What lessons, if any, can be learned so far
from the Valeria Plame affair?

The Virtual Editorials - E12 (July 24, 2005) - Dennis Foster

Introduction:  This is the kind of story that seems to define "dog days of summer" in the news biz.  There isn't much going on, so issues from inside the beltway (i.e., Washington, D.C.) suddenly find national prominence.  While the "outing" occurred last year, the pot was stirred up this summer with the revelation that Karl Rove, President Bush's right-hand man, was a source of this information to a Time Magazine reporter.

Virtual Editorial #12

     Riddle me this:  Who’s to blame, for revealing the name, of Valerie Plame?  Answer:  You’re asking the wrong question.  This “affair” is nothing but a circus sideshow; incidental to the “Joseph C. Wilson, 4th scandal.”

     To fill in the gaps:  In 2002, Joe Wilson went to Niger to inquire about whether Iraq was involved in trying to obtain uranium from that country.  President Bush referenced such a connection in his State of the Union address in 2003.  In July 2003, Joe Wilson went public with his views and turned rabidly partisan in opposing President Bush and the war in Iraq.  In 2004, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report that touched on this matter.

     What have we learned about Joe Wilson?  Well, that he lied – he lied about whether Iraq was involved in trying to get uranium from Niger (they were); he lied about whether he reported this to the CIA (he did); he lied about seeing forged documents (he didn’t); he lied about whether his wife got him this gig in Niger (she did).  

     Lesson – Partisan politics is the game; a biased media can fuel the flame; diverting our attention is the aim; into a comedy over some dame.

Afterword:  This turned out to be another time-consuming editorial, even if it reads rather light-hearted.  I compiled a reference of about 15 web sources for this story, downloaded the Senate Committee report, and read through the chapter on Niger, jotting down notes.  It made for interesting reading.
     Why is Joe Wilson the bad guy?  To me it is simple - he interjected himself into this whole debate when he shouldn't have.  After all, I thought he was a diplomat.  Aren't they supposed to be "keepers of secrets?"  So, at the outset, I fault him for his Washington Post piece, blasting Bush on the uranium reference, irregardless of the facts in this matter.  He just shouldn't have done it.  And, with his wife working at the CIA, apparently hip deep in related issues, Wilson's public critique was especially inexplicable.  You have to figure that reporters are going to start asking all kinds of questions.
     What makes this truly a Shakespearean tragedy is that Wilson was wrong in his criticism.  Bush never said it was Niger, and Wilson didn't go anywhere else.  Wilson was steered away from Nigerien government officials (by the U.S. ambassador to Niger) and only spoke with retired politicians.  So, he certainly didn't have "the big picture."  And, one of his contacts, the former prime minister, actually told him of a meeting that was arranged between himself and an Iraqi delegation to talk about trade.  Well, the prime minister thought they wanted uranium.  Iraq used to buy uranium from Niger, and it is their biggest (and, in some years, their only) export.
     So, the bottom line is, how in the heck did this get to be about his wife, and who gave out her name?  It is clear to me that there was no violation of law here.  Yet, the way in which this story has developed is nothing short of bizarre.
     And, yes, I did have fun with the rhyming stuff!

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