As I walked out of the Angelika Theatre in New York having just seen the movie Fair Game, it suddenly hit me who Dick Cheney was really talking about when he told George W. Bush, “I can’t believe you’re going to leave a soldier on the battlefield.”
That soldier was former CIA agent Valerie Plame.
In the former president’s recently released memoir, Decision Points, he recounts that moment with the former vice president as part of a discussion about whether or not to pardon I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby in connection with the investigation of the leak of the covert identity of Plame. In a federal trial, United States v. Libby, he was convicted on four counts -- one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury, and one count of making false statements -- and sentenced to 30 months in prison. Bush commuted the prison sentence, calling it “excessive” in his memoir.
“But the punishment Scooter had received did not fit the crime,” Bush writes. “This protracted investigation and trial had already caused personal, professional, and financial damage for Scooter and his family.”
Mr. President, with all due respect, after watching the film Fair Game it’s hard to conjure up any sympathy for Libby. A CIA agent -- movingly played by Naomi Watts -- who had been serving this country since she graduated from college was hung out to dry because her husband, Joseph G. Wilson, dared to tell the truth about what he saw and knew with regard to the case being made to go to war with Iraq.
We already knew much of this from a factual standpoint, but watching Plame’s story unfold, seeing how entrenched she was, getting a glimpse of her home life with her husband and two children, seeing all of her existing operations compromised and even halted and the ripple effect on people who had agreed to help her (which means our country), well, it gave me chills. The notepad on my lap stayed blank because I was too riveted to stop and write. I kept shifting in my seat, wondering how this could happen in the United States.
“I decided early on that I would not criticize the hardworking patriots at the CIA for the faulty intelligence on Iraq,” Bush writes.
Really? Because the way Plame explained it, darned if it didn’t look like the CIA intelligence was exactly right -- no weapons of mass destruction.
According to a Huffington Post piece by Wilson published this week, “What I didn’t find in the book is Bush’s explanation of the misuse of the intelligence in making the case for war with Iraq. Instead of dealing with the inconvenient facts Bush simply refers again to the bogus British intelligence on uranium yellowcake, ignoring that his CIA had warned him at least three times that our own intelligence services did not believe the claim. Secretary of State Colin Powell omitted the assertion in his UN speech, but Bush still hides behind that shredded fig leaf.”
It’s infuriating, really. Maybe even more so after such a pivotal national election in which the fickle portion of the electorate chose to put more power in the hands of those who thought nothing of doing this to push a war agenda. Either the majority of voters think this corruption is OK, or they chose to glaze over it because it doesn’t affect them personally.
If the popularity of fad diets, Botox and fake tans didn’t already have me convinced we are an instant gratification people, I sure would believe it now. Do the voters have a short-term memory? Nah. More like a mindset of ‘what have you done for me lately?’ Sound bites give quick “nourishment” from one day to the next – who am I kidding? One hour to the next -- and it’s all about latching on to some cause or person, often to the exclusion of openness to acquiring more information.
Case in point: Sarah Palin calls out a Wall Street Journal reporter on her Facebook page and soon it is filled with comments from fans telling her how misunderstood and mistreated she is by the “lame stream media.” Never mind that she turns out to be incorrect in her assertion or that it’s a mystery as to how the WSJ became part of the “lame stream” portion of the media. But no parsing needed. The lemmings have been fed and will await the next nugget about how Palin will eliminate big government and squash elitism, subsequently getting them jobs and saving their homes from foreclosure.
Meanwhile, as President Bush works the book tour circuit, he is doing his best to stay out of what he called the “swamp.” He made it clear he’s not looking to make news, just sell books. In fact, during interviews with Matt Lauer and Oprah Winfrey, he suggested several times when asked hard questions that people -- including Tom Kean, chairman of the 9/11 Commission -- simply read his book.
Well, in that spirit, if you have any questions lingering about what I’m saying, see the movie. And then tell me who’s really a soldier.