Libby's indictment capped a grim week for Bush in which U.S. military deaths in Iraq reached 2,000 and the chief White House lawyer, Harriet Miers, withdrew as a nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. Bush has been weakened as well by the troubled government response to Hurricane Katrina, which damaged his leadership ratings; and by the soaring price of gasoline.
Perhaps the best result for Bush is that while a majority sees broader ethical wrongdoing within his administration, far fewer --33 percent -- think Bush himself did anything wrong (either illegal, or unethical but not illegal) in connection with the CIA leak case. Fewer still -- only 12 percent -- think Bush broke the law.
The public divides, though, on whether Cheney did anything wrong, 41-44 percent, and more think Rove did something wrong than think not, by 47 percent to 29 percent. But in both cases only about two in 10 think either man did anything illegal, rather than something unethical, but not illegal.
Wrongdoing in CIA Leak Case
|Did something wrong||33%||41%||47%|
|Did nothing wrong||55||44||29|
Responding to the Libby indictment presents a difficulty for the administration. Dismissing the charge as a minor or technical one looks unlikely to gain much credence; just 26 percent see it that way, while 69 percent call it serious (as has the president himself).
Alleging political motivations, as Rep. Tom DeLay has done in his case, also may prove unproductive: While 30 percent think prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald brought the case out of political motivations, far more, 55 percent, think he relied on the facts alone. Even among Republicans, more say the charges rest on the facts than on political motivations, by 48-36 percent.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Oct. 28-29, 2005, among a random national sample of 600 adults. The results have a four-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS Intersearch of Horsham, Pa.