Let them eat yellow cake: Fair Game ***

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on November 6, 2010)

I would like to invite you along for a little stroll down memory lane…to a time, not so long ago, when we had this man in the White House who, well…went a little ‘funny’ in the head after a terrorist group attacked America. You know, funny, and what he did was, you see, he sort of…girded his loins to invade a Middle Eastern country that actually had very little to do with the specific group of terrorists who attacked America.

Naturally, he first had to come up with a viable reason . And what he did was, he convinced the Congress that the country in question was not only chockablock with evildoers, but evildoers who had weapons of mass destruction that surely would be wielded against America in the near future.

Now, he couldn’t actually produce any photos of these Doomsday Machines, but they did discover some suspicious aluminum tubes. Oh-and they heard it from a friend who, heard it from a friend who, heard it from another that they had been messin’ around with a substance called “yellow cake” which can be used in the manufacture of WMDs. Again, no real evidence, but nobody in the Congress wanted to be labeled as unpatriotic or anything like that, so they all went “Booyah! Shock and awe!” and opened those bomb bay doors wide.

So, the invasion was going swimmingly for a spell, and even those Americans who may have been scratching their heads over the aluminum tubes and yellow cake and such were keeping mum, because they didn’t want to be labeled as unpatriotic, either.Besides, all the journalists on the TV were supporting the troops, too!

But then, as the war began to drag on, and no stockpiles of WMDs seemed to be turning up, sleeper cells of not-so-patriotic grumblers could be detected all around America. However, as they turned out to be mostly aging, drug-addled old left-leaning hippie panhandlers and radical progressive pundits, the White House didn’t pay much mind to such gibberish-that is, until the summer of 2003.

That is when a former Foreign Service officer and ambassador named Joe Wilson published an op-ed in The New York Times called “What I Didn’t Find in Africa”. Wilson had been sent on a fact-finding trip to Niger in 2002 at the behest of Vice President Dick Cheney, to investigate a report that Iraq had purchased some of the aforementioned yellow cake back in the late 1990s.

The gist of the piece was that there seemed to be a credibility gap between what the guy in the White House (you know, the one who went, sort of ’funny’ in the head) was claiming regarding the alleged stockpiling of yellow cake in Iraq, and what Wilson had actually discovered. ‘Someone’ obviously lied.

And it wasn’t Mr. Wilson.

That’s why ‘someone’ involved with the White House became very cross with Wilson. As a result, ‘someone’ accidentally-on-purpose allowed some confidential information about Wilson’s wife to get leaked.

In fact, it was only 8 days after Wilson’s op-ed appeared that conservative journalist Robert Novak published an article in which he identified Valerie Plame Wilson as an “agency operative” (as in CIA). The Wilson’s life became hell, and the question of whether or not ‘someone’ in the Bush administration was guilty of a criminal act (by outing a CIA operative) became a widely debated issue.

Eventually, following a Department of Justice investigation, a member of the administration, Lewis “Scooter” Libby (former chief of staff for VP Cheney) ended up taking the fall in 2007, when he received a 30-month sentence for perjury and obstruction The President (apparently still feeling a little ‘funny’) commuted Libby’s sentence, 4 months after the conviction.

You’ll note that I said Libby “took the fall”. I don’t want to name names, or put on a tin foil hat and suggest that there was a powerful cabal behind the smear, but in 2007, the Wilsons did file a civil suit against Messrs. Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and Richard Armitage (it didn’t take). Ah-(*sigh*) those were the days.

Indeed, many “Kodak moments” from the BushCo era came flashing back as I watched Fair Game, Doug Liman’s slightly uneven dramatization of the “Plame affair”. Jez and John-Henry Butterworth based their screenplay on two memoirs, The Politics of Truth by Joe Wilson, and Fair Game by Valerie Plame.

Sean Penn and Naomi Watts bring their star power to the table as the Wilsons, portraying them as a loving couple who were living relatively low key lives (she more as a necessity of her profession) until they got pushed into a boiling cauldron of nasty political intrigue that falls somewhere in between All the President’s Men and Three Days of the Condor.

Viewers unfamiliar with the back story could be misled by the opening scenes, which give the impression you may be in for a Bourne-style action thriller. The conundrum is that the part of the story concerning Valerie Plame’s CIA exploits can at best be speculative in nature. Due to the sensitivity of those matters, Plame has only gone on record concerning that part of her life in vague, generalized terms, so what you end up with is something along the lines of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.

However, the most important part of the couple’s story was the political fallout that transpired once Valerie was “outed” by  Novak. Although Valerie (the more guarded of the two) is initially reticent to go on the counteroffensive, Joe is able to convince her that there is much more at stake than merely salvaging their pride by pushing back.

Liman wisely shifts the focus to depicting how Wilson and Plame weathered this storm together, and ultimately stood up to the Bush-Cheney juggernaut of “alternative facts” that helped sell the American public on Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The CIA, of course was no help; they dropped Plame like a hot potato once her cover was blown (essentially throwing her under the bus while wishing her best of luck).

In light of this past Tuesday’s depressing results, the timing of this film’s release could be seen as serendipity. We know from experience how ugly it’s going to get, and also learned that a bully is a bully until you push back. So why not take a bit of inspiration away from this political David and Goliath tale from our not-so-distant past? We’d best get in shape now. So…drop and give me 20!

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