A Flurry of Bad News for the President
Lewis "Scooter" Libby is no longer the jaunty gamecock of the West Wing. His conviction has reduced him to a vulnerable, downcast figure pondering public humiliation and almost certain jail time. But the Libby verdict in the CIA leak case-guilty on four of five felony counts of lying and obstructing justice-went beyond the familiar Washington soap opera about how the mighty can fall. It was the latest example of an entire presidency in decline.
Vice President Dick Cheney, who was Libby's boss, is now widely considered more of a liability than ever. Cheney, the trial revealed, presided over an aggressive behind-the-scenes campaign to raise doubts about a pesky antiwar critic. Insiders say that in recent months, the once-indispensable veep has lost much of his stroke with Bush as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her diplomatic corps have gained influence.
On another front, revelations about shoddy conditions at parts of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center deeply embarrassed the White House. Many Americans were outraged by the stories of wounded outpatient soldiers coping with decrepit conditions, failed not by medical care but an overburdened bureaucracy. Calling it "the Katrina of 2007"-a reference to the hurricane that revealed shocking flaws in the government's disaster-response system in 2005-congressional Democrats argued that the Bush administration had shortchanged the troops where it counted most.
Then a new wave of violence raised fresh doubts about the administration's strategy in Iraq as the latest NBC/ Wall Street Journal poll showed that 67 percent of Americans now disapprove of how Bush is handling the war. And 69 percent have less confidence that the war will ever be won. On domestic issues, a furor erupted over whether eight federal prosecutors were fired by the administration for political reasons.
As the week ended, anti-American protests erupted in Sao Paulo, Brazil, to mark Bush's arrival for a goodwill tour. But goodwill is in very short supply these days, at least for George W. Bush.
This story appears in the March 19, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.