CBS’s Schieffer: McClellan Makes ‘Very Serious Allegations’

Still Shot of Maggie Rodriguez and Bob Schieffer, May 29 On Thursday’s CBS "Early Show" co-host Maggie Rodriguez talked to "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer about the political fallout of Scott McClellan’s Bush-bashing memoir: "The White House is essentially dismissing McClellan's book as sour grapes from a disgruntled employee who was let go early...What do you make of all this?" Schieffer replied by declaring that: " Well, it generally happens in these kinds of things when an insider makes a disclosure, those that are still on the inside start to raise questions about motivations. But I think you have to look at what he said, these are some very serious allegations."

However, while Schieffer had no doubt of McClellan’s motives, when former CBS News reporter Bernard Goldberg wrote an editorial piece in the Wall Street Journal in 1996 accusing the network of liberal bias, Schieffer was shocked at the idea. In his first book, "Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News," Goldberg recounted how Schieffer reacted at the time: "It’s such a wacky charge, and a weird way to go about it...I don’t know what Bernie was driving at. It just sounds bizarre." Rather than being "serious allegations," Schieffer dismissed Goldberg’s charges as merely "wacky," "weird," and "bizarre."

In addition, Schieffer also suggested that Goldberg should have resigned if the bias was that bad: "If this place is as ethically corrupt as he [Goldberg] seems to think, I think he’d have no alternative but to resign." That sentiment sounds almost identical to what former Bush White House counselor Dan Bartlett said of McClellan to "Early Show" co-host Harry Smith just minutes before Schieffer’s appearance: "If he [McClellan] had this -- these many feelings and deep misgivings about the war and about the conduct of the White House, why did he take the job as press secretary? Why did he ask himself to get up every morning and get before the American people?"

Later on the show, Schieffer described how McClellan was simply confirming what everyone already knew about the Bush Administration: "...now you have this really inside insider saying that, you know, what a lot of people suspected, what a lot of critics said, well it was absolutely true. And that's fairly astonishing when you come right down to it."

Near the end of the segment, Schieffer predicted the book would be damaging to Republicans in the general election: "By fall, it may be that people will, as I say, think this is old news. But I can't see any way that this helps Republicans."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:14AM TEASER:

JULIE CHEN: Well up next, will Scott McClellan's book impact the presidential race? We'll ask Bob Schieffer.

7:17AM SEGMENT:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: We have more now on the reaction to Scott McClellan's memoir and other political headlines. We're joined by CBS News chief Washington correspondent and host of "Face the Nation," Bob Schieffer. Good morning, Bob.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Good morning, Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: The White House is essentially dismissing McClellan's book as sour grapes from a disgruntled employee who was let go early. We just heard Dan Bartlett tell Harry that if he really felt this way, he would have said so sooner. What do you make of all this?

SCHIEFFER: Well, it generally happens in these kinds of things when an insider makes a disclosure, those that are still on the inside start to raise questions about motivations. But I think you have to look at what he said, these are some very serious allegations. I think if there's any good news in this for the White House, it would be simply that a lot of people have already made up their mind about the war. We know that a majority feels we should not have gone there, according to polls. So it may be that people will see this as just confirmation of what they see as old news. But I don't see any way that this is going to help John McCain come the fall, this war is unpopular and now you have this really inside insider saying that, you know, what a lot of people suspected, what a lot of critics said, well it was absolutely true. And that's fairly astonishing when you come right down to it.

RODRIGUEZ: That's right it brings it back to the front burner even if it is, as you said, old news. Do you think that John McCain is worried that it will reflect poorly on him or on the party in the general election?

SCHIEFFER: Well, I think it just makes this tight rope that he's walking right now a little tighter, as it were. John McCain is trying to distance himself from the unpopular parts and policies of the Bush Administration, but at the same time trying to keep up his ties to the core of the Republican Party. I mean he -- using the president to raise money for him, but not really going out of his way to appear in public with him. This just makes his job a little harder. By fall, it may be that people will, as I say, think this is old news. But I can't see any way that this helps Republicans.

RODRIGUEZ: Speaking of a job that's getting harder, Hillary Rodham Clinton surviving this race, she is soldiering on, Bob, even though it looks likely now that only half the delegates from Florida and Michigan will be seated. Do you think this is the last straw?

SCHIEFFER: Well, the Democratic National Committee is -- Rules Committee is going to meet this weekend. Their lawyers are saying that the rules say that at the very least these delegations from Michigan and Florida should be penalized. And at the very least, they should get only half the votes that they normally would have gotten because they moved their primary up early in the campaign season, which was against the wishes of the Democratic National Committee. So that is going to hurt Hillary Clinton, that's going to make it even harder for her to get the nomination, but her people are saying, look, if they don't get what they want here, they may carry this on to the Credentials Committee. And while they're not saying at this point, they're going to do it, there's still the possibility that they could take this right to the convention and to the convention floor in a nasty fight. So they're not giving up, at least at this point.

RODRIGUEZ: I would not doubt that. Bob Schieffer, thank you so much.

SCHIEFFER: Okay.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC