by: Johanna Neuman, The Los Angeles Times
Washington - Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan made clear today that it was President Bush - not the high-profile aides around him - who left him most disillusioned in the run-up to the Iraq War. In an interview on NBC's "Today Show," McClellan called it a "defining moment" when he learned that President Bush had secretly declassified a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. The move allowed Vice President Dick Cheney and his top aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, to leak information to reporters at a time when the press secretary was at the podium criticizing those who would leak classified information.
"I was kind of taken aback," he said. "It undermined a lot of what I had been saying."
He also said he was troubled by instructions from Bush and Cheney to defend Libby and political guru Karl Rove as uninvolved in the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA operative. The leaks were an attempt to discredit her husband, who was disputing the rationale for war in Iraq. They later acknowledged their roles and Libby was convicted of lying to prosecutors; his sentence was commuted by Bush.
With the White House still reeling from the revelations in McClellan's book, "What Happened - Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception," the former press aide who came to Washington from Texas with Bush eight years ago began a media tour explaining how he came to be so critical of the Bush team.