McClellan: I Became What I Wanted to Change

In the last ten months, I would say, at my time at the White House is when I really started to become disillusioned. The first instance, I guess it was shortly before you came to the White House, the first instance of my disillusionment was the revelation that I had been knowingly misled by two senior members of the President's staff. Two colleagues of mine. Two people that I had gone to and said, 'Were you in any way involved in the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity?' and was told unequivocably 'No." And then I find out, just before it was in the press, that what I had said to the public was false, even though I thought it was true at the time. It really undermined me.

The second instance was when, in April 2006, shortly before I left, when the President confirmed to me in person after one of your colleagues, Jim, had shouted a question at him, about whether or not he had authorized the disclosure of part of the National Intelligence Estimate, secret, uh, National Security, classified National Security information, something we had descried time and time again at the White House to protect against the leaking of national security information. And here I find out the President had done it himself. That was very disillusioning for me.

MARTHA RADDATZ: What, when you talk about those instances, you, you are also most critical about the war in Iraq. And you say, you discovered ten months before you left, because you were deliberately misled, that that's what upset you. But the war? Day after day after day, we didn't find weapons of mass destruction, they had talked about a grave and gathering danger.


MARTHA RADDATZ: ...At the White House. Why, why didn't you feel that...

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Which, which I go into large detail about.

MARTHA RADDATZ: ...Why didn't you feel you were misleading the public?Why didn't that go off in your head, some of it?

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, at the time, we need to separate- I was Deputy Press Secretary, in the build-up to the war, not the Secretary.

MARTHA RADDATZ: I understand that.

SCOTT McCLELLAN: So I wasn't involved in the overall strategy for the selling of the war, uh, to the American people.

MARTHA RADDATZ: But you heard it just like we did.

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Right. But I did fill in at times. Yes, and I, and, and I gave the benefit of the doubt to the President, and to his foreign policy team. This was a post-9/11 mind set we were in at the time. This was a foreign policy team that had won widespread accolade for what they had done in the immediate aftermath in 9/11, deservedly so, uh, very much so. Uh, but, at the time, when I was there, I, and I had concerns, like a lot of people, that we're rushing into this. But, uh, that wasn't my focus area, and I gave it the benefit of the doubt because I have great affection for the President, I trusted in his judgement. And in that instance, I think that my trust was misplaced. Um, there are many things that he has done right, but that which we did wrong has overshadowed, uh, that which we have done well. And it starts with Iraq. And the more fundamental issue that I talk about, that you, you and I were just talking about, was not embracing really a high level of openness and forthrightness about the realities of the war-making decisions, and about the hard truths that we need to understand before going into war.

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