Sunday, November 21, 2010

'Fair Game'

Detroit News film critic Tom Long reviewed “Fair Game” over the weekend, the cinematic re-telling of the liberal-media version of the Valerie Plame story, a sort of fictionalized version of a fairy tale. I don’t care for Long’s reviews generally, and in this particular review he seemed more interested in restating Valerie Plame’s and Joe Wilson’s talking points than in actually doing his job. I felt the need to send him an e-mail response.

Mr. Long:

You could’t just write a movie review, you had to try educating us on history. Well, I see 280 words and at least twelve easily checked historical myths. Not quite one for every 16 words, but close.

You see, this is exactly the kind of journalism I recall going on during the “Plame affair.” I don’t need to see “Fair Game” to tell me what happened (or didn't): I was there. We all were. I was just one of the few who actually paid attention.

You could have done all of your fact-checking in The Washington Post.

Falsehood number one: The story of “Fair Game” is “too ugly to be true. . . .[but] it is.” But it isn’t. Richard Armitage has no role in the film. That makes it ugly AND untrue.

Falsehood two: The film is “an examination of one of the slimiest moments of George W. Bush's administration.” But if the movie tracks your restatement of what happened, then it’s not an “examination” at all, just another hate-Bush hit piece like the hundreds churned out in the media at the time.

Falsehood Three: Scooter Libby was the “chief bad guy involved.” You forgot to mention that Libby wasn’t convicted of doing anything to Plame, let alone “outing” her. No one was. Libby’s conviction was for a “process” crime of perjury, trapped by Patrick Fitzgerald into contradicting himself after numerous grand-jury cross-examinations about a conversation with Tim Russert thousands of conversations ago. And in 2003 weren’t you all insisting that the “chief bad guy” was Dick Cheney or Karl Rove?

Falsehood Four: Plame “was a CIA agent trying to halt nuclear proliferation.” Regardless of what Plame’s non-covert CIA assignment was in 2003, in this particular episode her self-assigned brief was to get her husband sent to Niger to try to debunk Bush’s basis for deposing Saddam for her own political reasons.

Falsehood Five: “The CIA asked Joe to go to Africa .” See Falsehood Four. I remember that in the earliest version of this fib, Wilson started out claiming that Dick Cheney had asked him to go, until Cheney made him take it back.

Falsehood Six: Wilson made the trip to investigate whether Iraq had been to Niger trying to buy yellowcake uranium but “found nothing.” No, Wilson found that Iraq HAD been to Niger trying to buy yellowcake uranium, and his report to the CIA actually bolstered Bush’s case. Wilson just lied about it later in his New York Times article, and lied about what was in his own report. The WP reported that, “According to the former Niger mining minister, Wilson told his CIA contacts, Iraq tried to buy 400 tons of uranium in 1998.”

Falsehood Seven: “Bush cited that non-existent uranium story while building a case for the invasion.” Really? Still with the 16 words? The truth (still) is that Bush cited British intelligence reports that Saddam had “sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” every word of which is accurate: Saddam had sought uranium in Africa , as everyone knew then and knows even better now--us, the British-- even Wilson knows. Why don’t you? Eventually, we found 1.2 million pounds of (nonexistent?) yellowcake in Saddam’s stockpile.

Falsehood Eight: “ Wilson wrote an op-ed piece debunking Bush's ‘facts.’” He didn’t debunk anything, except the honesty of his own reports to the CIA, which, according to the Washington Post, actually “added to the evidence that Iraq may have tried to buy uranium in Niger .”

Falsehood Nine: “The administration leaked the fact that Plame was a CIA agent.” No the administration didn’t. It was Clintonite Richard Armitage, and it wasn’t a leak, it was gossip. An alternative source for that information was identified by The Washington Post back in 2006, when they recognized “that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame's CIA career is Mr. Wilson.” How? Because Wilson’s (and Plame’s) decision to go public with their outlandish charges inevitably had to lead back to exposure of her role in sending Wilson on that trip. Armitage told Bob Woodward Wilson had been “calling everybody” about the trip his CIA wife had sent him on. "Everyone knows."

Falsehood Ten: Plame’s exposure put her, “and many of her contacts, as well as her operations, in danger.” Is THAT why she had to go to ground on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine? Retired CIA veteran R.E. Pound was charged with assessing damage to Plame’s career and operations, and stated publicly that it “was ludicrous for her to claim that the exposure forced an end to her career in intelligence.” As to damage he found: “There was none.”

Falsehood Eleven: Plame and Wilson were “demonized as traitors” in the media. Phooey. They were criticized by the conservative press, and by a few honest journalists at The Washington Post, but largely they were lionized as heroes by the mainstream media, just as they’re being lionized now in movie reviews of this picture. Like yours.

Falsehood Twelve: The Plame-Wilson’s lives were ruined “because a political schoolyard bully took affront when someone dared to speak the truth.” You may want to recycle that line if anyone ever makes a movie about Juan Williams. It's closer to reality that this couple brought this on themselves by their own lies and eagerness to use government positions to hinder an administration that offended their politics. The Washington Post editorialized back in 2006 that Wilson “diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush's closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It's unfortunate that so many people took him seriously.”

And it's unfortunate that they still do.

TR Clancy

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