Scott McClellan Apologizes for Bashing Richard Clarke

McClellan called Clarke's book on the Bush White House "flat-out wrong" in 2004.


May 30, 2008— -- What goes around, comes around.

In an encounter last night in the lobby of a New York hotel, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan apologized for denouncing a former White House colleague, Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism adviser, after Clarke wrote a book highly critical of the Bush administration in 2004.

Now McClellan is facing a similar denunciation from the White House for his own highly critical book.

"I should have known how personal it would get when they went after me, well, I mean, after what I said about you," Clarke says McClellan told him in the lobby of New York's Essex House.

"I think I can forgive you now," Clarke says he replied.

"I'd like to ask you to," McClellan reportedly answered.

In 2004, McClellan said Clarke's book, asserting the Bush administration failed to take timely action against al Qaeda, was "flat-out wrong." He told reporters at a March 22, 2004 briefing, "Ask yourself why, one and a half years later, after he left the administration, he's all of a sudden, coming forward with these grave concerns? If he had such grave concerns, why didn't he come out with them sooner?"

Now White House aides are saying much the same thing about McClellan's assertions, in his book "What Happened," that President Bush waged a deceitful propaganda campaign to promote the war in Iraq.

Clarke, an ABC News consultant, says McClellan appeared to be "very sorry, repentant" for his role as Bush's press secretary.

Both Clarke and McClellan were in New York to promote books.

Clarke appeared Thursday night on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" to talk about his new book, "Your Government Failed You," and was asked about McClellan's criticism of him in 2004. "I think there is a box in the White House that, if anyone escapes and tells the truth, they break open for talking points about what to say," Clarke told Stewart.

Clarke says the two former Bush administration officials parted with Clarke telling McClellan, "OK. Good luck. Be careful."

Clarke says he left McClellan alone, a position the former press secretary is finding whereever he turns.

McClellan's brother Mark, who was a member of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers and later appointed by Bush to head the FDA, issued the following statement, "Scott has thought long and hard about his experience in Washington, and his book reflects that. I have the deepest respect for my brother's commitment to public service, and for his saying what he feels needs to be said to help our government work effectively."

ABC News' Mark Mooney contributed to this report.

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