WH Press Briefing: McClellan Calls Dean’s War Critique “Irresponsible”

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By: E&P Staff

In his latest statement on Iraq, President George W. Buch again charged that some of the critics of the war in Iraq were acting responsibly–and others, not. At his White House press briefing today, Press Secretary Scott McClellan fielded a number of questions trying to determine the difference, and possibly produce a few names on the irresponsible team.

After some prodding, McClellan finally identified the Democratic Party chairman, Howard Dean, as one of those on the president’s bad side. “The Chairman of the party has made numerous irresponsible comments,” McClellan said.

Here is one of the exchanges that transpired, in full.

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Q Scott, I just want to come back to this point about irresponsibility, because there seems to be —

MR. McCLELLAN: We’re not talking about you.

Q Not today, anyway. (Laughter.) But this goes back to your predecessor, Ari, saying at one point that people need to watch what they say. And this seems to be kind of a continuing theme from this White House. A lot of people might say that it’s bad for troop morale and irresponsible to say that American troops would be greeted with candies and flowers, when that didn’t happen, or that there were weapons of mass destruction when there weren’t any. In other words, the President seems to want to define the terms of the debate about a war that he knows is controversial, in no small part because of representations he made to the country —

MR. McCLELLAN: I reject that completely, and that’s just complete distortion of what he said.

Q What’s a distortion?

MR. McCLELLAN: You’re ignoring exactly what he said. The President said that the American people know the difference between responsible and irresponsible debate when they see it, and they know the difference between —

Q Then why does he have to prescribe what it is?

MR. McCLELLAN: So you’re not letting me have an honest, open debate here. I welcome the opportunity to do this — but they know the difference between honest critics who question the way the war is being prosecuted — we welcome that. In fact, the President has met with some of those honest critics. He met with a number of them just last week. And partisan critics who claim we acted in Iraq because of oil, or that we acted because of Israel, or that we acted based on misleading the American people —

Q Who has made that charge? Which Democrat in Congress has said he did it for oil or for Israel?

MR. McCLELLAN: He didn’t single out members of Congress. He singled out people that —

Q — elected officials responsible —

MR. McCLELLAN: We can point to —

Q Who are you talking about? Are you talking about Harry Belafonte and Sheryl Crow? Is he really worried about those people?

MR. McCLELLAN: We can point to a number of people. I think the Chairman of the Democratic Party has made numerous statements that are —

Q Who else is part of —

Q Why did he go in then?

MR. McCLELLAN: The Chairman of the party has made numerous irresponsible comments. We have confronted these issues head on, and we will continue to take them on. You might want to back us down from challenging people, but when they make irresponsible comments, we’re going to challenge them.

Q You just said one of the irresponsible comments was that he doesn’t have a strategy for victory, that people have made that comment and that they’ve been briefed on it. They might just not agree with the strategy for victory, or whether it is a strategy for victory.

MR. McCLELLAN: But they’re implying to the American people that we don’t have a strategy in place. And this is after they were — just after they were briefed by our commanders on the ground who put that strategy in place.

Q So that’s irresponsible to imply that they just don’t like the strategy?

MR. McCLELLAN: No. I said that “we don’t have a strategy” — there’s a difference.

Q — semantics —

MR. McCLELLAN: No. People have made that point, said that we don’t have a strategy in place for winning in Iraq. That is irresponsible.

Q That’s exactly my point, that they think it’s not a strategy for winning.

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