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Cheney steamed at Bush over Libby snub

The former vice president reportedly lobbied his boss relentlessly for a full pardon for his ex-chief of staff, who lied to a federal grand jury. A bitter Cheney has now gone public.

February 22, 2009|Andrew Malcolm and Johanna Neuman

LOS ANGELES AND WASHINGTON — It is being described as a full-court, all-out campaign, waged in the last days of the Bush administration by then-Vice President Dick Cheney, to get President Bush to grant a full pardon to I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

The effort failed, but the snub by the Texas Lone Ranger has left Cheney furious. The New York Daily News quoted a Cheney associate as saying that Cheney "tried to make it happen right up until the very end," pressing his case in many conversations, both in person and on the phone. Cheney was relentless, said one ally.

He went to the mat and came back and back and back at Bush. He was still trying the day before President Obama was sworn in.

Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, was convicted of lying to a federal grand jury about his role in the administration's leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity. This in an effort to discredit her husband, former envoy to Iraq Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was penning op-eds critical of Bush's plans to go to war in Iraq.

Bush commuted Libby's 30-month sentence in July 2007, saying at the time that he wanted to respect the judgment of the jury that had convicted Libby but thought the sentence was excessive.

With Cheney on offense to get Libby a full pardon, an exasperated Bush told aides he didn't want to talk about it anymore.

Bitter over the outcome, Cheney has now gone public, arguing that his chief of staff was railroaded by the administration's political critics.

As he told the Weekly Standard: "He was the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice, and I strongly believe that he deserved a presidential pardon. Obviously, I disagree with President Bush's decision."

The Ticket thinks the former vice president has a point.

This was a planned leak, and two other administration figures -- political guru Karl Rove and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage -- had already confessed to telling reporters about Plame's covert role. Libby's only crime was lying.

But in Washington, it's always the cover-up, rarely the original crime, that gets you in trouble.

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Farewell to Socks

Word came Friday that Socks Clinton, the onetime Arkansas stray adopted by the Clintons who rose to international prominence and literary fame as sole feline inhabitant of the White House, died.

Throat cancer and a euthanasia shot were given as the cause. The cat who lived a Horatio Alger life was believed to be about 20.

Upon leaving the executive residence in Washington, the Clinton family gave the cat to the president's secretary, Betty Currie, who had recently lost her own pet.

Socks relinquished the public spotlight in 2001 due to term limits and spent his retirement in Maryland, where he expected regular home cooking and was particularly fond of chicken.

Socks had become attached to Currie during his White House terms, residing most hours on a blue striped chair next to her desk outside the Oval Office, which he allowed the president to use.

Though reticent in public, Socks was known as an affectionate creature, even tolerating the first dog, a brown Labrador named Buddy, who was killed in a 2002 collision with a car near the Clintons' suburban New York home.

In a statement Friday, the Clintons said: "Socks brought much happiness to Chelsea and us over the years, and enjoyment to kids and cat lovers everywhere.

"We're grateful for those memories, and we especially want to thank our good friend, Betty Currie, for taking such loving care of Socks for so many years."

Though he wasn't much of a reader, Socks became internationally famous after a book was written about him -- "Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids' Letters to the First Pets." It was a collection of mail he had received, though, truth be told, he expressed no particular interest in any of it.

Some foreign leaders were said to have even requested to have their photo taken with the first kitty, which he tolerated because he favored diplomacy over militancy.

At the end, Socks was reportedly unwilling to eat and unable to stand. He had a last walk outdoors Thursday in Currie's arms.

No memorial plans were announced. A private cremation was planned. Survivors are unknown.

--

he told the Weekly Standard

andrew.malcolm@latimes.com

Read Top of the Ticket, The Times' blog on national

politics, at latimes.com/ticket.

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