Eat The Press

libby dimple.jpg

from AP

I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby not only has one of the most punctuated names in Washington, he also has one of the most mysterious — not even the White House knows his real name. Or if they do, they're not telling. Or at least, they're not telling me. Allow me to backtrack.

It all started with this item in today's Washington Examiner. FishbowlDC's Patrick Gavin asked me to answer this question for the "Yeas & Nays" column: "What will Scooter Libby's nickname be in prison?" My immediate response was "Irwin!" because what better nickname for a guy named Scooter than the given name he never, ever uses? And so I submitted something along those lines, telling Patrick that I was going to double-check and make sure it was Irwin.

What followed was a pretty ridiculous wild goose chase, considering we're talking about the most famous convicted felon in America. First I went to Patrick Fitzgerald's DOJ page, wherein all the court filings are contained. Doc after doc — the indictment, the government response — listed the defendant as only "I. Lewis Libby (also known as 'Scooter Libby')." I even checked his sworn Grand Jury testimony from March 5, 2004, thinking he would have had to have given his full name then, but no such luck:

Q. And Mr. Libby, if you could state your name for the record and spell your name?
A. I. Lewis, L-e-w-i-s; Libby, L-i-b-b-y.
Q. And do you have a nickname?
Q. Okay. And that is —
A. Scooter.

Not so thorough after all, that Patrick Fitzgerald. Next I tried the New York Times. The Paper of Record! They'd have it for sure! Various searches for "Irwin" "Irvin" and "Irving" turned up nothing; ditto "What The #%$@# Is Scooter Libby's Name?" (By this point I was frustrated).

Then I had a brainwave. Wikipedia! There was no way that the meticulous, compulsive info-zealots of the Web wouldn't have the answer. Libby's entry told me right off the bat that "This article is about a person who has recently been convicted in a criminal case" — thanks, Wikipedia — but the best it could do on his name was "Various sources report that he has been rather secretive about his actual first name, and that the initial 'I.' stands for Irving (or, alternatively, for the abbreviations 'Irve' or 'Irv')." This was getting silly. I figured I'd just ask at the place where I was most likely to get a straight answer: The White House.

I dialed the Press Office (thank you, Google) and spoke to a very nice guy named Andy, who assured me he'd get right back to me with that. Meanwhile, Patrick was nearing his deadline. Were we going with Irwin, Irving, Irv, what? I had worked hard at crafting my little quip so it looked offhand, but this was Washington — the Beltway punditry would crucify me if I got this wrong. Or, if not them, then surely their army of anonymous sources, unnamed aides and Senior Administration Officials Who Declined To Be Identified.

I called back, and got Andy on the phone again. "Hi, Andy, it's Rachel Sklar calling again from the Huffington Post. You were going to get me Scooter Libby's given name?" "Oh, riiiiight. Yeah, sorry, I'm still waiting to hear. I'll call you as soon as I know." Phew! I could count on Andy. He wouldn't let me down.

That was yesterday at 3:06 pm. I still have not heard from Andy; the item ran today, hastily changed to reflect the fact that we couldn't confirm Scooter's name (between us, Patrick and I had consulted several well-known political writers). I had failed. I had gotten Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, I had gotten Katharine Q. Seelye, but somehow, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby eluded me. But how? The guy clearly wasn't that good at keeping secrets.

In defeat, I started writing this post, because damned if I wasn't at least going to get an item out of it. DOJ, NYT, Wikipe— wait. What was this footnote? "Guarding the 'I' in I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby," NPR, October 19, 2005: Apparently Mike Pesca had called a librarian at Yale and had them haul out a copy of the yearbook, The Yale Banner, for 1972. The verdict? Irve. IRVE. What kind of goddamned name is Irve? It's not even short for Irving, which must be why the New York Times got it wrong here, even though they managed to get it out of Scooter's brother. (And no, I didn't think to search for contractions.) If I had, though, I would have learned that "Irve" is Scooter's father's name, though even in that article they don't actually mention that it's Scooter's name, too (and it seems to be a happy family so I have no idea why he's so adamant in its rejection). In fact, only one person at the NYT gets the name right: John Tierney. Honestly, I don't know if that makes me feel better or worse.

But anyway, it's official: Scooter Libby's real name is Irve. Did you catch that, Andy?

Yeas & Nays: Think Tank [Washington Examiner]

Guarding the 'I' in I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby [NPR]
"The best speculation is Irving" [Time]
Who Is Scooter Libby? [Slate] (Hint: They say "Irving," too)
No Results Found: Irve Scooter Libby [Washington Post]

People Who Are Smarter Than The Publications Listed Above:
"Ha ha ha ha, Scooter's First Name Is 'Irve'" [Wonkette]*
Irve Libby Trial Update: That's What Friends Are For [WSJ Law Blog]
Deciphering Initials: Irve Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Jr. [Mental Floss]**
Update: WaPo doesn't suck, just their search program! They had it on Oct. 23, 2005. [WaPo]

Ironically-Titled Article From 2001:
PUBLIC LIVES; Cheney Aide Will Eat Horse Guts Before He'll Spill Beans [NYT]

*NB: Wonkette's post, dated March 6, 2007, came from Wikipedia; by the time I got to it on March 12, 2007, it had been altered. Damn wikis!
**In fairness, it's a lot easier to find these things when you know what you are looking for.

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