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House Panel Proves McClellan's Point Without Even Trying

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Former White House spokesman Scott McClellan told a House committee Friday he doesn't know whether White House officials broke the law when they revealed CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity, nor when they tried to cover up the leak. Video by AP

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"I am very proud of you as an American," gushed Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.), before asking if "impeachment proceedings would be warranted."

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No dice. "Congresswoman, I do not support impeachment based on what I know," McClellan replied.

He was equally quick to cut down the Republicans -- as when Smith portrayed McClellan as the plaything of a liberal publisher. "Mr. McClellan's project editor for the book, Karl Weber, has written venomous statements about the president; for example, calling him a, quote, 'clearly horrible person,' " Smith announced.

"Were you aware before you worked with him that he had called President Bush a clearly horrible person and said, quote, 'He's consciously manipulative and deceitful'?"

"No, I was not," McClellan said. Maybe that's because Weber had said no such thing. After a break, McClellan returned and reported to the committee that the line was written "by his daughter, and his daughter's name is on that post that is on the family blog site." The audience laughed. Smith did not.

The strain of the attacks from his former friends and colleagues showed in the puffy bags under his eyes, but McClellan dispatched with ease the ad hominem attacks. He had, after all, received much worse in the White House briefing room from reporters, with whom he smiled and chatted during breaks in the hearing.

Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) took a try at assigning McClellan financial motives. "Did this particular publisher offer you the most money? . . . Can you give me a rough estimate of the number of TV shows that you appeared on?"

But when Goodlatte charged that McClellan's allegations were "hyped to sell this book," McClellan's reply was calm.

"Which specific allegations?" he inquired.

Goodlatte was stumped. "Well, there are many allegations," he said.

McClellan simply smiled.

The harsh reviews from his fellow Republicans persisted. "If you felt that you were doing something wrong at the White House or misleading people," complained Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), "you should have spoken up at that time." Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) accused him of "inference and speculation and, in some cases, some innuendo."

But yesterday, Feeney was the one supplying the innuendo. He compared what McClellan did to a press secretary announcing the D-Day planning before the Normandy invasion. "The notion that we're going to share everything that we know with our enemies I find very disturbing," Feeney scolded.

"I don't make that suggestion," McClellan pointed out.

Feeney was flummoxed. "Well, anyway, thank you for your testimony," he said, then left the book club meeting for his son's Little League game.


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