In 2002, the CIA sent former Ambassador Joe Wilson to Niger to investigate whether truckloads of yellowcake uranium had been sold to Iraq. He concluded that no such transaction had taken place, but that didn't prevent George W. Bush from telling the American people, in his 2003 State of the Union speech, that it had.
Wilson debunked that statement in an oped in The New York Times, and, shortly afterward, columnist Robert Novak outed Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a covert CIA agent. An investigation into the leak led to the conviction of Scooter Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, for perjury.
Sounds familiar, right? But why should you care now? After all, it's ancient history. Well, it's the plot of Fair Game, the new film about Plame and Wilson starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, directed by Doug Liman and based on The Politics of Truth and Fair Game, books written by Wilson and Plame.
The film depicts the pre-outing Plame as often being overseas, planning covert operations or neck-deep in them. If the film is to be believed (I haven't read the books), Plame had an operation in place that would not only have disproved the allegations of WMD in Iraq; it would have extracted and saved the lives of several key Iraqi scientists, who were left high and dry after the CIA cut her adrift.
Watts is always intriguing, and Penn, who gets to vent his leftist spleen on camera, is great fun as Wilson, taking a man considered by many to be a truth teller and turning him into an irascible, often-irritating jerk. And the actions and machinations of the CIA immediately following the public revelations about Plame are kind of fascinating, as well Essentially, the movie takes what was a high-profile situation and makes it personal, showing how much personal trauma Plame and Wilson went through after the details of Plame's career were made public.
Unfortunately, Fair Game isn't all that interesting.
This would be a much more interesting film if it weren't a true story. Because the larger issue is this: A Valerie Plame movie? Really? Now? The national debate has shifted from Who Outed Valerie Plame? to Who Destroyed the Economy? to When Will the Oil Well Be Plugged Up? to Why Hasn't Obama Fixed in Only Two Years the Damage Cheney Caused in Eight?
The fact that it's coming out the Friday (Nov. 5) after a national election is telling, because it's as if they don't think this story could compel Democrats to the polls. While it would be nice if the audience for Fair Game included people who don't know the story behind the story, the likelihood is that its audience is a bunch of pissed-off lefties who still think there should be some sort of reckoning for the Bush administration.
Let's remember that the only result of the Plame affair was the conviction of a grown man who allowed others to call him Scooter, and even his jail time was commuted by George W. Bush. Simply put, it's too late to say that we shouldn't forget how the Iraq war got started, because we've already forgotten.