Given the potential of the Walter Reed scandal to wreak havoc with the GOP's pro-soldier image (see post below), the Bush administration was probably hoping today that some hot story would come along to dominate the news cycle. Something fresh for the cable news vultures to feast upon. Something to change the subject and distract the public.
Hey, how about this one: Dick Cheney's former top aide convicted on four counts of perjury and obstruction of justice.
That's probably not what the White House had in mind, so maybe there's something else out there...
OK, how about this one: Federal prosecutors fired by the Bush administration claim they were pushed out for partisan political reasons.
That's the other big one today, courtesy of congressional hearings. Again, not the ideal distraction, from the Bush team's point of view, but symptomatic of the president's woes at this point in his lame-duck tenure. Surely there must be a fresh angle in the Anna Nicole Smith saga.
The Scooter Libby perjury conviction, by itself, is not a major story to average Americans living their lives outside the Washington Beltway. I would bet that there aren't more than a relative handful of citizens who can recite exactly who Libby spoke to and when, and what it was that he conveniently misremembered. But the details don't matter. What counts is the shorthand: that the vice president's top guy got nailed in court for a scheme to discredit a critic of the unpopular Iraq war. What counts is the war, and, for a lot of Americans, this court conviction is merely further evidence of how - from inception to execution - it has gone wrong.
Next up: Will Bush pardon the guy? Some conservatives are already pushing for a pardon, but will elected Republicans nervous about 2008 join that particularly crusade?
Indeed, when you stack the Libby conviction with all the other headaches that have occurred since Bush's re-election - Katrina, Harriet Miers, the Dubai ports episode, and now Walter Reed and the rapidly growing federal prosecutors story - it's no wonder that Republicans are a tad anxious about the mood of swing voters in advance of the '08 elections.
But don't take it from me. Let conservative commentator Jim Geraghty pose the rhetorical question: "Even if you like this president, even if you’re pulling for him, even if you think his heart is in the right place...is there any way this presidency doesn't look pretty disastrous at this moment?"