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The CIA leak scandal has finally reached a sort of climax. Lewis Libby has been indicted on five felony charges of obstruction of justice, perjury and making a false statement, adding up to a possibility of 30 years in the pokey. The big fish, Karl Rove, has of course not been indicted – at least not yet. Considering their respective positions and name recognition, if Rove escapes indictment altogether the Bush administration will breathe a sigh of relief. Lewis Libby was not, until now, a household name like Karl Rove has been for years.
Dick Cheney said he accepted Libby’s resignation with “deep regret.” I bet so. The association of Lewis Libby with Dick Cheney may get the administration in more hot water. Cheney is closely tied to the entire scandal in Patrick Fitzgerald’s indictment through a series of conversations with Libby regarding Joe and Valerie Wilson. Because of this reality, the intensely pro-war viewpoints of the vice president along with his influential role in this administration will no doubt be dragged out again, and the war scandal will be rehashed. From an administration that has gained much success in controlling the information that is revealed to the press, this is a completely different territory.
So, how do they respond? If the only thing they do is sit and hope and wait, then it will take a miracle to bring Bush out of his depression of approval ratings. His approval ratings are at an all-time low, the Iraqi experiment is suffering from similar reaction, and Bush’s latest Supreme Court nomination turned out to be an absolute disaster. The second term is turning into one blunder after another, and with legal prosecution forthcoming against the vice president’s chief of staff, things look even bleaker.
This president campaigned on his ability to bring professionalism and integrity to the Oval Office. That public image is waning. His political tactics look more like cronyism than integrity; his Texan affect looks more like fatuity than friendliness; and his professionalism looks more like aristocratism than service. And indictments against senior White House officials aren’t helping matters.
If President Bush keeps up his faux pandering for political power, this rough patch will turn to disaster. Something must fundamentally change in the way the Republicans view their relationships. From the very beginning of the first term, they attempted to reach out to everyone and in the process they pleased no one. With the next Supreme Court nominee on deck, Bush has an opportunity to play to his base and solidify its support in the midst of a huge public-relations failure.
The reasons for conservatives to support Bush have, in reality, been non-existent. It’s a strange thing to see an entire demographic of religious conservatives who support George W. Bush for who he is, not for what he does. Bush has sold his image well, but his political tactics seem to have been to hope his supporters don’t read the newspaper – or watch his blundering press conferences.
At this crucial conjuncture in the Bush administration, the risks are high. His entire legacy could be decided by what steps he takes in the next months, and conservatives are hoping Bush will at least throw them a bone with the next nominee. The sad part is that far too many are expecting a conservative nominee like it’s a sure thing, as if there’s a master plan behind the fa?ade. Don’t count on it.