White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Wednesday that President Bush is "puzzled" by former Press Secretary Scott McClellan's new book slamming the administration, and said it's clear McClellan is "disgruntled" about his time working in the Bush White House.
Perino spoke at length about McClellan's book, which blasts Bush on domestic and foreign issues like Iraq and Hurricane Katrina, and says Bush was not "open and forthright on Iraq" and was slow in his response to Katrina.
"(Bush) is puzzled, and he doesn't recognize this as the Scott McClellan that he hired and confided in and worked with for so many years, and disappointed that if he had these concerns and these thoughts he never came to him or anyone else on the staff," Perino told reporters aboard Air Force One.
She said Bush was "surprised" even though he was aware the book would be published.
"I don't think that this is so much ... writing history as rewriting history," she said.
Politico.com reported late Tuesday that the former secretary alleges in his book "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception," that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president’s then chief of staff, and Karl Rove, the president’s then senior adviser, "had at best misled" him about their role in the disclosure of former CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity.
The memoir says Libby and Rove held a secret West Wing meeting to get their story straight about the CIA leak case at a time when federal prosecutors were after them, and that Bush relied on "propaganda" to sell the war in Iraq.
In reference to Hurricane Katrina, McClellan writes that the Bush White House "spent most of the first week in a state of denial."
"One of the worst disasters in our nation’s history became one of the biggest disasters in Bush's presidency. Katrina and the botched federal response to it would largely come to define Bush's second term," he writes, according to the Web site. "And the perception of this catastrophe was made worse by previous decisions President Bush had made, including, first and foremost, the failure to be open and forthright on Iraq and rushing to war with inadequate planning and preparation for its aftermath."
Rove, now a FOX News contributor, denied allegations he and Libby kept information from McClellan about Plame, adding what was reported on Politico doesn't sound like the McClellan he has known for years.
Instead, Rove told FOX News' "Hannity & Colmes" it sounded more like "a liberal blogger."
Perino suggested Wednesday that McClellan was just voicing personal frustration with his former job.
"Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House," Perino said. "For those of us who fully supported him, before, during and after he was press secretary, we are puzzled. It is sad — this is not the Scott we knew."
Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who preceded McClellan as press secretary, said anyone who knows him is "perplexed" by the book.
"I'm just scratching my head about this book," Fleischer told FOX News. "There are just parts of here that just do not sound like Scott McClellan. So it's got his name on it, and Scott knows that, he's said the chips will fall will they may. ... But on principle and on policy, this doesn't make any sense to me because if it did, I think Scott would have expressed it privately and repeatedly."
But Rep. Robert Wexler, a Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee, said McClellan's claims should be heard in congressional hearings.
"Congress must respond by initiating immediate aggressive oversight starting with an appearance by McClellan before the House Judiciary Committee. Any continued obstruction by this administration to prevent White House officials from appearing before Congress cannot be tolerated by this Congress in the face of these shocking revelations," said Wexler, who supports impeaching Vice President Dick Cheney.
Considered a Bush loyalist, McClellan, who first served as gubernatorial spokesman for then-Texas Gov. Bush in early 1990, resigned from his White House post in April 2006.
Rather than wait out an embargo to review the book, Politico says it purchased a copy of the book at a Washington bookstore. The 40-year-old's 341-page memoir is scheduled for release next week.