This case has never, ever been about smearing Joe Wilson. Its about who sent Joe Wilson to Africa. For the longest time, the conventional wisdom has been that the Administration was attempting to smear Wilson and/or intimidate him. I think this conventional wisdom is wrong.
First, its not much of a smear to say that your wife recommended you to go on an unpaid trip to malaria-infested West Africa to investigate some claims by calling up people you know in the Niger government. This makes no sense.
The other side of the Plame coin has always been that the White House and the Vice President specifically (See Sept. 14, 2003 Meet the Press Transcript), have denied that they did anything which resulted in Joe Wilson's trip. To me, it appears that the whole business with Valerie Plame suggesting the trip is about who sent Joe Wilson to Africa, not about smearing Wilson.
The next logical question is, of course, why the Administration has been anxious to show that they weren't associated with Joe Wilson's Niger trip. Several possibilities exist:
(1) The Administration, and Cheney specifically, want to distance themselves from the fact that their inquiries led to the trip and that they were later debriefed on the trip. This would be a problem because the claim about the yellowcake in Africa found in the State of the Union 2004 occurred almost one whole year after Joe Wilson returned from Niger and reported that there was no evidence of Iraq attempting to purchase yellowcake uranium. That would mean that they knowingly pushed a story they knew was false. I don't think the Administration could survive a proven scenario of this sort.
(2) The Administration had a role in producing or encouraging the production of the fake documents and had expected their forgery to stand up to some level of lesser inquiry. They then asked the CIA to look into the faked documents as part of this attempt to pass the information through the CIA filter, proving its "authenticity." They could claim that the CIA found out about it and they had nothing to do with it. (note that Bush claimed the British government had learned of the alleged attempts to buy yellowcake uranium. I know the Administration could not survive a claim of this sort. Impeachment and removal from office would certainly occur, regardless of who was in control in Congress.
It just makes much more sense this way. But nobody has really put this out there. posted by Ironmouth at 11:17 PM PST on October 24