Notes on a Trial

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Ana Marie Cox, Time’s on-scene reporter at the Scooter Libby trial, just emailed this dispatch:

David Addington is probably not much fun to work with. To judge by his performance in the witness box today and yesterday, he is a gruff and blunt man — and, like all good Bush soldiers, loath to share a shred of information beyond what is absolutely necessary. He’s known Dick Cheney for 20 years and it’s hard not to see a little of his boss in him: the growling delivery, the sideways smirk, the apparent lack of a neck.

All of these things weigh against the possibility of him being much fun at parties, but I’m quite enjoying him on the stand. He is precise to the point of absurdity: in describing the VP’s chief-of-staff offices in the White House, he noted that it has “a desk, a chair, and another chair, and there’s a small refrigerator which used to be on the floor but is now on the desk.” Asked by the defense if he had read a certain document in evidence, he replied, “Well, you shoved it at me; I can’t say that I read it.”

And then there’s what he had to say about Karl. Barring an appearance by Dame Miller, today’s highlight will certainly be Addington’s careful parrying of the defense’s contention that Scooter was left out to dry by a White House more interested in protecting Bush’s Brain.

I mean, sure, Scottie went out and said Karl wasn’t involved (in a clip that must still give poor battered panda McClellan nightmares), but the veep’s office reaction seems disproportionate to say the least. A handwritten note from Cheney complains about the perceived different treatment, saying “we can’t protect one staffer and then sacrifice the guy who put his neck in the meat grinder to cover up for the incompetence of others.” He’s so mad he can’t keep the cliches straight.

This temper tantrum resulted in the White House offering a denial on Libby’s behalf as well, a move that Addington testified did more harm than good. Addington recounted a converstion with White House counselor Dan Bartlett, in which he pointed out, “I don’t know why you guys keep making statements about the case.” To which Bartlett replied, “Well, it’s your boss that wanted us to do it.”

“Then I shut up,” Addington testified, though he elaborated that he didn’t understand why the VP would either want to keep the story alive or comment on an investigation in which “they didn’t even know what was really happening.”

Addington, of course, replaced Libby as Cheney’s chief of staff after Libby was indicted. The vice president’s office in the Cheney era has never been a fun house, but Libby is a laugh-a-minute compared to his successor. Perhaps that’s why the vice president was in such a lousy mood last week when he sat down with Wolf Blitzer. That and all the “enormous successes” we’ve been having in Iraq.

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