The Bush vs. Cheney battle over Libby

The relationship between the two men became strained as they left office, and there's still some tension

By Alex Koppelman
Published July 24, 2009 1:15AM (UTC)
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Time Magazine's latest issue has a pretty interesting look into the last days of the Bush administration. The article focuses on the conflict between President Bush and Vice President Cheney over the latter man's former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, who'd been convicted of obstruction charges relating to the Valerie Plame leak. Bush had already commuted Libby's sentence, sparing him jail time, but Cheney wanted him pardoned, and apparently had trouble taking "no" for an answer.

"Cheney really got in the President's face," one of Time's sources says. "He just wouldn't give it up."

But the president would not be moved -- another of the magazine's sources, described only as "a former senior Bush aide," says, "I'm sure the President and [chief of staff] Josh [Bolten] and [White House counsel] Fred [Fielding] had a concern that somewhere, deep in there, there was a cover-up."

One more notable piece of the article: The decision finally came down, two days before Bush left the White House, to his feeling that Libby really had lied to investigators. That's not what Cheney says, of course, and it's not what Libby's defenders in the conservative movement have been saying -- they've largely argued it was a case of faulty memory, and of one man's word against another.

Time says Bush and Cheney "remain friends," but if a statement the former vice president released in response to the story on Thursday afternoon is any indication, there's still some tension.

"Scooter Libby is an innocent man who was the victim of a severe miscarriage of justice," Cheney says in the statement. "He was not the source of the leak of Valerie Plame's name. Former Deputy Secretary of State, Rich Armitage, leaked the name and hid that fact from most of his colleagues, including the President. Mr. Libby is an honorable man and a faithful public servant who served the President, the Vice President and the nation with distinction for many years. He deserved a presidential pardon."

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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