David Gergen was questioned this morning during a CBS segment concerning the possibility of indictments to White House chief aide Karl Rove and Dick Cheney chief of staff Scooter Libby. The “Early Show's” Bill Plante mentioned that the White House is behaving like it’s business as usual. Gergen responded: “Bill, I was in the Nixon White House during Watergate, and we pretended that we were all about business as usual. And we had a president who was talking to the portraits. It was not business as usual, but you have to say it.”
Gergen later in the interview said: “This is a presidency that has almost collapsed.”
What follows is a full transcript of this report, and a video link.
Bill Plante: Good morning to you Hannah. The indictments of one or more of president bush's top advisers could come today, next week or even not at all. But whatever, they're acting around here like there's nothing wrong. They say business as usual. Here's the president when asked how he's dealing with the investigation.
Bush: So to answer your question. There's some background noise here, a lot of chatter, a lot of speculation and opining. But the American people expect me to do my job, and I'm going to.
Plante: But the background noise has only gotten louder as the grand jury winds up its investigation over who told reporters that the wife of Iraq war critic Joseph Wilson worked for the CIA. The White House maintains Bush adviser Karl Rove and Cheney chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby were not involved. Sources close to the case say neither man knows if he's about to be indicted. And yet, they maintain that they're going about business as usual. I suppose one has to do that, right?
David Gergen: Bill, I was in the Nixon White House during Watergate, and we pretended that we were all about business as usual. And we had a president who was talking to the portraits. It was not business as usual, but you have to say it.
Plante: What's more, the president's got problems on Capitol Hill. The senate majority leader is being investigated for possible insider stock trading, and former house leader Tom Delay, who's charged with conspiracy and money laundering, turned himself in, got a mug shot and was fingerprinted. In other words, it'll be bad news if any top white house advisers are forced to resign.
Gergen: It will be a significant blow to the White House that's already in freefall politically. This is a presidency that has almost collapsed. But if Karl Rove were indicted, that would be like George W. Bush losing his right arm at a time when he needs every limb he's got to climb out of the hole he's in and to rebuild his presidency.
Plante: At this point his advisors are looking months ahead at the state of the union address for the president to lay out his plan and get a foothold on the next three years of his presidency.