The conviction of I Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, on criminal charges of obstruction of justice and perjury brings only a partial conclusion to the sordid political tragedy that is the Bush presidency. Yet the judgment on this matter goes to the heart of the administration. The means and the ends of Bush's White House have received a verdict from the bar of justice.All those who questioned Bush, Cheney or the neocons were attacked as the enemy. That included Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki and counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke. And it went beyond the war and foreign policy.
Foreign policy was and is the principal way of consolidating unchecked executive power. In the run-up to the Iraq war, professional standards, even within the military and intelligence agencies, were subordinated to political goals. Only information that fit the preconceived case was permitted. Those who advanced facts or raised skeptical questions about sketchy information were seen as deliberate enemies causing damage from within. From the beginning, the White House indulged in unrestrained attacks on such professionals. Revealing the facts, especially about the politically-driven method of skewing policy, was treated as a crime against the state.
For exposing the absence of rational policymaking in economics as well as foreign policy, Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill was threatened with an investigation for allegedly abusing classified material. Once he was intimidated into silence, the probe was dropped.But of course the greatest effort went into discrediting the man who posed the greatest threat.
In the aftermath of former ambassador Joseph Wilson's revelation that the most explosive reason given for war against Iraq - that Saddam Hussein was seeking yellowcake uranium in Niger to fuel nuclear weapons - had no apparent basis in fact, the Bush White House revved into high gear against the critic. Wilson, however, was even more dangerous than the others because he was a witness to the false rationale for the war.And yes, the Libby conviction will supply the legacy for the Bush/Cheney administration.
Libby's conviction not only indelibly stains neoconservatism. It is a damning condemnation of the Bush White House belief that the ends justify the means and its aggrandizement of absolute power. Ultimately, this is a verdict that can never be erased from the history of the Bush presidency.