Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame are the crushed if noble victims of a law-breaking administration, the left says. But the two are the strangest victims you can imagine: a super-privileged couple, befriended by the high and mighty, awash in moolah and now commencing the agony of resortlike living.
Such is the American price of doing something powerfully wrong, specifically of Wilson telling a totally debunked tale about a trip he took to Niger for the CIA. He said it produced evidence President Bush intentionally ignored when he said in a speech that Iraq hoped to purchase uranium from that African country in pursuit of nuclear weaponry.
A bipartisan Senate committee report clarified issues to an extent that should have left the reputation of this highly partisan, former foreign service officer irreparably damaged. Wilson’s investigative foray, it made clear, actually left the CIA analysts thinking the case for an attempted uranium deal stronger than they had previously supposed.
But this embarrassment — and there was more, some of it withering — did him no obvious harm. Out of his feeding the leftist thesis that President Bush lied us into war in Iraq, Wilson won fame on TV. He got a lucrative book contract. He was suddenly somebody special. And his wife, Valerie, who had written a memo while in the CIA putting forth Wilson’s name for the Niger trip — did she suffer harm?
She said as much during an appearance at a hearing of the U.S. House. Leakers in the Bush administration had ruined her career by revealing she was a CIA operative, she said, and there seems little question that the leaks made her old duties nondoable. What Plame did not dwell on was that she was still an appreciated CIA employee until her own actions left her unappreciated.
That change of heart came because of a photo. Even though she had been "outed" — the James Bond-like term the press has so enjoyed using — few could have known what she looked like. Wilson said she would never let her picture be taken. But then she and Wilson were photographed for Vanity Fair sitting in their Jaguar. She was disguised, Wilson said — and tobe sure, she wore sunglasses and a scarf — but take a gander at that photo and of others and you do not find the Clark Kent disguise much hindrance in identification. A report tells us CIA rules were thus broken and the agency was not happy.
Plame was never fired from the CIA, however. In 2005, she resigned. Her tragedy has been hobnobbing with Hollywood types, having dinner with Hillary Clinton and obtaining a book contract that may be worth $2.5 million and a movie contract that will likely be worth more. At least one person is in deep trouble for having tried to safeguard public support of the war in Iraq from Wilson’s fabrications. I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby has been convicted of lying about his sources in information about Plame he shared with the press — and faces prison. Wilson and Plame have sold their Washington-area house for better than $1 million over its original cost and just moved to a large adobe pleasure palace in Santa Fe, N.M.
If the two do not finally live up to the awful ignominy of Tom and Daisy in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s "The Great Gatsby" ("They were careless people ... they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated ..."), Wilson remains someone whose ideological fervor trampled truth and others to no personal disadvantage and Plame someone who was at worst reckoning made to cry all the way to the bank.
Examiner columnist Jay Ambrose is a former editor of two daily newspapers. He may be reached at SpeaktoJay@aol.com
Decades ago, I was a reporter in Albany, N.Y., working for a newspaper at the foot of a hill that could be ascended only with huffing, puffing, knee endangerment and sweat unless you employed a trick.