Tuesday, January 03, 2006

New Year, Same Old Duck, Dodge, Dip, Dive And Spin From McClellan

"Just remember the five Ds of dodgeball. Dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge."

-- "Patches O'Houlihan," in the film "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story"

You have to wonder ... is Scott McClellan the modern-day Patches O'Houlihan?

Because McClellan, the White House Press Secretary, certainly knows how to dodge, duck, dip, dive and spin questions from White House reporters.

For example, at today's press briefing, McClellan "answered" some very pointed questions from reporters about President Bush's warrant-less domestic surveillance program. Bush admitted to personally authorizing the surveillance during his Dec. 17 radio address. The program circumvented rules that say the NSA must obtain a warrant before proceeding.

Follow along as McClellan exemplifies the best of dodgeball:


Q Scott, I'd like to begin on the ongoing debate over the surveillance. James Comey, who was then Acting Attorney General, reportedly opposed the continuation of the eavesdropping program in 2004, because he felt that it needed a kind of audit after it had been in place for a couple of years. And one of the criticisms leveled at the President is that whatever powers he deemed necessary to employ after 9/11, that after a couple of years since the attacks, he never felt it was appropriate to reexamine some of these issues, bring Congress into the debate at all. Do you think that's a fair criticism, that whatever presidential powers he may believe existed after 9/11, that it's appropriate as time moves on to reexamine the tactics employed by the administration?

McCLELLAN: They are. They are carefully reviewed on a regular basis by the highest officials within the Department of Justice, by the White House Counsel's Office, by the National Security Agency. And Congress has been briefed on the intelligence activities that we're engaged in under this authorization. This is a vital tool in our efforts to save lives and prevent attacks from happening. It is very limited in nature. We are a nation that is at war. The President is the Commander-in-Chief, and after the attacks of September 11th, he made a very firm commitment to the American people that he was going to do everything within his power to prevent attacks from happening and save lives. And that's exactly what we have been doing.

Q First of all, all of those checks that you mentioned are not checks; it's all within the executive branch. There's no check from another part of the government.

McCLELLAN: No, that's in the legislative branch, as well.

Q Well, but you say you briefed members of Congress. What you did is you pulled them into a room and said, this is what's happening, now thanks and don't tell anybody. I mean, that's not --

McCLELLAN: More than a dozen times on the activities conducted under this authorization.

Q But wait a minute. Even if they said it's a bad idea, what were you going to do, say, okay, well, we'll take that under advisement.

McCLELLAN: I think that, clearly, the American people strongly support the efforts that we're undertaking to save their lives. ...

McClellan, the expert dodgeball player, knows that both Democrats and Republicans have indicated that the administration told Congress what it was doing, rather than seeking Congressional approval.

"It does not constitute a check and a balance,'' Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) said last month. And that's why McClellan quickly changed the subject.


McCLELLAN: Well, I think there actually was a poll last week that showed more than the 60 percent of the American people support --

Q Oh, now you embrace polls. Okay, I'll tell -- I'll note that for the record. (Laughter.)

McCLELLAN: -- more than 60 percent of the American people support --

Q You may be right, but --

McCLELLAN: Let me just finish, and then I'll come to you -- support the actions that the President is taking to prevent attacks from happening in the first place. ...

McClellan may have been referring to an ABC News/Washington Post poll from Dec. 15-18, which asked:

"Do you approve or disapprove of the way Bush is handling the U.S. campaign against terrorism?"

Of 1,003 respondents, 56% approved and 44% disapproved. Not quite "more than 60%."

But since McClellan cited this poll's results, he must have recognized that the figure was on the high end of the most-recent six months of polls. The average of those polls: 52% approve, 47% disapprove. At the same time, CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll showed most recently 52% approval, 46% disapproval, and over the same six-month period, an average response of 53% approve, 45% disapprove, with the same margin of error. A Time magazine poll showed 49% approval, 48% disapproval, and a six-month average of 49% approval, 46% disapproval.

Factoring in the 3% margin of error on each poll, one could easily argue that the nation is essentially split on the question.

(The laughter, by the way, was because of McClellan's frequent recitation of variations of "we don't believe/rely on/get caught up in polls." Apparently, they only believe in spinning the poll results.)


Q A number of members of Congress do not agree that the President has the authority to do what he did in that case.

McCLELLAN: Well, previous administrations have cited similar authority. ...

Similar authority, perhaps -- if similar means previous presidents followed the rules and the current one doesn't. But more likely, McClellan was suggesting that previous administrations had cited the same authority as Bush. And while this bit of spin has been repeated often by the conservative media, it's not true.

It follows on a Dec. 21 press release from the Republican National Comittee that falsely alleged that Presidents Carter and Clinton had also spied on U.S. citizens or anyone in the United States. To make the claim, the RNC used sentence fragments to take presidential executive orders out of context.


Q Will you cooperate with a congressional hearing?

McCLELLAN: -- the Attorney General has been talking to additional members of Congress about this authorization, so that they do understand why this tool is so vital in our efforts to prevail in the global war on terrorism.

Q But will you cooperate with a hearing?

McCLELLAN: Well, I'm not going to get into talking about ruling things in or out from this podium. We'll talk with members of Congress and make sure that they're briefed and kept informed, as we have been. ...

In other words, we're going to keep on doing it our way. And with a Republican-led Congress, we'll take our chances.

Happy New Year. Now stop paying attention. ...


Anonymous NanceGreggs said...

Poor Scottie McC ... day after day, having to defend the indefensible.

He must get REALLY pissed-off - makes you wonder why Bush always has those bruises on his face ...

1:02 AM  
Anonymous babydollhead said...

he looked and sounded like someone was feeding the lines to him. He'd go into a trance and spout off, in very, disjointed, pattern. of speech.

1:03 AM  
Blogger don dzikowski said...

I think the 60% McClellan referred to was a recent Rasmussen poll which showed 64% of Americans responded "yes" when asked do you believe NSA should be able to intercept terrorists calling into the U.S.
Of course, who is going to answer No to that question?
As Media Matters for America pointed out today in a must-read commentary providing a specific example of exactly what JABBS is all about
several Republican commentators and analysts (and as early as this morning in the New York Post) have clearly spun the poll results to suggest it demonstrates public support for Bush's warrantless spy program.
Media Matters correctly asserts had the question been worded differently, do you support spying by the Bush Administration without following the laws designed to protect American's privacy, the poll likely would have achieved a different result.
I hope other pollsters take the cue and properly phrase the question next time to get a TRUE GAUGE OF WHERE AMERICANS STAND ON THIS ISSUE.
Come on, pollsters, time to make yourself useful.
If it's any indication, an MSN web poll last week which had the question properly: 84% of tens of thousands of respondents said they opposed warrantless spying by the Bush Administration.

8:37 AM  
Anonymous NanceGreggs said...

As someone who has a BIG, FAT MOUTH and expresses their thoughts, no matter how unwelcome, I can't imagine what it must be like to get paid TO KEEP YOUR BIG MOUTH SHUT, day after day ...

I'm not a Scotty fan by any means -- just made the connection between Bush always having a beat-up face and Scotty's untenable position ...

"You nominated WHO for the Supreme Court? And you expect ME to take the heat for THAT? Take that, you IDIOT!"

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Scotty,
Working so hard to keep a straight face can only get you wrinkles or that beat-up look of your master.
Perhaps the Enron Bunch needs a spokesperson to shore up their public images as they head to court this year on multiple felonies.
Hey with Kenneth Lay's connections to Bush, you should have no problem getting that job.

12:41 PM  
Anonymous zidzi said...

Look at it this way ... if scotty told the truth he'd be outta of job quicker than his mom can turn independent and run for governor of Texas.

3:10 PM  
Anonymous ash said...

Don't know about the rest of you, but as for myself, out of the many, many asinine statements and lies out of that man's mouth, the worst has got to be "I think I speak for the American people" or some variation thereof.

No, Scott, you don't.

4:46 PM  

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