Libby pleads not guilty, but the public's verdict is already in

A new CBS News poll hands the president his lowest approval rating ever.

Published November 3, 2005 3:41PM (EST)

It's not at all surprising, but that doesn't mean it's not news: Scooter Libby, until last week the chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, has just pleaded not guilty to federal criminal charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements.

Libby was released on his own recognizance.

"Mr. Libby has pled not guilty to each and every count in the indictment," Libby's new criminal defense attorney, Ted Wells, said outside the federal courthouse. "In pleading not guilty, he has declared to the world that he is innocent. He has declared that he intends to fight the charges in the indictment, and he has declared that he wants to clear his good name and that he wants a jury trial."

It will be a long time before Libby goes to trial, if he ever does, but the court of public opinion has already issued a verdict of sorts. A new CBS News poll puts the president's approval rating at 35 percent, the lowest that poll has ever recorded for George W. Bush. Among recent two-term presidents, only Richard Nixon suffered a lower approval rating at this point of his presidency.

The good news for Bush? Congress isn't any more popular than he is, and they're both still a lot more popular than Dick Cheney. The vice president's approval rating has dropped to just 19 percent.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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