Did Scooter Take a Fall for the Vice President?

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A former employee of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby thinks that his old boss was driven to protect the vice president. It's the only way he can explain Libby's behavior, he says, and the only way to explain why the vice president's former aide mounted such an inadequate defense.


And we've been covering the conviction today of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. A jury found him guilty of four counts of lying and obstructing an investigation into the leak of the identity of a CIA operative. Libby is the highest-ranking White House official convicted of a felony since the mid-1980s and the Iran-Contra scandal.

Commentator Dan Goure used to work for Lewis Libby. He says that the only thing that could explain Libby's behavior and his defense is a determination to protect the vice president.

DAN GOURE: Working for someone provides a unique perspective on his strength, weaknesses and character, or lack thereof. For two years, 1991 and 1992, I worked for Scooter Libby, in Dick Cheney's Pentagon. We went through the First Gulf War together. Back then, Libby had a fancy title: principal deputy, undersecretary of defense, and reported to the then-undersecretary of defense for policy, Paul Wolfowitz.

So, I was not surprised when Vice President Cheney called Libby back to government service as his national security adviser. But I was really surprised at the charges leveled against him. He was not accused of leaking CIA employee Valerie Plame's name, but of obstruction of justice and perjury.

He didn't do the crime, but risked having to do the time by engaging in a cover up. Since we now know that neither he nor Cheney first outed Ms. Plame, what was it Scooter was covering up, and for whom? He must have known that no one in the vice president's office was responsible for the leak. In any case, Scooter, a high-priced Washington lawyer, surely knew it would be difficult if not impossible for the special prosecutor to give an indictment on the alleged, underlying act.

So, why not tell the investigators in a grand jury the truth? The only thing less comprehensible than his criminal conduct was his defense. I doubt that Scooter ever forgot a single contact with another government official, much less, a reporter of Tim Russert's stature. Certainly not when the subject was Joe Wilson and his allegations against the Bush administration.

When he worked for Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter was the epitome of the close subordinate. He was always prepared, always well versed in the subjects with which he dealt. He saw his job as getting inside the boss' head and anticipating what the boss wanted, needed and liked.

Based on personal observation, I can say with confidence that Scooter Libby was, and presumably still is, one of the smartest, toughest, and canniest bureaucrats I have ever met. In civilian life, he wasn't just a lawyer; he was a shark. He was demanding and tough - stupid and forgetful, he was not. So what explain the acts of which he has been convicted? The only possibility I can come up with is that he thought he was protecting his boss, the vice president.

Nothing else makes sense of Scooter's apparent kamikaze dive into the special prosecutor's investigation. But even here, I have problems making sense of the story. Cheney did not leak. So how would lying to anyone protect the vice president?

In spite of the jury's decision, I have tremendous respect for Scooter. The verdict against him is a tragedy. I am tempted to say that his conviction is a miscarriage of justice. But I'm not sure what the truth of the situation is. That has always been the problem with the Plame leak investigation and Scooter's trial. We are no closer to the truth of the matter today.

BLOCK: Commentator Dan Goure is a fellow at the Lexington Institute, a conservative think-tank.

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