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An Important Indictment

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By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, November 9, 2005; 4:18 PM

The flailing Bush presidency continues to spin off new compelling story lines almost daily; yesterday it was torture, today it's Bush as electoral albatross. It's almost inevitable that the media will let some fall by the wayside.

But according to a new Pew Research Center poll, the recent indictment of senior White House aide Scooter Libby is a really big deal: Even more important to the country, for instance, than the 1998 charges that President Bill Clinton lied under oath about Monica Lewinsky. Those, of course, led to Clinton's impeachment.

Here is Pew's summary of the poll results; here are the complete results .

Pew notes that "fully 79 percent of Americans say the recent indictment of I. Lewis Libby, formerly a top aide to Vice President Cheney, on perjury and other charges is a matter of at least some importance to the nation; that is greater than the percentage who said that in 1998 about charges that former President Clinton lied under oath about a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky (65 percent). . . .

"Just 36% now believe that Bush has lived up to his campaign pledge to restore integrity to the White House."

Poll respondents who said they were paying at least some attention to the Libby indictment were asked what one word best described their reaction to the news. The top responses, in order of their frequency: Not surprised/unsurprised; Surprised; Shocked; Disappointed; Disgusted; Expected; Good; Disbelief/unbelievable; Finally; About time; Traitor/treason; Guilty; Typical; and Wow.

Wow, indeed. The White House these days finds itself under siege on so many fronts that its continued stonewall on the CIA leak case may seem like a relatively minor issue. But many important questions remain -- and clearly the American people would be interested in the answers.

More From the Poll

The Pew poll also finds Bush's job approval rating at an all-time low of 36 percent, down from 40 percent in late October and 50 percent at the start of the year.

The decline mostly reflects a souring of opinion about Bush among independents, Pew finds. "However, Bush is also now facing a significant loss of support within his own party particularly among moderate Republicans."

Bush's job approval rating is nine points higher than former President Richard M. Nixon's approval mark at the same point in his second term. But, Pew notes, "it is largely GOP loyalty that separates Bush from Nixon at comparable points in their presidencies. Bush's 29 percent approval rating among independents is only four points higher than Nixon's standing among independents in early November 1973. And Bush's 12 percent approval rating among Democrats is nearly identical to Nixon's."

The Next Campaign

Dana Bash reports for CNN: "Top White House officials say they're developing a 'campaign-style' strategy in response to increasing Democratic allegations that the Bush administration twisted intelligence to make its case for war.

"White House aides, who agreed to speak to CNN only on the condition of anonymity, said they hoped to increase what they called their 'hit back' in coming days.


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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