May 8, 2004


The Rise and Decline of Joe Wilson: His new book is out, but his "Notoriety Quotient" is on the way down. (Matthew Continetti, 05/17/2004, Weekly Standard)

The problem is that whoever told Novak about Plame may or may not have committed a federal crime. In 1982 Congress passed, and President Reagan signed, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which makes it illegal to reveal the identity of a covert agent who "is serving outside the United States or has within the last five years served outside the United States." Maybe Plame fits that description. Maybe she doesn't. Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, is leading a grand jury investigation into the matter. So far the grand jury has issued no indictments.

SPEAK TO WILSON, however, and he tells you he thinks the controversy over his wife's identity has been a distraction. He'd rather talk about other things. Like geopolitics. "I would've loved to have been talking about the catastrophe Iraq has become," he tells me. "After the story leaked," he says, referring to Novak's column, "I quit being Joe Wilson, the last American to meet with Saddam Hussein, and morphed into Mr. Valerie Plame. All people wanted to talk about was the leak and the status of the investigation. I had nothing to offer about that." He pauses. "I did do a couple of things with Wolf, however."

"Wolf" is Wolf Blitzer, the CNN anchor, a man for whom Wilson has great respect. So too "Tim." And "Brokaw." And of course "Ted." In fact, "I have tremendous respect for all of the top national newscasters," he says. "I really do."

What he really doesn't have, on the other hand, is respect for the Bush administration. Or for Novak. The Bushies are "tougher" than anyone who worked for Nixon, he says. The vice president is a "lying son of a bitch." Karl Rove should be "tarred and feathered." And Novak--well, he says, his eyes narrowed, his mouth stretched into a sneer, "I tore Novak a new a--hole."

Wilson's profanity (he tosses f--s and bull--s around like loose change) is one way you can tell that his book was ghostwritten. The language in The Politics of Truth is scrubbed of all vulgarity, indeed of all personality. Another way you can tell the book was ghostwritten is that a well-known ghostwriter, Michele Slung, is mentioned in the acknowledgments. Wilson thanks her for her work as his "editor"--one of three "editors" who worked on the book. And still another reason it's obvious Wilson didn't write The Politics of Truth is the cavalier way he talks about it. "I don't think [Valerie's] read the whole thing from beginning to end," Wilson told the American Prospect's Tara McKelvey last week. "In fact, I'm not sure I have."

It's probably better that Wilson not read his book, because The Politics of Truth is an uneven mishmash of memoir, anti-Bush rant, and "investigative journalism." What Wilson did was take his newfound celebrity and use it as an excuse to rewrite and publish several hours of oral testimony about his foreign service career that he delivered to the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training in January 2001. Thus most of the book recounts Wilson's 23 years in government: from his time as a foreign service officer in Niamey, Niger, to his role as chargé in Baghdad during Operation Desert Shield, and concluding with his job as a member of Clinton's National Security Council. It was a varied career with many accomplishments. All of which Wilson shares with the reader at length. For example, he was indeed the last American official to meet Saddam Hussein (back in 1991) before the dictator was pulled from his spider hole in December 2003. He was the architect of President Clinton's tour of Africa in 1998. And he saved the New York Times.

Remember him? His disclosures were going to bring the Administration down after Enron didn't but before Richard Clarke was going to.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 8, 2004 11:09 AM

Did you notice the black flies are out and voracious as ever this year?

Posted by: Genecis at May 8, 2004 11:47 AM

On NHPR yesterday they said that's a sign of how pure our water is. I miss acid rain.

Posted by: oj at May 8, 2004 12:07 PM

In large part so-called acid rain was a phenomena of the reforestation of New England-- All the decaying leaves from those new trees are highly acidic, and granitic soils don't do a good job of buffering the runoff.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 8, 2004 2:27 PM

That's what is great about the Judd blog - a posting on a minor political hack turns into a discussion of acid rain and NH soil.

Posted by: AWW at May 8, 2004 3:25 PM

Joe Wilson saw powder in Africa all right. Perhaps chlorine for the swimming pool by the bar. But it might have been powdered aspirin.

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 8, 2004 6:59 PM