Libby Verdict Bad, Bad, Bad News for Bush

Jim Rutenberg's "Political Memo" measured the fallout for the White House after the conviction on perjury and obstruction of justice charges of Lewis Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, in the Valerie Plame case. Predictably, Rutenberg saw the White House as flat on its back in "White House Already on the Defensive Takes Another Hit With Guilty Verdict."

"Deep into his second term, Mr. Bush faces an array of political and policy problems that seem to be growing by the day. His once-powerful standing with the public has been leached away by the war in Iraq. His party, dogged by corruption charges, has lost power on Capitol Hill, leaving him exposed to a Democratic opposition that is now armed with subpoena power and the energy that comes from a good shot at recapturing the White House in 2008. His domestic agenda is stalled, and his foreign policy is constrained.

"The conviction on Tuesday of I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney and assistant to the president, came in a week when Mr. Bush was already dealing with Congressional hearings into the administration's handling of health care for members of the military injured in the war and its removal of federal prosecutors from their jobs under circumstances that Democrats suggest could be politically motivated."

Rutenberg summed up the story with a cheery observation from the Reagan White House: "Kenneth M. Duberstein, a former chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan in his second term, said: 'This is a day consumed by nine G.I.'s killed in Iraq, 100 Iraqis dying, the continuing Walter Reed investigation into the mistreatment of our returning heroes, and the Libby verdict - four out of five counts guilty. No matter how you spin it, this was a bad, bad, bad news day for this White House.'"

Rutenberg could have pointed out that Duberstein isn't exactly an outside observer in this matter. He was political adviser to Richard Armitage, former deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powellandan administration critic. Armitage leaked the Valerie Plame name in the first place, but suffered no investigation and little criticism from the liberal press that went so hot after Libby. Duberstein, a friend of Armitage, was the one who arrangeda meeting with columnist Robert Novak.