This morning Byron York, who is an excellent reporter even if he does work for the National Review, summarized the moment in press secretary Scott McClellan’s career when he went from spokesman for the President to critic of the President.
The first [defining moment] was when McClellan told reporters that he had talked to Karl
Rove and Lewis Libby and that neither had anything to do with the
disclosure of Wilson’s identity. "Karl Rove and Scooter Libby both, I
asked them point blank," McClellan said this morning. "Both assured me
in unequivocal terms, no." McClellan then passed on their word to
reporters, and he says he was deeply disillusioned when he found out
that that was not true.
The second defining moment, McClellan said, was in April 2006, "when I
learned that the president had secretly declassified the National
Intelligence Estimate on Iraq," also as part of the Wilson matter.
McClellan said when that revelation came out, he went to the president
and told him that reporters were saying Bush had secretly declassified
the NIE so that it could be used in the White House’s defense.
Approaching the president on Air Force One, McClellan said, he
described what reporters were saying. Bush, according to McClellan,
replied simply, "Yeah, I did it."
"For me," McClellan said, "I came to the decision that at that point I needed to find a way to move on."
Both these moments are classic examples of dramatic reversal, as defined precisely by Aristotle approximately 2500 years ago. The English word used to describe characters who in one moment go from love for another individual to hatred for that same individual, due to a revelation, is betrayal.
McClellan is still too rooted in his past history to state what happened to him that bluntly, but he has become a public example for a larger betrayal of the nation, which is why this story is turning out to be much bigger than expected for the GOP.
Noteworthy is John McCain’s reaction to the story. According to the Wall Street Journal, McCain is confident it won’t affect his bid for the White House:
Asked about the book, McCain replied that he hasn’t read it but said he believed that Saddam Hussein had the weapons and he is glad Hussein is no longer in power.
McCain goes on to criticize the "failed strategy" pursued by the Bush administration, arguing that the American people feel betrayed not because we went to war, but because we fought it so badly.
Will this adroit but unemotional response answer McClellan’s dramatic criticism of Bush and his allies? Time will tell, but methinks Aristotle would scoff. To a man who accuses you of lying, you cannot say; well, but it doesn’t matter that the White House lied, because it would have worked out if only…
…because the lie still stands. Prediction: This issue’s not going to go away.