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'What Didn't Happen'

WASHINGTON, Feb. 10, 2006--White House spokesman Scott McClellan abruptly resigned yesterday, accusing senior administration officials of misleading him about the CIA leak investigation.

For over two years, McClellan repeatedly insisted to the White House press corps that senior officials Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby, Jr., were not involved in leaking the identity of undercover operative Valerie Plame.

“The top White House officials who knew the truth--including Rove, Libby, and possibly Vice President [Dick] Cheney--allowed me, even encouraged me, to repeat a lie,” McClellan said. “I could feel something fall out of me into the abyss as each reporter took a turn whacking me. It was my reputation crumbling away, bit by bit.”


WASHINGTON, Sept. 1, 2005--Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, yesterday became the first senior official to quit in protest over President Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina.

At a hastily assembled press conference, McClellan said that Bush “spent most of the [past] week in a state of denial.

“One of the worst disasters in our nation’s history became one of the biggest disasters in Bush’s presidency,” he continued. “Katrina and the botched federal response to it [will] largely come to define Bush’s second term.”


WASHINGTON, July 15, 2005--Shocking Bush administration colleagues and baffling District of Columbia detectives, White House spokesman Scott McClellan appeared at a local police station yesterday to file a criminal report charging that Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby, Jr. illegally coordinated their testimony in the CIA leak probe.

“Following [a meeting in Chief of Staff Andy Card’s office] … Scooter Libby was walking to the entryway as he prepared to depart when Karl turned to get his attention. ‘You have time to visit?’ Karl asked. ‘Yeah,’ replied Libby,” McClellan’s complaint notes.

The complaint continues: “I have no idea what they discussed, but it seemed suspicious for these two, whom I had never noticed spending any one-on-one time together, to go behind closed doors and visit privately. … I don’t know what they discussed, but what would any knowledgeable person reasonably and logically conclude was the topic?”


WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2004--With President Bush locked in a close race with Democratic challenger John Kerry, his spokesman suddenly quit yesterday.

Scott McClellan, whose ties to the president go back to their days in Texas, told reporters that Bush’s inability to acknowledge mistakes in the handling of the Iraq war demonstrated major deficiencies in the president’s ability to be a successful leader.

“To this day, the president seems unbothered by the disconnect between the chief rationale for war and the driving motivation behind it,” he said, blasting Bush’s “determination to win the political game at virtually any cost. Bush was not about to give the Washington media anything critics could use to damage him and his reelection effort.”


WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 2003--Citing the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, White House Spokesman Scott McClellan has resigned after less than six months on the job.

“The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war … should never have come as such a surprise,” he said in a letter colleagues discovered this morning on McClellan’s freshly emptied desk. “The decision to invade Iraq was a serious strategic blunder. No one, including me, can know with absolute certainty how the war will be viewed decades from now when we can more fully understand its impact. What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary.”

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10, 2002--Hours before a scheduled Congressional vote that would authorize President Bush to use force against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, a top aide to President Bush has criticized his own administration for what he says is a scheme to manipulate the nation into war.

“Over [this past summer],” McClellan said in an interview shortly after his resignation yesterday, “top Bush aides had outlined a strategy for carefully orchestrating the coming campaign to aggressively sell the war. ... In the permanent campaign era, it was all about manipulating sources of public opinion to the president's advantage.”

In an unusual display of dissent from an ordinarily disciplined administration, McClellan said the president had “managed the crisis in a way that almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible option.” He called the effort a “political propaganda campaign.”


AUSTIN, Oct. 28, 2000--Travelling Press Secretary Scott McClellan has quit Governor George W. Bush’s presidential campaign--and endorsed Vice President Al Gore.

“Bush is plenty smart enough to be president,” McClellan told reporters at Gore’s Nashville headquarters. But he said the Texas governor’s “lack of inquisitiveness” could prove disastrous in the White House.

Speaking to reporters at Gore’s Nashville headquarters, McClellan questioned Bush’s honesty about past drug use. He claimed to have overheard Bush saying on the telephone earlier in the campaign that he couldn’t recall whether he had used cocaine. “I remember thinking to myself, How can that be?” he said. “How can someone simply not remember whether or not they used an illegal substance like cocaine? …

“I felt I was witnessing Bush convincing himself to believe something that probably was not true, and that, deep down, he knew was not true,” McClellan continued. "And his reason for doing so is fairly obvious--political convenience.”

Asked in an interview about the timing of his announcement, just days before the election, McClellan said he wanted to share his opinions now, when voters can act on them. He said he was not the sort of person who would wait years for a book contract before airing dirty laundry.*

*All quotes in the piece come directly from McClellan’s new book What Happened, as quoted by The Politico, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and ABC News. He didn’t say any of this on the dates given above, of course. In real life, he was pushed out in an April 2006 staff shake-up. Announcing his departure, McClellan choked up on the South Lawn as he told Bush: “I have given it my all, sir, and I have given you my all.”

Michael Currie Schaffer is working on a book about the American pet industry.

By Michael Currie Schaffer