TheWhite House Wants To Keep Little Scottie Out Of The Witness Chair
Q Congressman Wexler has called on Scott McClellan to testify before Congress, and Congressman Conyers says that he has directed his committee staff to reach out to Mr. McClellan to make arrangements for him to talk to the committee. Does the White House have any objection to this kind of conversation?
MS. PERINO: I checked on it for you. The White House Counsel’s Office takes these things when we have a formal request. We don’t have a formal request yet. When we get one, that’s when we look at the request, weigh it fully — as we do with all the others — and it’s just not a decision that we would make prior to getting a formal request.
Q Could the White House block him from testifying if he wanted to testify? Or how does that work?
MS. PERINO: Conceivably?
MS. PERINO: Hypothetically — which I’m not supposed to answer hypotheticals — (laughter) — yes, I think so. The law would allow for that, but by saying that I’m not suggesting that that’s what would happen or not happen.
Three Shakespeares, No McClellans
Q Has President Bush read this — read McClellan’s book or does he have any intention to, to sort of find out what this is all about?
MS. PERINO: Well, he’s been regularly briefed. I think he’s read a lot of the articles about it, but I don’t anticipate — he may or may not read the book. I don’t know, we haven’t talked about that.
Q You haven’t bought it for him?
MS. PERINO: No.
I Can’t Count The Number Of Time Dana Peroxide Has Snidely Disdmissed What Democrats Say Because Thhey Are Democrats
Q This morning you said that this wasn’t about the messenger, it was about the message.
MS. PERINO: Sure.
Q But isn’t it precisely about the messenger, because those criticisms that Scott raises in his book — they’ve been out there — usually they come out of the mouths of Democrats — but they’ve been out there. So isn’t it precisely —
MS. PERINO: That doesn’t make them true.
Q But what I’m saying, though, isn’t it the fact that a former member of the inner circle is saying them that it adds some degree of legitimacy; it’s not just dismissible by saying, well, those are Democrats and they’re our political opponents?
MS. PERINO: I don’t believe — no, and I don’t think that any time that we have argued about this that we’ve argued just about the messenger when it comes to Democrats either. We argue about it on the merits. And our central objection to the book to the book is that it is not based in fact.
“Outrageous” – “I’ve Never Witnessed” – “Absurd” – “Loaded” — None Of These Are Denials
Q But he makes a number of charges, and not all of them are that direct. For instance, he says the President engages in “self-deception.” And that’s not something that may be willful, but it still has significant consequences.
MS. PERINO: I think it’s an outrageous claim. I’ve been here myself for a long time, almost as long — I’ve known the President not as long as Scott has, but quite a long time. This is a President who is — I’ve never witnessed any self-deception at all. I think it’s an absurd claim. And it’s such a loaded charge.
We Invaded Because Of The Suiciders!
Q Can we just talk about what isn’t true in the book? I mean, you go to the part about weapons of mass destruction and the big threat wasn’t great and gathering as the White House said. And you said that’s not true? Was there no exaggeration? Was there no hiding? Was there no spinning about the war?
MS. PERINO: Not that I’m aware of. But did we communicate about the war? Yes. And I would point you to the President’s speeches — all the speeches that the President made leading up to it; he made several comprehensive speeches making the case for why Saddam Hussein was a threat, which was, based on the intelligence that we had — and not only the United States had, but that’s what the world had. And in addition to that he talks about — in his speech especially on February 26, 2003, when he spoke to AEI; it was before I was a part of the press office, so I would encourage you to go back and look at it, as I’ve had to do myself — where he talks about that the benefit to a free Iraq would be to the Iraqi people and also to the region, and establishing a change in the Middle East when it comes to freedom and justice and democracy.
Q But the order of what was talked about at the time in the buildup to the war was largely about weapons of mass destruction.
MS. PERINO: I think that that was — well, I think you could go back, you could weigh it — you know, I’m looking at it, what I have seen is a comprehensive case for confronting Saddam Hussein, and that’s what the United Nations of course was talking about, specifically weapons of mass destruction. But there was also a gathering threat in terms of the nexus of working — for example, paying suicide bombers, paying families of suicide bombers.
And you know better than anyone, Martha, about the buildup to this, the reaction to this. The problem that we have is this —
Q There were no suicide bombers in Iraq.
MS. PERINO: But paying them in the Palestinian Territories and in Israel. That’s something that Saddam Hussein himself said.
Dana Don’t Spin!
Q Just a general question, then, Dana. I mean, one of the things he talks about is spinning, exaggeration, I mean, what goes on at the podium — which is an indictment of you, as well. Do you think there’s no spinning?
MS. PERINO: You know, it’s a term that I don’t necessarily use. I come out here, I answer your questions, I answer them to the best of my ability based on the information and the facts that I have.
Q Define your job for me. I know Scott in the book says that his job — he believed his job was to advance the agenda of the President of the United States.
MS. PERINO: Sure it is. That’s part of it. And my job is to be his spokesperson. But I also, as many of you in this room know — especially you — that I work very hard on behalf of the press as well. I defend the press, I advocate for the press and I make sure that all of you have answers as quickly as possible to the best of my ability every single day — Saturdays and Sundays included.
The Powers That Be Wouldn’t Let Dana Read Scottie’s Manuscript
Q When you say that we’ve known for a little while that this was coming, was the manuscript well circulated within the —
MS. PERINO: No, it was close — it was tightly held. And in fact I haven’t read the whole thing myself.
Q But when you said “we knew,” who was “we”? Was it the Counsel’s Office?
MS. PERINO: The Counsel’s Office is the recipient of the manuscript.
Q Was the President aware? Was the Chief of Staff —
MS. PERINO: As I said, he was briefed about it by members of senior staff who were aware of it, but it was very tightly held thing. It was not circulated and of course I think you can know that it was pretty tightly held from our end because we didn’t get — we didn’t give any reporters or anyone else outside the information or the manuscript.
Q Do you know whether anybody contacted Scott McClellan about the content?
MS. PERINO: I don’t know for sure, but I don’t believe so.
When Dana Says Scottie Is “Disgruntled” She’s Not Questioning His Motivations
Q Dana, you’ve used words like “sad” and “disgruntled” when talking about Scott and the book. Do you have a sense of his motivation after a few days of this back and forth about —
MS. PERINO: I’m not — I won’t question his motivations. He’s free to have his opinions and he’s free to have a look back at his period.
Oh, Now She’sPissed!
Q Are you surprised he might vote for Obama?
MS. PERINO: I really don’t care who he votes for.
No Obligation To Speak Up
Q Sorry you’re on the hot seat on this, and excuse me if you’ve already been asked this at some point, but if you — have you harbored any doubts about the war, and if you did, would you speak up, and would you resign?
MS. PERINO: Well, frankly, Connie, this isn’t about me. Whether or not I — what I care — what I think on any issue is of no interest to any of you — maybe until I leave and write a book — (laughter.) But my job — any press secretary’s job is to articulate the President’s positions and message, and answer your questions. And that’s what any press secretary is supposed to do. So I’ll continue to do it for the next seven months, or for however long he’ll have me here.
Q Well, let’s just broaden it. If a staff member has doubts, do they have an obligation, any staff member, to speak up —
MS. PERINO: They have to all make that decision on their own.
Goyal Blames The Mother
Q Dana, two quick questions, please. One, as far as Scott is concerned, we all have known him very well and he was very close to the President, and the President is a loyal friend. And also he was like a family to him, and also he was close to everybody in the White House. What do you think have gone wrong? Do you think he was bitter about something, or maybe influenced from his Democratic mother, or something? (Laughter.)
MS. PERINO: I think I’ll just leave that one alone. What’s your second question?
Les On Chimpy’s“Clownish” Behavior
Q I have one question that has nothing to do with your — (laughter.) This morning The Washington Times published a statement by Marine Corps Sergeant Steven Pryor of Bowie, Maryland: “The photographs of unprofessional behavior by newly commissioned Air Force officers and President Bush on the front page of Thursday’s edition are incredibly disappointing, clownish, and set a horrible example for everyone in the military.” Will this Marine sergeant be punished for this statement, or not?
MS. PERINO: Certainly not. I think it’s referring to the U.S. Air Force Academy commencement ceremony, and the President had a wonderful time with 1,012 cadets, personally acknowledging each of them.
Q You saw the pictures on the front —
MS. PERINO: It was a wonderful event.