"Cheney's Cheney"

  • Share
  • Read Later

Libby walks out of the West Wing of the White House yesterday

When I. Lewis Libby was a baby, his father saw him propelling himself around his crib, and declared, "He's a scooter!" A nickname was born that presaged Libby's rise to one of the most powerful posts in the White House and foreshadowed the quiet but deft maneuvering for which he earned a reputation. On Friday, Libby stepped down as chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney after being indicted on five counts of perjury, making false statements and obstruction of justice in connection with the investigation into the leak of the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame. Though he has been one of the most influential behind-the-scenes operatives in Washington, Libby remains unknown to many Americans. Just who is he?

In a statement following the resignation, Cheney called Libby "one of the most capable and talented individuals I have ever known." Since 2001, that talent has been at the disposal of the Vice President. Within the Administration, Libby, 55, is known as "Cheney's Cheney." But he also concurrently held, until today, the posts of Assistant to the President and National Security Adviser to the Vice President, titles that indicate his particular importance in the run-up to the Iraq war and in the debate over weapons of mass destruction that eventually led to Plamegate.

From TIME.com

• An Indictment and Resignation
Lewis Libby is charged with obstruction and perjury and has resigned from his position as Dick Cheney's chief of staff. Where does the CIA leak investigation go from here?

• Timeline: How the Tale Unfolds
A chronological look at the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame

From the TIME Archive

• A War on Wilson?
Inside the Bush Administration's feud with the diplomat who poured cold water on the Iraq-uranium connection [7/17/2003]

• Let's Make a Deal
After 85 days in jail for refusing to reveal a source, a reporter walks and talks. But it remains unclear exactly what's at stake in this case [10/10/2005]

• A Contingency Plan

• Rove Redux

• "What I Told the Grand Jury"
EXCLUSIVE Matthew Cooper reveals exactly what Karl Rove told him--and what the special counsel zeroed in on [7/25/2005]

• Archive Collection: The CIA Leak Investigation
Read complete coverage of the CIA leak investigation
The Connecticut-born, Florida-raised Libby attended the elite Phillips Andover Academy. His road to Washington began in New Haven, Conn., where, as a Yale undergraduate, he studied under a political science professor named Paul Wolfowitz. He graduated from Yale in 1972, and went on to get his law degree at Columbia. After Ronald Reagans election in 1980, Wolfowitz recruited Libby to work for him at the State Department. Then, during George H.W. Bush's presidency, Libby went to work for Wolfowitz again, this time at the Defense Department, where Dick Cheney was in charge.

In 1992, disappointed that the Gulf War had not removed Saddam Hussein from power, Libby and Wolfowitz drafted a paper that broached a policy of pre-emptive action. That paper foreshadowed Libby's hawkish position on Iraq a decade later. After George W. Bush's election in 2000, Cheney tapped the like-minded Libby to be his right-hand man. In the months before the Iraq war, Libby, Cheney and Wolfowitz formed the core of an influential group of neoconservatives that pushed President Bush to remove Saddam Hussein from office. Their ideas and their respect were—and are—mutual. "I'm a great fan of the Vice President," Libby told Larry King in 2002. "I think he's one of the smartest, most honorable people I've ever met."

Libby's own smarts extend beyond politics. In 1996, while in private practice as an attorney in Washington, he published a novel called The Apprentice, about a young man named Setsuo in turn-of-the-century Japan who becomes enmeshed in a web of crime, political drama, and, of course, love. Of all the characters in the book, it's the mysterious object of Setsuo's affections—"the girl in the cloak"—who seems to parallel Libby most now. Publishers Weekly said in its review of The Apprentice that "her actions, history and motives remain ambiguous to the end."

In his 2002 talk with Larry King, Libby also discussed the prerogatives of the presidency and the opinion of Dick Cheney that certain things have to be handled away from the public view. "He firmly believes—believes to the point where, when he talks about it, his eyes get a little bluer—that for the presidency to operate properly, it needs to be able to have confidential communications," Libby said. The question now is whether some of Libby's own confidential communications will in fact hinder the presidency it was meant to help.