Few public servants have received so much praise from so many influential people as Lewis “Scooter” Libby. On Tuesday, Reggie B. Walton, the judge who sentenced Mr Libby to 30 months in prison for perjury and obstruction of justice, released the letters from the 168 luminaries who wrote in to attest to Mr Libby’s character and plead clemency on his behalf – apparently in vain.
Supporters included former senior administration officials, such as Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith.
They also included people less likely to share fully Mr Libby’s neoconservative philosophy but who vouched for his ethical standards, such as Henry Kissinger, James Carville, who was Bill Clinton’s campaign manager and Christopher Cox, the serving chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Some, such as Mr Wolfowitz, may have proved contentious depending on the judge’s assessment of the foreign policy record of the Bush administration.
“I remember most of all – during the summer of 2003 when some others were envisioning a prolonged American occupation – that he [Mr Libby] was a strong advocate for a more rapid build-up of the Iraqi army and a more rapid transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis, points on which history will prove him to have been prescient,” Mr Wolfowitz wrote.
Others argued how easy it was for high officials to forget details – a key point in assessing whether Mr Libby had committed perjury. “Keeping every detail straight is impossible,” wrote Mr Bolton, who stood down as US ambassador to the United Nations in January. “No one has a photographic memory.”
Mr Kissinger reinforced this line of argument: “Having served in the White House and under pressure, I have seen how difficult it sometimes is to recall precisely a particular sequence of events,” he wrote.
Meanwhile Douglas Feith, who was a Pentagon official during Mr Bush’s first term, argued that Mr Libby’s quality of mind ought to be taken into consideration.
“Scooter stood out in the government as a person of deeply philosophical outlook and humane principles,” he wrote. “In [our] discussions, Scooter showed an admirable concern for preserving civil liberties.”
One or two, such as Alan Simpson, a retired senator for Wyoming, who pointed out how much Mr Cheney relied on Mr Libby’s “exceedingly efficient” service, may possibly have protested too much. “During my years of friendship with Scooter I have found a singular attribute that will always remain undiminished. That is the attribute of loyalty – unswerving, unselfish, unwavering loyalty.”
But almost all, including Richard Perle, the former adviser to Mr Rumsfeld in the first Bush term, strongly emphasised Mr Libby’s integrity.
“There are many aspects to integrity, but perhaps the most difficult to sustain is the courage to say what one thinks will best serve the country, even when people in powerful positions may disagree,” he said. Mr Perle did not specify who may have disagreed with Mr Libby or on what issues.