News and events revolving around the ousting of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Monday, October 17, 2005 - 'Scooter' packs lot of power but runs quietly

'Scooter' packs lot of power but runs quietly
By Judy Keen, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby has never been the sort of Beltway power broker who holds court at cocktail parties and pontificates on TV. Until he became a figure in the CIA leak probe, his name was rarely in headlines.

For more than two decades, he has wielded his clout instead in the rooms at the Pentagon, State Department and White House where policies are set. As Vice President Cheney's chief of staff and national security adviser since 2001, he has been involved in almost every important decision made by the Bush administration.

"He does for the vice president what the vice president does for President Bush," says Mary Matalin, a former counselor to Cheney. In Plan of Attack, his 2004 book on the Iraq war, Bob Woodward described Libby as "a power center unto himself, and accordingly, a force multiplier for Cheney's agenda and views."

Libby and deputy White House chief of staff Karl Rove are at the center of an investigation into the leak of the name of a covert CIA operative. Rove is one of Bush's most famous and visible aides, but Libby has a much lower profile.

How Libby came to be the top adviser to a conservative icon — and a confidential source of New York Times reporter Judith Miller — is a mystery to some of his longtime friends. Libby, 55, has made a career of being a discreet adviser with the "passion for anonymity" that Franklin Roosevelt said White House aides should possess. He declined to be interviewed for this story. (Related stories: Miller called her own shots | Miller describes grand jury testimony)

Libby's first mentor was Paul Wolfowitz, from whom he took a political science class at Yale. Libby worked as a lawyer before joining Wolfowitz at the State Department in 1981, at the outset of the Reagan administration. After another stint in private practice, he was back at Wolfowitz's side in 1991, this time at the Pentagon. (Wolfowitz served most recently as deputy Defense secretary; he became World Bank president this year.) A report Libby wrote with Wolfowitz caught the attention of the then-Defense Secretary, Cheney, who hired him a decade later.

Libby's résumé is only part of his story. There's his name, for one thing. Everyone calls him by his childhood nickname, "Scooter." The mystery "I." stands for Irv. In 1996, he published The Apprentice, a novel set in Japan. He is an expert and daring skier, according to a 2003 profile in Ski magazine.

His opponents say Libby is part of a group of ideologues who control Bush's policies. "The nexus of Washington's neocon network," says the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, a non-partisan publication that has been critical of Bush's policies. A profile on the website of the Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank in Washington, calls him "an aging star and an ideological soul mate" of hawks Wolfowitz, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Douglas Feith, a former undersecretary of Defense who worked closely with Libby, disagrees. "Ideologues are people for whom the facts don't matter, and that is so obviously not a suitable term for a guy like Scooter, who is more careful with his facts, is more rigorous, is more critical and analytical than most people," he says.

Some of Libby's college classmates say his public persona bears little resemblance to the fun-loving, soccer-playing friend they remember. His Yale roommate Jackson Hogen says Libby was head of the debating society and "intrigued by the corridors of power" but was also a free spirit with "a mischievous streak."

Libby rarely talked about his private life, Hogen says. They met at Phillips Academy, a private school in Andover, Mass. Before that, he says, Libby was at another boarding school, Eaglebrook in Deerfield, Mass. He was born in New Haven, Conn. His father was an investment banker. Libby's wife, Harriet Grant, was once a lawyer on the Democratic staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Hogen, an executive at a sports eyewear company, doesn't share Libby's politics and says he has a hard time understanding "this horrible myopia that he has." But as a lawyer, he says, Libby was trained to "live in his clients' world and adopt their point of view." That trait, Hogen says, might help explain Libby's previous brush with scandal: He was a personal lawyer for Marc Rich, the billionaire fugitive who was pardoned by President Clinton on Clinton's last day in office.

Allen Carney, another Yale classmate who is a business executive in Bedford, Mass., also is puzzled by his old friend's current political views. "It's just very hard to conceive of him as being this power broker for the force of darkness," Carney says with a chuckle. "It does seem out of character, to be honest with you."

Libby has impressed associates with his dedication and restraint. "He doesn't talk an enormous amount, but when he says something, people generally recognize it as a serious contribution," Feith says. Matalin says Cheney trusts Libby completely and relies on his "breadth and depth of knowledge ... in combination with his superior legal skills." Libby's broad view of world history, creative thinking and discretion make him "the alter ego of the vice president," she says.

In 2002, when he did a few interviews to promote the paperback release of his novel, Libby joked about life outside government. He told CNN's Larry King that he considered himself fully on Cheney's team, "but there's always a novel kicking around in the back somewhere." And he told The New York Times, "I do occasionally dream of just becoming a novelist and sitting on Crete and drinking odd-named wines."


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