Press Corps Must Put McClellan’s New Standard to the Test

At today’s press briefing, Scott McClellan was asked to explain why Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was willing to speak openly about his role in the Plame investigation yesterday on CBS’s Face the Nation:

QUESTION: I know that none of you are speaking about this because it’s an ongoing investigation. Can you explain why Alberto Gonzales would go on TV yesterday and do that and talk about it?

MCCLELLAN: Well, what he said was already said from this podium back in October of 2003, and I don’t think he got into commenting in any substantive way on the discussion.

This is a very different standard than the one he has operated under for the past three weeks. Until now, McClellan has refused to answer many of the very same questions he responded to freely in the past. Take this exchange, from 7/11/05:

QUESTION: Does the President stand by his pledge to fire anyone involved in the leak of a name of a CIA operative?

MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, I appreciate your question. I think your question is being asked relating to some reports that are in reference to an ongoing criminal investigation. … And as I’ve previously stated, while that investigation is ongoing, the White House is not going to comment on it.

But now McClellan says that administration officials can repeat previous claims while still honoring the special prosecutor’s request not to speak about the case. As such, White House reporters should ask him to repeat or confirm his previous assertions about the Plame investigation, such as:

– There’s been nothing, absolutely nothing, brought to our attention to suggest any White House involvement, and that includes the vice president’s office as well. [link]

– If anyone in this administration was involved in [leaking classified information], they would no longer be in this administration. [link]

– “The President knows” that Karl Rove wasn’t involved. [link]

McClellan created the standard. The only question is whether the press corps will make him stick to it.