Some In Administration Dismissing Cheney’s Role; Veep’s Influence …

Some In Administration Dismissing Cheney’s Role; Veep’s Influence Began to
Wane At Start of Second Term, Says Aide

NEW YORK, Oct. 30 – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network — When Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald did not indict I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby for disclosing the identity
of CIA agent Valerie Plame to reporters nor, as of last Friday, had he decided
whether to indict Karl Rove, the top presidential aide and close friend, who
also talked to journalists about former ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife,
there was relief but no joy inside the White House at these dodged bullets,
Newsweek reports in the current issue. “This is a White House in turmoil
right now,” says a senior aide, one of many who declined to speak on the
record at a time of peril and paranoia. As for Rove, the aide tells Newsweek,
some insiders believe that he had “behaved, if not criminally, then certainly
unethically.”

In the November 7 Newsweek cover, “Cheney’s Man” (on newsstands Monday,
October 31), Chief Political Correspondent Howard Fineman and Senior White
House Correspondent Richard Wolffe examine the fallout from Libby’s indictment
on the Bush administration and what a Libby trial, if there is one, could mean
in terms of shining a light on the machinery that sold the Iraq war and that
sought to discredit critics of it, particularly Plame’s husband, Wilson. And
that, in turn, could lead to Cheney and to the Cheney-run effort to make Iraq
the central battleground in the war on terror.

Newsweek reports that at least some administration officials-speaking on
background, of course-have begun to retroactively dismiss Cheney’s role. As an
aide now tells it, Cheney’s influence began to wane from the start of the
second term and effectively came to an end as the Fitzgerald investigation
gained momentum in recent months. “You can say that the influence of the vice
president is going to decrease,” says a senior official sympathetic to
Cheney’s policies, “but it’s hard to decrease from zero.” Even on foreign
policy, says a senior Bush aide, the veep has been eclipsed by Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice, who now has the president’s ear and works effectively
with her successor as national security adviser, Stephen Hadley. Bush has
grown more confident, aides say, having jettisoned the Cheney training wheels.
“The president has formulated a lot of his own views,” says an aide, “and has
a very firm idea of what he wants to do and accomplish with his foreign
policy.”

Also in the cover package, Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas profiles
Libby, and details the working relationship with Cheney. “The question is how
Libby could have been so foolish as to do what he stands accused of doing in a
five-count indictment for perjury, false statements, and obstruction of
justice,” Thomas writes. (Libby issued a statement that he is “confident” he
will be “totally exonerated.”) He writes that possibly, when the investigation
began, Libby “shrugged it off as the umpteenth Washington leak investigation
that would go nowhere. If so, he received an unhappy and unlucky surprise in
the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, son of a doorman and scourge of
the powerful, a modern-day Inspector Javert whose only loyalty is to the law.”

“But it is more likely that Libby was caught up in an ancient trap of the
Best and the Brightest, the belief that they do not have to play by normal
rules when they serve a higher calling, and that small lies can be told to
protect higher truths,” Thomas writes. ” ‘National security’ is usually the
justification (see Watergate, Iran-Contra). Judging from the indictment and
what we know about Libby’s own zeal, the vice president’s chief of staff
believed that he was protecting his boss in a great cause, the defeat of
Islamo-fascism. If so, Libby’s hubris may backfire. It’s doubtful that Cheney
has any legal exposure from his subordinate’s alleged crimes, but the
sensation over Libby’s indictment is sure to bring renewed investigation into
deeper and more serious charges of wrongdoing: that the Bush administration,
and in particular the powerful, secretive vice president, willfully bent the
facts to lead America into the Iraq war. Libby has always been known as
Cheney’s Cheney. He does not seem like the sort to go freelancing.”

Also in the cover package, Senior Editor and Columnist Jonathan Alter
writes about a family who lost their son, Augie Schroeder, in Iraq, and how,
contrary to what Fitzpatrick said, the indictment is about the war. “According
to Fitzgerald, Libby had conversations with at least seven other government
officials about Joseph and Valerie Wilson that he did not disclose to the
grand jury. Why were top White House officials and Vice President Cheney so
concerned about an obscure former diplomat like Wilson? Because he had the
temerity to offer public dissent. By showing how evidence of Saddam’s WMDs had
been cooked, Wilson undermined the very reason Augie Schroeder and the rest of
the U.S. military went to war. He was more than “fair game,” as Karl Rove
called him. He was a mortal threat.”

And Contributing Editor Ellis Cose writes about the federal shield law for
journalists now pending before Congress and whether or not that would have
kept New York Times reporter Judith Miller out of jail. “If Libby actually
ends up before a jury and famous journalists are forced to take the stand,
America may find itself weighing how to accommodate the sometimes conflicting
demands of journalism and justice,” Cose writes. “What I hope people will
conclude is that a federal shield is needed-though Fitzgerald makes a credible
case or a very narrowly tailored exception.”

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