government. And there is an effort simply to distract attention away from the real progress that is being made by misrepresenting and distorting the past. And that really does nothing to help advance our goal of achieving victory in Iraq.
    Q: Scott, simple yes or no question, could the President stand under a sign that says --
    Scott McClellan: No, see, this is -- this is a way that --
    Q: It has nothing to do with Democrats.
    Scott McClellan: Sure it does.
    Q: I'm asking you, based on a reporter's curiosity, could he stand under a sign again that says, "Mission Accomplished"?
    Scott McClellan: Now, Peter, Democrats have tried to raise this issue, and, like I said, misrepresenting and distorting the past --
    Q: This is not --
    Scott McClellan: -- which is what they're doing, does nothing to advance the goal of victory in Iraq.
    Q: I mean, it's a historical fact that we're all taking notice of --
    Scott McClellan: Well, I think the focus ought to be on achieving victory in Iraq and the progress that's being made, and that's where it is. And you know exactly the Democrats are trying to distort the past.
    Q: Let me ask it another way: Has the mission been accomplished?
    Scott McClellan: Next question.
    Q: Has the mission been accomplished?
    Scott McClellan: We're on the way to accomplishing the mission and achieving victory.
  • In this case, the 'liberal media' didn't live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.
    • Bush press secretary Scott McClellan of the Iraq War, What Happened
  • As I have heard Bush say, only a wartime president is likely to achieve greatness, in part because the epochal upheavals of war provide the opportunity for transformative change of the kind Bush hoped to achieve. In Iraq, Bush saw his opportunity to create a legacy of greatness.
    • Bush press secretary Scott McClellan, on Bush's need to be a wartime president to improve the chance of a "great" legacy, What Happened, pp. 131
  • As a Texas loyalist who followed Bush to Washington with great hope and personal affection and as a proud member of his administration, I was all too ready to give him and his highly experienced foreign policy advisers the benefit of the doubt on Iraq. Unfortunately, subsequent events have showed that our willingness to trust the judgment of Bush and his team was misplaced.
    • Bush press secretary Scott McClellan, What Happened [3]
  • I had allowed myself to be deceived into unknowingly passing along a falsehood. It would ultimately prove fatal to my ability to serve the President effectively. I didn't learn that what I'd said was untrue until the media began to figure it out almost two years later. ... Neither, I believe, did President Bush. he too had been deceived, and therefore became unwittingly involved in deceiving me. But the top White House officials who know the truth -- including Rove, Libby, and possibly Vice President Cheney -- allowed me, even encouraged me, to repeat a lie.
    • Bush press secretary Scott McClellan, on the illegal outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame by White House officials, What Happened;
  • I do not believe that the President was in any way directly involved in the leaking of her identity, but that was a very disillusioning moment for me when I found out when it initially hit the press, and I was in North Carolina, if I remember correctly, and a reporter shouted out to the President, "Is it true that you authorized the secret leaking of this classified information?" We walked onto Air Force One, and the Presidents asks, "What was the reporter asking?", and I said, "He asserted that you were the one who authorized Scooty Libby leaking this information," and he said, "Yeah, I did."
    • Bush press secretary Scott McClellan, on illegal leaking of counter-terrorist CIA agent identity; May 29, 2008; Countdown
  • I heard Bush say, "You know, the truth is I honestly don't remember whether I tried it or not. We had some pretty wild parties back in the day, and I just don't remember." I remember thinking to myself, How can that be? How can someone simply not remember whether or not they used an illegal substance like cocaine? It didn't make a lot of sense.
    • Bush press secretary Scott McClellan, on the cocaine rumors that surfaced during the 2000 campaign, What Happened, pp. 48-49
  • ...I could not say honestly today that this administration does not believe in torture, does not engage in torture.
    • Interview with ABC News’ Jake Tapper, July 07, 2008 [4]

Quotes about McClellan

  • I don't want to get too fulsome on you. I don't think you're going to be dining out on the book for the rest of your life, but I think this is a primary document of American history. I'm very impressed with it and I think at some point people will be teaching history classes based on it. ... This may be the most revealing look at any sitting President since John Dean was sworn in by the Erwin Committee in 1973.
    • MSNBC host Keith Olbermann to Bush press secretary Scott McClellan on the latter's book What Happened; May 29, 2008; Countdown
  • My impression is... that this is, what I would call from the Watergate days, a modified, limited hangout, and I say that because, not because he was malevolent in his desire to put it out there, but press secretaries know very little in the big picture of what's happening at the White House. They're pretty much told what the policymakers and what the other political people in the White House would want them to know so they don't compromise themselves and they can try to be as honest as possible when they're out there briefing the press. So that's why I think it's pretty limited, but yet fascinating for what it is, and he certainly does nail a few things down. ... I think I've read all the memoirs of everybody who's served at the White House at one time or another, going all the way back as early as I could find them, and this is a very unusual one. My situation was of course testimony. I was under oath; there was an intense investigation going on. This is really not in the same context. I can't really think of anything quite similar. I was thinking of press secretaries. The only one who's become anywhere similar was Ford's press secretary, who resigned over the pardon in his disquiet with the pardon, Jerald terHorst, where he said that he was unhappy with what was going on. Ron Nessen, too, was to a degree fairly frank, but he'd left office. When I look back at all press secretaries, this is probably about the only time I can think of a press secretary coming forward while the President was still there, and laying out some of the ugly truth.
    • Former Nixon counsel John Dean on What Happened; May 29, 2008; Countdown; see below for contrary view
  • Here's the thing about Scott McClellan. His performance on the podium suggested he was totally incompetent. He was really badly suited to that job. He hated the public attention and being in front of the cameras. But behind the scenes, well, I've known Scott since 1999, 2000. He actually was inside the circle of trust. That's why his comments are so damning and so critical here, because he did have walk-in access -- something that Tony Snow never did; and Dana Perino would be hard-pressed to have the same kind of relationship.
    • Richard Wolffe of Newsweek, on What Happened; May 30, 2008; Countdown; see above for contrary view
  • What Happened, I'll say it again, a Rosetta Stone for understanding the last seven years.
    • MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, June 9, 2008; [5]

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