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Helen Thomas Rips Scottie McClellan a New One

Curious that this exchange on 021304 does not show up in the press briefing archive....
Q: Did the President ever have to take time off from Guard duty to do community service?

Scott McClellan: To do community service? I haven't looked into everything he did 30 years ago, Helen. Obviously, there is different community service he has performed in the past, including going back to that time period --

Q: Can you find out if he actually had --

Scott McClellan: Helen, I don't think we remember every single activity he was involved in 30 years ago.

Q: No, this isn't an activity. Was he forced to do community service at any time while he was on --

Scott McClellan: What's your interest in that question? I'm sorry, I just --

Q: Lots of rumors. I'm just trying to clear up something.

Scott McClellan: Rumors about what?

Q: Pardon?

Scott McClellan: Rumors about what?

Q: About the President having to do community service while he was in the National Guard, take time out for that.

Scott McClellan: I'm not aware of those rumors. But if you want to --

Q: Could you look it up? Would you mind asking him?

Scott McClellan: That's why I'm asking what's your interest in that? I just don't understand your interest in that.

Q: It's what everybody is interested in, whether we're getting the true story on his Guard duty.

Scott McClellan: Well, you have the documents that show the facts.

Q: I'm asking you to try to find out from the President of the United States.

Scott McClellan: Like I said, it's well known the different jobs he had and what he was doing previously, that we know. That goes back to --

Q: I didn't say "previously." I said, while he was on Guard duty.

Scott McClellan: But you're asking me about 30 years ago. I don't think there's a recollection of everything he was doing 30 years ago.

Q: Well, he would know if he had to take time out.

Scott McClellan: Again, I mean, the issue that was raised was whether or not the President was serving while he was in Alabama. Documents reflect that he
was --

Q: Well, this is another issue.

Scott McClellan: -- hold on -- that he was serving in Alabama. That was the issue that was raised. We went through, four years ago, other issues related to this.

Q: So you won't answer the question or you won't try to find out?

Scott McClellan: Well, I'm asking you, what's your interest in that question? I'm just curious, because rumors --

Q: Did he have to do any community service while he was in the National Guard?

Scott McClellan: Look, Helen, I think the issue here was whether or not the President served in Alabama. Records have documented --

Q: I'm asking you a different question. That's permissible.

Scott McClellan: Can I answer your question? Sure it is. Can I ask you why you're asking it? I'm just -- out of curiosity myself, is that permissible?

Q: Well, I'm interested, of course, in what everybody is interested in. And we have a very --

Scott McClellan: Let me just point out that we've released all the information we have related to this issue, the issue of whether or not he served while in Alabama. Records have documented as false the outrageous --

Q: I asked you whether he had to do any community service while he was in the National Guard.

Scott McClellan: Can I walk through this?

Q: It's a very legitimate question.

Scott McClellan: And I want to back up and walk through this a little bit. Let's talk about the issue that came up, because this issue came up four years ago, it came up four years before that -- or two years before that, it came up four years before that --

Q: Did my question come up four years ago, and was it handled?

Scott McClellan: Helen, if you'll let me finish, I want to back up and talk about this --

Q: Don't dance around, just give us --

Q: It's a straightforward question.

Q: Let's not put too fine a point on it. If I'm not mistaken, you're implying that he had to do community service for criminal action, as a punishment for some crime?

Q: There are rumors around, and I didn't put it in that way. I just --

Q: Could you take that question? I guess apparently that's the question, that he had to take time out to perform community service --

Scott McClellan: That's why I wanted to get to this because --

Q: -- as a sentence for a crime.

Scott McClellan: No, that's why I wanted to get to this because I want to step back for a second. I want to go back through a few things. Look, the -- I think we've really exhausted the issue that came up. The issue that came up was related to whether or not he had served while he was in Alabama. Records have documented as false the outrageous, baseless accusation that he did not serve while in Alabama. The conspiracy theory of one individual, that the National Guard cleansed documents, has been discredited.

Q: How so?

Scott McClellan: Read The Boston Globe today.

Q: Well, we want answers from you, not --

Scott McClellan: Read the Boston Globe. No, the answers are from the people that would have knowledge of that. But read --

Q: Why do you think this person made those allegations?

Scott McClellan: Hang on, hang on.

Q: What? Just read The Boston Globe --

Scott McClellan: Just read The Boston Globe. Read The Boston Globe. I would draw your attention to that. What I think we're seeing now is just politics. And we're not going to engage in it, because there are great challenges facing our nation, and there should be an honest discussion of the actions the President is taking to make our world safer and better and make America more prosperous and secure.

You want me to go --

Q: -- the personal record of a President is --

Scott McClellan: No, hang on, Helen, hang on. I've said from this podium, if we have new information that comes to our attention that relates to this issue, we have made it clear we will share that information. You're asking me to go and chase rumors. There was a conspiracy theory --

Q: I think --

Scott McClellan: Hold on, hold on, Helen. There was a conspiracy theory made by one individual, when everybody he accused of being involved in that said, it's ridiculous, didn't happen.

Q: This is not based on a conspiracy theory.

Scott McClellan: And there was a lot of attention given to this individual, and he's been discredited. There's a Boston Globe article on it this morning. And there are some --

Q: That says what? Your point --

Scott McClellan: You can go read it. I mean, we've got other things to move on to. I mean, you can go read it. But there are some, unfortunately, who simply are not interested in the facts. Again, the documents -- the records document that he did serve while in Alabama. And now there are people that are bringing up issues that were addressed four years ago.

Q: But you still haven't answered Helen's question. She asked you a simple question.

Scott McClellan: There are people that want to replay the 2000 campaign all over again, Bill, and --

Q: You still haven't answered her question about community service.

Scott McClellan: -- there are too many important -- there are too many important policies and decisions that are being made that we need to discuss.

Q: Why does a "yes" or "no" elude you on this?

Scott McClellan: I didn't say that. I said that these were all issues addressed four years ago. If there's additional information --

Q: This issue quite obviously wasn't addressed four years ago.

Scott McClellan: Oh, issues -- these issues were addressed four years ago.

Q: This issue was? The community service issue was addressed four years ago?

Scott McClellan: The issues -- the issues that we're going to here --

Q: I don't recall --

Scott McClellan: This is called chasing a rumor. And I'm not going to engage in this kind of politics, Bill.

Q: -- finding out whether a rumor is true or false.

Scott McClellan: No, this issue, absolutely --

Q: Why can't you say whether or not he performed community service?

Scott McClellan: Absolutely, this issue came up four years ago. And if you all want to play politics, then go call the RNC, call the campaign.

Q: The best defense is offense. We know that. Just, all you've got to say is you don't know.

Scott McClellan: Helen, it was -- this issue was addressed four years ago. I think people that were involved in the campaign will know --

Q: -- if they know --

Scott McClellan: -- that the issue that you're trying to bring up was addressed four years ago. It's about chasing rumors.

Q: It isn't a question of four years ago. The issue has come up now, very large.

Scott McClellan: I'm not going to get into chasing rumors.

Q: Headlines.

Scott McClellan: I'm not going to get into chasing rumors.

Q: So you refuse to answer the question?

Scott McClellan: You're saying that people said he was forced to do something, and you're asking me to chase a rumor.

Q: Everything is politics today, of course.

Q: She asked you a "yes" or "no" question.

Scott McClellan: Look, if you all want to -- this is just politics. That's what this is. And if there's any more information I have to share with you all, I will always -- I will do that.

Q: Scott, I have a question of this individual, and I confess, I haven't read the Boston article. But who -- what do you believe was this person's motivation, that if they have been discredited, for making these allegations?

Scott McClellan: Just -- I would read The Boston Globe. Everybody that he accused of being involved in this has said it was totally ridiculous. And there are others that --

Q: So are you saying -- was it politically motivated?

Scott McClellan: There are others that are quoted in The Boston Globe today, that you might want to see what they said.

Q: Speaking of politics, has the President authorized his campaign --

Scott McClellan: And we've got to --

Q: -- to release a video attacking Senator Kerry?

Scott McClellan: You need to talk -- you need to talk to the campaign. But let me go to the week ahead because we've used up more than 15 minutes.

Q: So the President did authorize --

Q: Scott, I've got --

Scott McClellan: I'm going to go to the week ahead.

homepage: homepage: http://www.bluebus.org/archives/20040213_helen_thomas_ri.php

Why it didn't show up in the archives 17.Feb.2004 12:49


A number of folks have written in to ask why the exchange between Helen Thomas and Scott McClellan reported yesterday on TPM doesn't appear in the press briefing transcript at the White House website or in the televised version on CSPAN.


There are actually two press briefings at the White House each day. Both are on the record. But a public transcript is prepared for the second (and posted on the White House website); and it's televised on CSPAN. Neither is done for the first. Because of that difference, the first -- which usually takes place between 9 and 10 am -- is often more contentious and free-wheeling than the second, which takes place just after noon.

In most cases, when I report these exchanges on TPM, they come from the early morning briefing, the "gaggle".

-- Josh Marshall

Scott McCellen is some more tap-dancer, but... 17.Feb.2004 13:37

he wore himself out this time!

got to hand it to Scott McCellen...he is pretty good tap-dancer with the spoken
word, but Helen T. is better and it shows in this dialogue, doesn't it? Way to
go Helen...hip! hip! hooray! Go team! Go! Fire Scott and hire Helen is best
advice I could give Bush now!

Listened to Ms Thomas when last she visited Portland 17.Feb.2004 14:09

Very Lucid

except on the subject of Bush. Astonishingly, she had kind words for both Bush pere and Reagan. However, on this current fellow she became deranged. I appreciate the solid work that her life represents, however, she's in her 80s and on George Jr she simply fell apart.

In my 50s... 17.Feb.2004 14:45


..and I fall apart on the subject too! It's become so unbelievable that I have a hard time finding words to describe the fellow and his hypocrisy, idiocy and blatant lies.

What did the Boston Globe article say? 17.Feb.2004 15:52


Where is the Globe article? and is it Michael Moore that they're speaking of w/o saying his name?
Helen Thomas is a pitbull and we need 300 more of her attacking the WH spokespersons.

Hatfield book, "Fortunate Son" 17.Feb.2004 17:11

Mikhail Gorbachev

I think Helen Thomas is referring to the theory offered in the book by JH Hatfield, "Fortunate Son," the unauthorized bio of GW that was completed shortly before Nov. 2000. The book is actually pretty evenhanded in its treatment of candidate George, but the author noted a striking incongruity in his official bio: the time he spent working with "at risk" youth in Houston in 1972-3 for Project "PULL." It seems that no one else took notice of this oddity, which is entirely out-of-character with the rest of his activities, both before and since. Hatfield obtained off-the-record remarks that corroborated his theory about this episode: it was actually compulsory community service for a cocaine possession conviction. There is no record about the case in Texas courts, and since Texas didn't have any law or procedure providing for expunging personal records at the time, Hatfield surmised that GW's family exercised its influence with the judge in the case to "fix" things.

The Rove crew pulled out all the stops against Hatfield when they got wind of the book, even going so far as to pull strings with St. Martin's Press to thwart publication at the eleventh hour, after the author had already signed a deal with them. The book finally did get published by a small, independent publisher, Soft Skull Press, but not until after the author had seen the full fury of the Rove machine turned against him. They dug up dirt about his own criminal history and hounded him everywhere, with his employers, in the media, etc. The author committed suicide in mysterious circumstances.

Kudos to Helen Thomas for having the guts to stir this "sleeping dog"!

cocaine possession the issue 17.Feb.2004 17:17


I think it was MH Hatfield, author of bio on Bush, Favorite Son, who first dug into this community service issue, which was allegedly about Bush Jr.'s cocaine arrest, which he had to do community service for. MH Hatfield ended up dead(suicide of course)after revealing that his source on this story was Karl Rove, so Helen should probably watch her back.

Lapdog not pitbull 17.Feb.2004 17:17


Helen Thomas is not a pitbull. Pitbulls are not allowed to directly address questions to the president or indeed any major elected official. Lapdogs only. As such, Helen Thomas is being lauded merely because she diverted from the usual softsoap Q & A to actually ask a question that matters and then *GASP* follow it up and not accept the White House's standard rhetorical machinations ("I'd like to answer that if I may and I intend to answer that. I fully support answering that question and now I will answer it because it is what I feel is right, which is to say answering your question which I will do now. Except... we just ran out of time. Next question.")

Helen Thomas did her fucking job.

For once.

She doesn't deserve credit for that.

That's like giving a cop a medal because he interrupted his regular routine of beating minorities and taking bribes long enough to write a parking ticket. That's like giving a doctor an award for diagnosing your wife's cancer some six years after she's been cremated.

Helen Thomas and all of her newly enlightened press confederates who are only now beginning to question this National Guard sham are about five or six years too late. I'm quite certain that all of the lapdog "journalists" who are "embedded" in Rumsfeld's Army of Disinformation will be lining up to "reveal" the flaws of the current war in Iraq... in about five years and then they'll say: "who knew?"


YOU did, fuckers.

All along.

I saw some documentary on PBS coupla weeks ago where Tom Brokaw was interviewing some NPR hack about the flaws in the whole embed process and how shockingly the Pentagon -- get this -- systematically hindered and attempted to distort and influence the coverage of the NPR embed. And he told Tom how he was so disillusioned and he felt so used. And Tom nodded sympathetically.


Any goddamned slack-jawed run-of-the-mill Joe Average with a black and white TV and a sixth grade education has heard about Gulf War I. And that guy knew full well that the embed process was a diversion, compromise, sellout, surrender. They KNEW it. Guys who are cleaning toilets at the local middle school. Guys pumping your gas and making your coffee beverages.

For $7/hour.

But somehow, Joe NPR, scion of global info-media was without a clue. Bull-fucking-shit. You wanna know what's going on in Iraq? Ask a bunch of 19 year-olds who bag groceries and rake leaves. They probably read the blogs and are tuned into the actual in-country reportage which the multi-billion dollar "news" organizations can't seem to locate on their $8,000 wifi-equipped tablet PCs.

It's called crocodile tears. Once the disinfo has served its purpose and the corpses are buried and the resources are secured, Tom Brokaw and friends scoot out to repair their non-existent credibility as independent journalists.

The day I see Brokaw or Helen Thomas or one of the knuckle-dragging jizz-swallowing press-apes get on an issue WHEN IT'S CURRENT is the day I might nod approvingly in their direction. Until then... fuck 'em for shitting on the American people 24/7. They're criminally complicit. It's not funny. They are plain and simple cogs in the Pentagon propaganda network. Nothing more or less. Guilty of treason. Against the federal government? Nah. Just the American people.

Here's the deal...

You can read about an issue today on Indymedia or you can wait eight years for it to seep into the mind of Diane Sawyer.

Your call.

word, spudnuts. 18.Feb.2004 17:30

this thing here

"Rumsfeld's Army of Disinformation"

yes. i hear that!