One day after Easter, the most discussed question on the cocktail circuit in Washington is whether Scott McClellan is in his twilight days as press secretary to the President.
In the last week, profiles of the 38-year-old McClellan have appeared in a variety of national publications, among them the Houston Chronicle and the Baltimore Sun. Inevitably, such profiles focus on whether President Bush has decided that his fellow Texan McClellan is no longer useful as the top public spokesman for the administration and will soon be jettisoned.
Eighteen months after then-Deputy Press Secretary McClellan succeeded Ari Fleischer in the top job at the James Brady Briefing Room at the White House, so-called “insiders” have even settled on who will succeed him: Dan Senor, formerly top spokesman for Operation Iraqi Freedom and now a Fox news analyst, often nicknamed “Mr. Campbell Brown” for his recent marriage to the weekend co-anchor of NBC’s “Today Show.”
McClellan himself was dragged into the controversy this afternoon at his regular daily briefing of reporters. Referring to the early morning meeting of the White House senior staff and signals from incoming Chief of Staff Josh Bolten that “there will be more staff changes,” NBC White House Correspondent Kelly O’Donnell asked McClellan: “Do you plan to stay on?”
“Are you trying to tempt me here?” deadpanned the press secretary, who has had several stormy sessions with White House reporters of late.
“Not at all,” replied O’Donnell.
McClellan then gave his standard mantra that “I never speculate about personnel matters.”
O’Donnell pressed on, inquiring: “‘Personnel’ or ‘personal’ or both?”
The President’s top spokesman countered: “Two years in this position is a long time, I’m very mindful of that. But, look, I never get into any of that speculation.” McClellan then quickly called on ABC’s Martha Raditz for the next question.
At the close of what was a relatively calm press briefing, talk show host and veteran White House correspondent Les Kinsolving—known to fans of the sessions for his provocative queries—cried out: “Scott, don’t leave us.” As he departed the briefing room, McClellan grinned and called back: “Leave you, Les?”