Here are my favorite parts from today’s White House press briefing:
Q Let me — let me just do what you did a few moments ago and step back from the context of the investigation to the President’s agenda. Does Karl Rove, with all the attention being paid to him now, become a liability to the President, an impediment to his pushing his agenda?
MR. McCLELLAN: See, you’re asking all these context in — all these questions in the context of the news reports relating to an investigation –
Q I’m talking about it now in the larger sense of Rove being the Deputy Chief of Staff.
MR. McCLELLAN: We’re continuing to move forward on our agenda, and the — we’re on the verge of accomplishing some very big things when it comes to the agenda. And –
Q But is Karl Rove an impediment now, with all this attention distracting from that push on your agenda?
MR. McCLELLAN: Everybody who is working here is helping us to advance the agenda, and that includes Karl in a very big way.
Q Has he apologized to you for telling you he is not involved?
MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, I’m not going to get into any private discussions.
Q He put you on the spot. He put your credibility on the line.
MR. McCLELLAN: And, Helen, I appreciate you all wanting to move forward and find the facts relating to this investigation. I want to know all the facts relating to the investigation.
Q You people are on the record, one quote after another.
MR. McCLELLAN: The President wants to get to the bottom of it. And it’s just not appropriate. If you’ll remember back two years ago, or almost two years ago, I did draw a line and I said, we’re just not going to get into commenting on –
Q You also made comments in defending Mr. Rove.
MR. McCLELLAN: We’re just not going to get into commenting on an investigation that continues. And I think you’ve heard me explain why I’m not going to do that. I do want to talk about this –
Q Do you regret putting yourself out on a limb, Scott?
MR. McCLELLAN: I do want to talk about this, and we will talk about it once the investigation is complete.
Q Do you regret what you said in 2003?
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.
Q Do you regret putting yourself so far out on a limb when you don’t know the facts?
MR. McCLELLAN: David, you had your opportunity. I’ll try to come back to you if I can, but I think I’ve responded to those questions.
Q Well, you haven’t responded to that. Do you think you went too far two years ago?
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.
Q Does the White House have a credibility problem?
MR. McCLELLAN: Ed, these are all questions that you’re bringing up in the context of an investigation that is ongoing –
Q I’m not asking about that.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it’s clear that this is coming up in the context of news –
Q We could talk about WMDs, a whole range of issues.
MR. McCLELLAN: — in the context of news reports. And I appreciate those questions. And I think you’re trying to get at the specific news reports and wanting me to comment on those specific news reports and –
Q But they’re news reports that have been confirmed by Karl Rove’s attorney, Scott.
MR. McCLELLAN: John, you can keep jumping in, but I’m going to try to keep going to other people in this room, as well. And we can have constructive dialogue here, I think, but that’s not the way to do it.
Q It’s not my job to have a constructive dialogue, Scott. Sorry.
Q Does the President believe that it is outrageous for a Los Angeles advertising man to be conducting a campaign to persuade the town selectmen of Weare, New Hampshire, to approve the building of a hotel on the land where Justice Souter’s house is located? Or does he regard this as an historic irony resulting from Souter’s vote in the case of Kelo versus the City of New London –
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven’t seen anything on it. Jim, go ahead.
Q You didn’t see anything on it? You’d like to evade this one, wouldn’t you.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I haven’t seen anything on it, Les. I like to see reports before I comment on it.
Q No, it’s the other ones he’s trying to evade.
Q — on why you can’t answer Ed’s question about whether — generally speaking, whether the administration has a credibility problem. I think a lot of people are tuning in, wondering, can we trust what this White House says, can we trust what Scott McClellan says.
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
Q I’m not talking about the case. Can you just address — do you feel like there’s a credibility problem?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you all in this room know me very well. And you know the type of person that I am. You, and many others in this room, have dealt with me for quite some time. The President is a very straightforward and plainspoken person, and I’m someone who believes in dealing in a very straightforward way with you all, as well, and that’s what I’ve worked to do.
Q Scott, how long has the President known that Karl Rove spoke in 2003 to at least one reporter about Joseph Wilson’s wife?
MR. McCLELLAN: That’s a question relating to the investigation. You’ve had my response on those questions.
Q Was it like a big surprise to him this week and when the story broke about it?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, it’s an ongoing, continuing investigation, and I think I’ve addressed why I’m not going to get into discussing it further at this time.
Q So I understand your reluctance to talk. Now, Mr. Rove’s attorney, Mr. Luskin, spoke to reporters a few days ago. Would you be willing to allow your attorney to speak to reporters about these matters?
MR. McCLELLAN: Next question. I’m not going to get into discussing the investigation at this point.
Q Scott, back on — to turn it back, the President has confidence in everyone who works for him –
MR. McCLELLAN: You’re making an assumption that I wouldn’t make either. So — go ahead.
Q That you have an attorney?
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.
I guess the real question at this point becomes, what power does the press actually have? This story has a certain amount of sex appeal, but without official actors willing to move the story along, at some point the yapping in the briefing room is going to subside in the face of McClellan’s stonewalling. And with Republicans controlling the House and Senate, and no independent counsel law anymore, we’re pretty much left hoping that Patrick Fitzgerald, the Republican-appointed US attorney from Illinois who’s heading up the Plame-outing grand jury investigation, is a person whose integrity outweighs his sense of party loyalty, to the extent of being willing to pursue his investigation aggressively no matter where it leads.
I don’t know about you, but I find that hope to be a pretty slim reed.