Cheney's Right Hand Man Never Sought Limelight

By Daniela Deane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 28, 2005 5:39 PM

It's been said that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was to Vice President Cheney as presidential confidant Karl Rove is to President Bush. In other words, Libby was the right-hand man and most influential adviser to a vice president who is considered the most powerful vice president in modern times.

And besides being Cheney's chief of staff, Libby also held two other titles: the vice president's national security adviser and assistant to President Bush. By wearing all three hats, Libby had been a key architect in the shaping of policy in the Bush administration.

Today, Libby was indicted by a grand jury on five counts -- one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements in the investigation by Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald of the leak of a CIA operative's name. The indictment accuses Libby of lying about how and when he learned of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity in 2003 and then telling reporters about it.

Libby resigned from his White House posts this morning.

He is not a man who seeks out the limelight -- or speaks without thinking -- so not that much is known about the mysterious, yet powerful former administration official.

There are even differing accounts as to why Libby, 55, a wiry, compact man with small eyes and short graying brown hair, is known as "Scooter."

He told the New York Times in 2002 that his father, an investment banker now deceased, coined it upon seeing him scoot across his crib. The same year, in an interview with CNN's Larry King, Libby spoke of a childhood comparison to New York Yankees Hall of Fame shortstop Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto.

Libby can often be caught listening at the high-level White House meetings he attends, rather than talking, as Washington Post staff writer Mark Leibovich wrote in a recent profile of Libby. According to a source, he likes to stick to a favorite Cheney maxim that the vice president credits to the late Sam Rayburn, a longtime House speaker: "You never get in trouble for something you don't say."

Yet now, this highly cautious high-powered aide who favored the background of power is in trouble for maybe saying too much.

Libby was born in August 1950 in New Haven, Conn., and raised in Florida. He attended the schools of the elite -- Eaglebrook school in Deerfield, the Phillips Academy in Andover and then Yale University.

Now, he lives in McLean with his two children and wife, Harriet Grant, a former lawyer on the Democratic staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Not unlike other neoconservatives, Libby started his adult political life as an antiwar Democrat. At Yale, he was vice president of the student Democrats, according to reports.

Also at Yale, he met the man who would become a mentor in his life -- a political science professor named Paul D. Wolfowitz, who was in line to become assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and is now head of the World Bank. Wolfowitz was working on his doctoral thesis about countries with the capacity to produce nuclear weapons, a subject that fascinated Libby.

After Yale, Libby went to Columbia Law School. After graduating and spending time writing and skiing in Colorado, he was practicing law in Philadelphia in 1981 when Wolfowitz, then an assistant secretary of state, recruited him as a speech writer. Libby also worked for Wolfowitz during Wolfowitz's stint as undersecretary of defense for policy during the administration of President George H. W. Bush. He has long been interested in unconventional warfare, particularly in the Middle East.

During the Clinton years, Libby practiced law at the Washington office of Dechert, Price and Rhoads, where he represented Marc Rich, the fugitive billionaire whom President Bill Clinton pardoned hours before he left office.

Besides government policy, Libby also has other interests. It took him 20 years to complete "The Apprentice," a romantic novel set in rural Japan during a blizzard in 1903. It was published in 1996.

"I went out to Colorado, drank tequila and wrote," Libby told CNN's Larry King in 2002 in a rare television interview, during which he talked mostly about his novel, which had just been released in paperback.

He told King then that he dreams of giving up the powerful Washington life to devote his life to writing.

"I'd like to consider myself full on [Cheney's] team, but there's always a novel kicking around in the back somewhere," he said.

Staff writer Mark Leibovich contributed to this report.

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