Monday, July 11, 2005

WH Press Corps Gets a Spine Transplant

[Updated extensively below, scroll down]

Well I didn't watch the White House press briefing today (I don't usually because they're generally mind-numbingly dull). But apparently today's was a doozy! I'm still waiting for video (coming soon, says the White House), but Josh Marshall has put up a few excerpts here, and ThinkProgress has a full (rushed) transcript here. Just about every question in the conference dealt with Karl Rove's role in the Valerie Plame/Bob Novak/Matt Cooper/Judy Miller saga.

Here's a sampling:

"QUESTION: Scott, this is ridiculous. The notion that you’re going to stand before us, after having commented with that level of detail, and tell people watching this that somehow you’ve decided not to talk.You’ve got a public record out there. Do you stand by your remarks from that podium or not?
MCCLELLAN: I’m well aware, like you, of what was previously said. And I will be glad to talk about it at the appropriate time. The appropriate time is when the investigation…
QUESTION: (inaudible) when it’s appropriate and when it’s inappropriate?
MCCLELLAN: If you’ll let me finish.
QUESTION: No, you’re not finishing. You’re not saying anything.You stood at that podium and said that Karl Rove was not involved. And now we find out that he spoke about Joseph Wilson’s wife. So don’t you owe the American public a fuller explanation. Was he involved or was he not? Because contrary to what you told the American people, he did indeed talk about his wife, didn’t he?

MCCLELLAN: There will be a time to talk about this, but now is not the time to talk about it.
QUESTION: Do you think people will accept that, what you’re saying today?
MCCLELLAN: Again, I’ve responded to the question.
QUESTION: You’re in a bad spot here, Scott…"

"QUESTION: Does the president continue to have confidence in Mr. Rove?
MCCLELLAN: Again, these are all questions coming up in the context of an ongoing criminal investigation. And you’ve heard my response on this.
QUESTION: So you’re not going to respond as to whether or not the president has confidence in his deputy chief of staff?
MCCLELLAN: You’re asking this question in the context of an ongoing investigation, and I would not read anything into it other then I’m simply going to comment on an ongoing investigation.

"QUESTION: Scott, what was the president’s interaction today with Karl Rove? Did they discuss this current situation?
And understanding that Karl Rove was the architect of the president’s reelection (OFF-MIKE) how important is Karl Rove to this administration?
MCCLELLAN: Again, this is coming at it from…
MCCLELLAN: This is still coming at the same question relating to reports about an ongoing investigation. And I think I’ve responded to…
QUESTION: Who is Karl Rove as it relates to this administration?
MCCLELLAN: Do you have questions on another topic?
QUESTION: No, no, no, no. Who is Karl Rove as it relates to this current administration?
MCCLELLAN: I appreciate the question. I think I’ve responded

Wow. Where have these reporters been for the past five years?

[Update: AP weighs in: "White House won't comment on Rove and leak investigation." -- 2:37 p.m.]

[Update: Video here. -- 4:20 p.m.]

[Update: "Official" White House transcript here [now includes full video]. Also this from the New York Times. McClellan's briefing today seems to be quickly becoming a story in and of itself ... just look at what reporters can do when they put their minds to it! -- 4:54 p.m.]

[Update: The press stories (not to mention the blog-posts) are coming in way too fast for me to keep up with them all. Suffice it to say, this is emerging very quickly as a major story. McClellan's performance at the podium today really riled up the White House press corps, and they're all working overtime now to build this story. As of 5:30 p.m., the "White House mum" line was up on just about all the major news outlet web pages, and is the top post on a decent number of the blogs I check regularly. I don't want to call it a feeding frenzy, but when the shoe fits ... It's going to be very interesting indeed to see where we go from here, and how long Scott McClellan can continue to say nothing in the face of questioning from the enlivened press corps. -- 5:40 p.m.]

[Update: All three networks (CBS, NBC, ABC) mentioned the leak investigation at the start of their broadcasts (thankfully at different times, so by flipping through I was able to catch each of them). -- 6:32 p.m.]

[Update: The networks are not airing their reports on this story at the same time, which means I caught at least two of them. NBC says "more attention now on a top aide to the president, Karl Rove." David Gregory, one of those who questioned McClellan most strongly today, reported that McClellan "refused to stand by his defense of Rove..." He notes that Rove's lawyer says he committed no crime, and that Democrats are urging the president to follow through on a promise he made early on (to fire anyone involved from the White House). On ABC, a Terry Moran report spliced a bunch of McClellan's "I'm not going to respond" lines from today, followed by a clip of McClellan talking about Rove-as-possible-leaker back in 2003. The report quotes the email printed in Newsweek this week, and noted the high legal bar that must be crossed for Rove to have committeed a crime. The most important question still outstanding, Moran said, was what Bush would "do about Rove now." I'm not sure if I missed the CBS report but hope to report in on that as well. -- 6:41 p.m.]

[Update: I must have missed the CBS report tonight, but feel fairly confident it was similar to the others. I'll try and dredge up a video of it before the evening's out. Meanwhile, Alan at The Yellow Line has this: "Apparently the press corps has decided that this is a story. Is that fair? Well, probably not - given that Rove hasn't even been indicted let alone convicted. But, then again, the press corps has never been known to wait for verifiable evidence before going into full scandal mode. And if this is going to be a full scandal (as determined by the press), then the White House is in trouble. The last thing this administration needs is a major distraction. McClellan better have some real answers tomorrow."

I think it probably ought to be a story (although I'd certainly like to see the White House press corps expending the same amount of effort on all the other news out there), but I completely agree with the last sentence. Better come back with something, Scott, or they're just going to keep swarming. -- 6:59 p.m.]

[Update: Wow. This has been a very interesting day. All of these stories (SCOTUS, Rove, etc.) just keep getting stranger and stranger. My head is spinning. -- 7:17 p.m.]

[Update: For a post on Tuesday's press briefing, see here. -- 11 July, 1:38 p.m.]


At 5:16 PM, Blogger Nicole Swann said...

I wonder if Bush will stand by his promise to fire whoever was responsible for the Plame leak.

With the media hounding McClellan like that, it seems like Bush won't be getting off very easily.

At 6:56 PM, Blogger Heiuan said...

Ouch. That was painful just to read.

Interesting speculation re: Clinton and the SC, though.

At 8:23 PM, Anonymous The Jaded JD said...

I'm just waiting for The Daily Show's coverage of all those refusals to comment.

At 8:32 PM, Blogger JBD said...

jaded, I hope they're new tonight! It seems like they've been on repeats forever.

At 8:56 PM, Anonymous PhilS said...

Finally, some questions with teeth in them. And, some persistence for a change. I like your phrase: "...spine transplant". Let's hope the boys(and ladies) stay at it until there are some answers; if for no other reason than to make the WH look like it's stonewalling!!

At 9:00 PM, Anonymous PhilS said...

BTW-thanks for the great posting, and the links!!

At 11:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rove must be tried for treason and perjury. You be this is a real story!

At 10:13 AM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

To clarify, I think it's a real story--just not a story befitting a full-court press (no pun intended) quite yet. Give me an indictment and then we can unleash the hounds. Until then, daily questions are fine, lead-off coverage every night isn't.

After watching the news shows last night, it seems the press is giving this appropriate attention without overplaying it at this point. Plus, if McClellan is goign to keep stonewalling, he's going to get butchered over this.

At 10:30 AM, Blogger JBD said...

I agree Alan - I thought the press coverage was decent (the lead in the Times might be a bit much but I'm sure this whole thing's got them pretty angry). As for McClellan, I hope he's singing a different tune today - almost felt sorry for him yesterday.


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