Libby Indictments a Kiss of Death for Bush White House

From Plame Affair to Lame-Duck Affair

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Friday's indictments of I. Lewis Scooter Libby, which at a minimum mean Plame Affair prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will continue his investigations in preparation for a trial, effectively sound the death knell for the Bush White House.

The charging of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff—for lying to the grand jury investigating the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's name—delivers a possibly fatal blow to Republican chances in next year's elections, and without any truly viable GOP presidential candidate in sight, casts a dark cloud over the party's chances in 2008.

President Bush's frenzied actions yesterday and today to reassert authority and unite his party around a new Supreme Court candidate will go up in smoke with today's indictments.

Bush's key adviser Karl Rove made a breathtaking escape from indictment today, and that fact may overshadow the true big news—that Fitzgerald's work will almost certainly mean more investigation of Rove. In all likelihood, Fitzgerald will probe further into dealings between Rove and Libby, and the possibility of a conspiracy running into Vice President Cheney's office and to the V.P. himself. Did Cheney order his flunkies to out Plame?

More to the point, today's indictments are the kiss of death for the Bush White House. Libby has resigned, but that's hardly the end of the problem for the administration. For all intents and purposes, so long as Fitzgerald probes, President Bush and Vice President Cheney are in straitjackets.

In certain respects, their situation is even worse now than before the indictments, because the indicted Scooter Libby will be looking for a way out of a jail term. Fitzgerald has a hammerlock around his neck. The more he squeezes, the more likely it becomes that Libby will sing on his superiors in the White House, allowing Fitzgerald to flip him—to bring him as a witness before another grand jury to rat out others in the plot.

 
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