Some of the most illuminating writing on the outing of Valerie Plame and the ensuing cover-up, has come from NY Times columnist Frank Rich. This week he delves into the timeline of the scandal, and reveals that its first casualty may likely have been the Supreme Court ambitions of longtime Bush friend, Alberto Gonzales.
In the days following Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement, the President’s vigorous defense of Gonzales, from attacks from both the right and the left, had many Washington insiders expecting the nomination of the nation’s first Hispanic justice. But as the conspiracy quickly unraveled over the past couple weeks, Gonzales’ own role in the scandal made the prospect of a confirmation hearing too much to handle for an already jittery White House.
As White House counsel, he was the one first notified that the Justice Department, at the request of the C.I.A., had opened an investigation into the outing of Joseph Wilson’s wife. That notification came at 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 29, 2003, but it took Mr. Gonzales 12 more hours to inform the White House staff that it must “preserve all materials” relevant to the investigation. This 12-hour delay, he has said, was sanctioned by the Justice Department, but since the department was then run by John Ashcroft, a Bush loyalist who refused to recuse himself from the Plame case, inquiring Senate Democrats would examine this 12-hour delay as closely as an 18