Joseph C. Wilson IV is having the time of his life. The former-diplomat-turned-Bush-administration-accuser spent last week ruminating over who might play his wife -- the now-famous CIA operative Valerie Plame -- when Hollywood comes knocking on the couple's door. "She is really quite amazing," Wilson told The Washington Post, which described Plame as a slim, 40-year-old blonde, possessing "the looks of a film star" herself.
Somehow, this doesn't sound like a man worried that the leak of his wife's name and identity as a CIA employee by someone high up in the Bush administration might jeopardize her life. It sounds a lot more like Wilson is reveling in the attention the disclosure of this supposed deep, dark secret has brought his way -- and he's looking for more.
There is nothing unusual about anyone in Washington wanting his 15 minutes of fame. But it does call into question whether all the Sturm und Drang generated by the leak of Wilson's wife's name isn't way out of proportion to the offense.
Mr. and Mrs. Wilson -- actually, Plame is the third Mrs. Wilson -- aren't exactly apolitical career bureaucrats toiling in obscurity for years. Wilson, the last American diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Iraq before the first Gulf War, held a press conference wearing a noose around his neck after Saddam Hussein threatened to execute anyone harboring "foreigners" just before the war began. Joe Wilson clearly likes to strike a pose.
Both Wilson and Plame are also active Democrats. He worked for both Bill Clinton and Al Gore, and donated money -- the maximum allowed by law -- to Gore's 2000 presidential campaign, as did Plame. They certainly were entitled to do so, though Plame's donation was risky, at best.
All political contributions require the donor to list his or her employer's name, which then becomes a matter of public record accessible instantly on the Internet. Plame listed her "employer's" name, all right. It just happened to be a company that apparently operated as a CIA front, which Plame's political contribution has now exposed to the world.
Wilson has endorsed one of George W. Bush's Democratic opponents, Sen. John Kerry, as well, and his anti-Bush sentiment is deeply ideological. Wilson chose to write his first, stinging criticism of the Bush administration's Iraq policy in the far-left magazine The Nation in March.
"The underlying objective of this war," Wilson wrote, "is the imposition of a Pax Americana on the region and installation of vassal regimes that will control restive populations." He went on to predict: "Nations in the region, having contracted with the United States for their security umbrella, will now listen when Washington tells them to tailor policies and curb anti-Western dissent. Hegemony in the Arab nations of the Gulf has been achieved," a laughable suggestion, if it weren't so viscerally anti-American.
Wilson apparently believes he will bring down this president. He mused to the Post that his future obituary might read, "Joseph C. Wilson IV, the Bush I administration political appointee who did the most damage to the Bush II administration ... "
Wilson isn't likely to realize his fantasy, despite the Justice Department investigation into the leak of his wife's name. The only thing that could really hurt the administration is an attempted cover-up -- and they know it, which is why they are cooperating fully.
Of course, the Democrats will keep the drumbeat going. "I don't think we're going to let this drop," said Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) to a group of Democrats recently. Wilson told the crowd at the same meeting, "At the end of the day, it's of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs."
In the end, the Democrats will fail, and this incident will become a mere footnote in Washington's never-ending catalogue of intrigue and scandals. I guess Joe Wilson will just have to devise some new role to play if he wants to regain center stage.