Thursday, April 08, 2004

Scott McClellan -- that fine line between spin and dishonesty

Despite his being a depressingly easy target, we'll have to take the occasional swing at White House spokesweasel Scott McClellan. And there's a seriously enlightening piece over at deadparrots.

In defending Condi Rice's previous stance not to testify in front of the 9/11 commission, McClellan said the following during a White House press briefing on March 9:

Dr. Rice -- you mentioned Dr. Rice -- Dr. Rice sat down, was scheduled for I believe a two-hour interview -- sat down for I think it was more than four hours that she actually visited with the commission. She was more than happy to visit with the commission. Only five members actually showed up, despite the fact that it was scheduled for the entire commission. You had another national security official under Dr. Rice who met with the commission and I think only four showed up.

The implication here is obvious -- clearly, those lazy-ass commissioners can't work up enough interest to even drag themselves in to talk to Rice. But at the time, I couldn't help thinking, were all of them even invited? Were all of them even allowed to be at those interviews?

And the answer appears to be, well, no. As deadparrots quotes from USA Today:

What McClellan didn't tell reporters was that on Nov. 21 - long before Rice met with the five commissioners in February - the White House counsel's office had sent the commission a letter saying no more than three commissioners could attend meetings with White House aides of Rice's rank.

Ooh ... busted.

UPDATE: As I thought more about this, it made me wonder, when McClellan made the original statement at that press briefing, why no reporter in attendance thought to ask the obvious question, "Uh, Scott, just to clarify ... were all members of the commission specifically invited to talk to Rice? I mean, they were all allowed to be there, right?"

After all, by the time this briefing took place in March, it was already well known how the White House was trying to control the interview process, making it as restrictive as possible. So it wouldn't have represented a great leap in deduction for someone to have asked what should have been an obvious question. After all, the thought of several commissioners just being too lazy or disinterested to want to talk to Condi Rice is clearly absurd on its face.

And now that McClellan's been busted, one wonders if anyone will pin him on this at an upcoming briefing. I mean, spin is one thing. But outright disinformation is quite another, and someone should take him to task for it.

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