Libby Trial Poses Problems for Bush Team
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
Until his indictment, many Americans knew little about vice presidential aide Lewis Libby. He carefully stayed behind the scenes, but he played a critical role at the White House, especially in shaping foreign policy. NPR's Libby Lewis has this profile.
LIBBY LEWIS reporting:
Jackson Hogan went to school with Libby at Phillips Andover Academy and he roomed with him at Yale. He does not shy from talking about his friend, legal cloud or no. Hogan was with Libby at a crucial time for them and for the nation. They entered Yale in 1968. Hogan recalls Libby was a Democrat then.
Mr. JACKSON HOGAN: Keep in mind the context of the situation. There weren't many people under the age of 20 that thought that Richard Nixon was keen and that the war in Vietnam was a good use of national resources.
LEWIS: He remembers Libby studying and playing bridge and soccer and not taking a high-profile role politically.
Mr. HOGAN: Pragmatic would be a term I would use as opposed to ideological. I'm using it in counterpoint to that notion.
LEWIS: At Yale, Paul Wolfowitz became Libby's mentor. He's a key player in what became the neoconservative movement. James Mann is author of "Rise of the Vulcans: The History of President George W. Bush's War Cabinet." He recounts how after graduating from Yale and Columbia Law School, Libby practiced law in Philadelphia until he got a phone call and his life changed.
Mr. JAMES MANN ("Rise of the Vulcans"): And in 1981 when the Reagan administration was being formed and Wolfowitz was given a position at the State Department, he picked up the phone, called Libby, who was practicing law in Philadelphia, and said, `Please come join me. Come work in government.'
LEWIS: Libby joined Wolfowitz again at the Defense Department during the Bush One administration. Their boss was Dick Cheney. Today, Libby's widely described as an architect of the war in Iraq. Mann says Libby's role in American foreign policy really began in 1992 when he drafted a defense policy paper for the post-Cold War era.
Mr. MANN: This was the vision that the United States should not reduce its defense budget even if there was no rival of any kind on the horizon, that the United States should maintain an extremely powerful military, so big and so advanced that no other country could rival it now or even by trying for 30 years. So the vice president's vision was in many ways drafted by "Scooter" Libby.
LEWIS: The paper spoke of the importance of America, quote, "shaping the security environment overseas." Cheney brought Libby on as an adviser during the 2000 presidential campaign, and after the election, he brought on Libby as his chief of staff, and Cheney set up his own influential foreign policy apparatus. The staff was run by Lewis Libby.
Mr. MANN: And it really became an independent power base within the administration. Officials from foreign governments, say someone visiting Washington from Germany or Japan, would know that instead of just visiting the National Security Council and the State Department and Defense Department, they needed to visit the vice president's office, too. It had much more power than any previous vice president.
LEWIS: Mann says Cheney was a driving force in the administration's foreign policy, including its decisions about Iraq.
Mr. MANN: But the executor, the person who really has been moving the paper would be the term in Washington, who's been carrying out the policy has been Scooter Libby.
LEWIS: As well as his role in Cheney's office, Libby also held the powerful position of assistant to the president. Author James Mann believes that Libby's departure will be a blow to the vice president's office because of his central role in the White House. That central role will also bear on his legal case. Andrew McBride is a former federal prosecutor.
Mr. ANDREW McBRIDE (Former Federal Prosecutor): Mr. Rove, I believe, given the indictment just like the vice president, is a potential witness in the eventual trial against Mr. Libby, which convinces me that Mr. Libby will never go to trial in this matter, that it would rip the administration apart.
LEWIS: And so McBride believes that Libby will try to plead guilty to avoid a trial. Libby Lewis, NPR News, Washington.
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