The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Libby indictment could affect GOP as elections near; A1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

The indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff isn’t about anything other than alleged lying to a grand jury.

But some say it may add to a “headwind” for Republicans in Virginia as Election Day draws near.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald told reporters Friday that the indictment of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby was about one thing only: standing in the way of a criminal investigation.

Libby wasn’t honest with the grand jury or federal investigators, Fitzgerald said, and that “prevents us from making the very fine judgments that we want to make” about whether or not anyone intentionally blew the cover of undercover Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame.

Cries from the left that the investigation was about the validity of the Iraq war or from the right that it was a political witch hunt are simply wrong, Fitzgerald said.

“This indictment is not about the war,” Fitzgerald told reporters. “It does show the world that this is a country that takes its law seriously.”

Fitzgerald went out of his way to say that “Mr. Libby is presumed innocent,” and no one should assume that he is guilty unless he is convicted by a jury of his peers.

The local congressional delegation had mixed — and brief — reactions to the indictment.

“I am pleased to see that Mr. Libby has resigned his position as Chief of Staff to the Vice President,” Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-6th, says in a statement released by his spokeswoman.

“This is now a matter for the courts to decide and if it is found that he broke the law, I believe he should be held accountable,” he says.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., also expressed faith in the judicial system.

“This is an unfortunate incident at a time when our President needs strong support, but I am confident in the ability of our judicial system to reach a just and fair resolution,” he said in an e-mail to reporters.

A spokesman for Rep. Frank Wolf, R-10th, said the congressman had no comment on the indictment, and calls to the office of Sen. George Allen, R-Va., weren’t immediately returned.

Having an indictment returned just 11 days before voters go the polls in what promises to be a squeaker of a gubernatorial election is not good timing at all for Virginia Republicans, said Joshua Scott of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

But, then again, it’s not known how closely voters associate the Old Dominion’s GOP with their political allies across the Potomac.

“Is it taking votes away from [Republican nominee] Jerry Kilgore? I don’t think it’s helping him at all,” he said.

“It depends on whether or not this really has sticking power with the Virginia electorate,” Scott said. “It makes both parties look bad” by reinforcing what people already think about politics — “It’s dirty, they’re crooks,” Scott said.

“It’s up to [Democratic gubernatorial nominee Lt. Gov. Tim] Kaine’s folks to try to make that point.

Problems in Washington have changed the nature of the race. A year ago, Scott said, it looked like President Bush would spend a lot of time in Virginia between Labor Day and Election Day.

But when Bush made a speech in Norfolk on Friday, Kilgore wasn’t there. The campaign said he wasn’t invited.

Election Day is Nov. 8.