On the third day of the trial of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the job of finding Washington jurors who do not hold negative views of the George W. Bush administration, its war in Iraq, and Vice President Dick Cheney became harder. Out of the first ten potential jurors screened by the judge and the lawyers, nine were dismissed–most because they said they believe Bush and Cheney are not to be believed. The day began with Juror No. 0420, a woman who is an information technology consultant. She called the war “a tremendous mistake” and “quite a horrendous thing.” She noted she would have a difficult time fairly evaluating testimony from Cheney, explaining there was the “potential” that her bias would “leak” into her subconscious. She was gone.
Then came No. 0388, a manager of audits for the Department of Homeland Security. She spends her days sniffing out procurement fraud. When asked about Cheney’s ability to tell the truth, she explained she tended to be “skeptical of politicians’ credibility”–and that skepticism would extend to Cheney and anyone who worked for him, especially if the matter at hand concerns the administration’s response to a critic. “My profession is to be skeptical,” she said, explaining that a politician often tries “to shape public opinion” and is not driven by a desire to provide “the most comprehensive presentation.” But she insisted that she could evaluate Cheney’s and Libby’s testimony without bias and that she realized the burden of proof rested with the government. She was dismissed.
No. 0244 told the court he has “strong negative feelings about this current administration and its conduct of the war” and has a friend who is close to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. He lasted less than a minute. No. 0056 said she is a “very partisan Democrat” who had made up her mind about the case. “I would,” she said, “start from the presumption that something negative went on…and Mr. Libby revealed information he should not have….I could not presume he was innocent.” Excused. No. 1531, a young woman who is an arts reporter for The Washington Post, said it would be tough for her to function as a juror rather than a journalist. She would be sorely tempted, she explained, to share what she learned at the trial with her colleagues at the Post and her live-in boyfriend, who works there. “I’m a gossip,” she professed. After federal district court Judge Reggie Walton reminded her she would have to resist such urges, she noted she had a well-formed view regarding Cheney: “I like to believe that as a journalist I can put my feelings aside….[But] my feelings about Vice President Cheney are so strong it would make it very difficult for me….I feel Vice President Cheney puts his business priorities over the good of the country. I don’t trust him. And anyone associated with him would have to jump over a hurdle for me to think he was ever telling the truth.” Walton didn’t wait: “You’re excused.” (In the media room, a Washington Post reporter cringed.)