News and events revolving around the ousting of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Subtle Art of Saying 'No Comment'

The plight of Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, raised a question for public spokesmen everywhere: When is no comment a good comment?

During news briefings last week, Mr. McClellan sidestepped question after question about the role of Karl Rove, the White House senior adviser, in the identification of Valerie Wilson as an undercover C.I.A. officer.

In 2003, Mr. McClellan called allegations that Mr. Rove was involved in the case "ridiculous." But last week, new evidence suggested that Mr. Rove had discussed the C.I.A. officer with a Time magazine reporter in July 2003 without identifying her by name.

At two news briefings last week, Mr. McClellan declined to comment on the matter, and he declined to take back his comments from two years ago - sparking headlines and jokes on late-night comedy shows.

But given the no-comment ethos of the Bush administration, what else could Mr. McClellan have done?

Stylistically, at least, some of his colleagues and predecessors suggested he could take pointers from Mike McCurry, who as press secretary to President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal often gave a wry wink and a nod to acknowledge he was in an impossible spot.

In the graphic above, a few of Mr. McClellan's colleagues offer some suggestions.


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