His health is rough; he has been the most disastrous vice-president in history; he has lost two wars; he has lost every ally; he is despised in much of the country; he is now going to be the center of all the questions that the Libby guilty verdict raise. Why did he get so exercized about a two-bit critic during a critical time in the Iraq war? Why would he risk losing his most trusted aide by coordinating a media sting on a minor political opponent? Why would he risk committing a crime to pursue Wilson unless he had something very serious to hide? He will now have to answer many questions - either before the press or before the Senate. Mark Daniels asks the right questions:
Libby was, by all accounts, Dick Cheney's alter ego. There will thus be many questions asked about any association the Vice President may have had with Libby's crimes. A verion of Howard Baker's questions during the Watergate hearings, posed about Nixon, will be foremost among them:
- What did the Vice President know?
- When did he know it?
The Bush Administration, trying to assert its leadership on Iraq, the war on terrorists, and a number of domestic initiatives, may decide that they can't afford a drawn-out defense of the Vice President. Cheney, a loyal soldier, may also be able to use his new health issues as a convenient (and legitimate) reason for stepping down. His resignation would give Bush Administration critics one less thing to complain about. And the right replacement nominated by Mr. Bush could earn him points and goodwill.
An alternative strategy would be to pardon Libby soon, as National Review is apparently proposing (their server appears to have been drudged). I can see why they feel this way. But purely from a political standpoint, such a pardon would surely ignite a massive protest, turn this story into a much bigger one, and make many more Americans curious about why their own vice-president was more interested in tackling a domestic critic in the summer of 2003 than fighting the Iraq insurgency. The risk in not pardoning Libby, of course, is that he may begin to talk. Uh-oh. The aspens could be turning. And their roots are all connected.