Libby Case Showed "Puppeteer" Cheney "Pulling the Strings"

In the wake of Lewis Libby's conviction, an ominous headline pondered whether the vice president would be next: "A Judgment on Cheney Is Still to Come."

That's quite an ominous headline over Sheryl Gay Stolberg's story about the conviction on perjury and obstruction of justice charges of Lewis Libby, former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney - "A Judgment on Cheney Is Still to Come."

"In legal terms, the jury has spoken in the Libby case. In political terms, Dick Cheney is still awaiting a judgment.

"For weeks, Washington watched, mesmerized, as the trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr. cast Vice President Cheney, his former boss, in the role of puppeteer, pulling the strings in a covert public relations campaign to defend the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq and discredit a critic.

"'There is a cloud over the vice president,' the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, told the jury in summing up the case last month.

"Mr. Cheney was not charged in the case, cooperated with the investigation and expressed a willingness to testify if called, though he never was. Yet he was a central figure throughout, fighting back against suggestions that he and President Bush had taken the country to war on the basis of flawed intelligence, showing himself to be keenly sensitive to how he was portrayed in the news media and backing Mr. Libby to the end.

"With Tuesday's verdict on Mr. Libby - guilty on four of five counts, including perjury and obstruction of justice - Mr. Cheney's critics, and even some of his supporters, said the vice president had been diminished."


"Mr. Cheney is arguably the most powerful vice president in American history, and perhaps the most secretive. The trial painted a portrait of a man immersed in the kind of political pushback that is common to all White Houses, yet often presumed to be the province of low-level political operatives, not the vice president of the United States."

Stolberg quoted liberal historian Robert Dallek (very popular with Times reporters), who called Cheney "a tremendous manipulator and was very defensive about mistakes."