Who it was that sent Alberto Gonzales to the bedside of the convalescing John Ashcroft, to attempt to force him to approve controversial parts of the Terrorist Surveillance Program would seem to be unknown.
However, the NY Times Editorial Board has stated -- blandly and without qualifier or source -- that it was Vice President Cheney who sent him.
During Gonzales' testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales refused to answer Sen. Schumer's question, who sent you to visit Ashcroft in the hospital, to try to gain his approval of the Terrorist Survelience Program:
Schumer asked him point blank: "Did the President send you? Did the Vice President send you?" and to both questions, Gonzales answered "We were there on behalf of the President", meaning he refused to say who sent him.
Both men seem to believe it is not public knowledge who sent Gonzales to strong-arm the weakened Ashcroft. I must admit, when I heard the "Did the Vice President send you," question, it sounded like fishing to me. It sounds like nobody knows who sent Gonzales, and Gonzales should really be telling this oversight committee who it was that sent him.
Then, in a related editorial last week, the NYTimes called for Gonzales' investigation and impeachment (see also this diary by mcjoan. Talkingpointsmemo.com pointed out this passage today, where it states in the most matter of fact ways that Vice President Dick Cheney sent Gonzales to Ashcroft's hospital room.
Unwilling to accept that conclusion, Vice President Dick Cheney sent Mr. Gonzales and another official to Mr. Ashcroft’s hospital room to get him to approve the wiretapping.
This leaves us with some questions: (1) Why did Schumer, during Gonzales Testimony, hit on whether the Vice President asked him to visit Ashcroft? Does he know something which is not public? (2) Does someone on the NYTimes Editorial Board know something we don't? More importantly, does the NYTimes fact-check its OpEd pieces, and can we get them to either source the statement which has already appeared in their press?
If it really was Vice President Cheney who sent Gonzales to try to force Ashcroft to approve the TSP, we now have the face for who was trying to gain the barest thread of legitimacy for the illegal program.
UPDATE: Note that NC Dem mentioned this very point in a comment yesterday. Here.
UPDATE II: Additional discussion on this topic taking place in a later story by the fabulous MissLaura Here.
UPDATE III (Aug 2) . Following this, on July 31, Larry King had Cheney on CNN where he put this question to the VP directly, "Did you send them?". Cheney dithered, "I don't recall". CNN commentator Wolf Blitzer and Larry King, reviewing the issue, all but implied Cheney was lying, as you can see in the White House transcript or in this complete video.
And, today, Dan Froomkin reviews this meme at the WaPost.
I've now written the NYTimes twice, asking them to confirm their initial statement in the July 29th Editorial, which seems to have launched the meme. The statement remains unsourced; but, now, it seems everyone believes the Vice President sent Gonzales and Card to Ashcroft's bedside.