The indictment and resignation of Irv Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, on Friday capped a tumultuous week for the Bush administration that left many wondering what’s next.
President George W. Bush likely will attempt to move forward quickly, trying to shift attention away from the case, said University political science professor Jason Roberts.
“He’ll probably take a page from Bill Clinton’s playbook, which was to show the president hard at work for the American people,” he said.
The pending nomination of a Supreme Court justice candidate could prove to be just the opportunity.
The president could select a candidate whom he knows will draw attention, said Jeffrey Lomonaco, a University political science professor.
“One consideration will be to draw as much attention away from the recent troubles, so we may see a nominee that Bush knows is likely to be highly controversial,” Lomonaco said.
The president could also take the opposite approach, Roberts said, and select a less controversial nominee in an effort to not exacerbate his situation.
“He’s not in a position of strength,” he said. “His best strategy might be to select someone more benign, but he risks offending either side whichever way he goes.”
Public reaction depends on how the Libby case plays out.
“When outside events are dictating the news coverage, it’s going to be difficult for them to change the subject,” Roberts said.
The public’s recognition of some of the witnesses called to testify in a public trial, which could include famous news reporters, could elevate the visibility of the case, Roberts said.
“Most people who aren’t political insiders don’t know who (Libby) is,” he said, “but more people are familiar with the name Tim Russert, and that could certainly increase the public impact of the situation.”
Some might be drawn to the case because of its perceived ties to the lead-up to the war in Iraq, University Law School professor Richard Frase said.
“People are all going to be paying close attention for any little tidbits (of the proceedings) that bear on that because this is viewed as the tip of the iceberg of the Iraq war controversy,” Frase said.
The court and special prosecutor are going to try to focus only on that tip, he said.
Libby’s resignation will impact the administration far deeper than simply losing a staff member, Lomonaco said.
“(Libby) was also an adviser to President Bush himself,” Lomonaco said. “That makes his indictment that much more significant symbolically.”
First-year music student Harrison Wojcik said he was glad to see such a high level administrator held responsible for his actions.
“I’m glad he stepped down,” he said. “A little bit of that is my being a liberal.”
Even if the administrator were a Democrat, Wojcik said, he would want the person to be held accountable.