FORMER CIA operative Valerie Plame is Paula Jones -- if with
national security credentials and Beltway savoir-faire. Both women filed
iffy lawsuits that seemed more designed to discredit a president than to
prevail in a court of law.
Jones never could prove that then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton
hurt her career as a state worker after he allegedly sexually harassed her.
Hence, there were no economic damages, as Judge Susan Webber Wright noted
when she ruled against Jones.
The suit filed last week by Plame and her husband, former
Ambassador Joe Wilson, against Bush biggies -- Veep Dick Cheney, Cheney's
former chief of staff Scooter Libby and Bush guru Karl Rove -- is equally
nonsensical. As CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin put it, "I think this
lawsuit ranks somewhere between an actual lawsuit and a publicity stunt."
"She wasn't fired," noted attorney Victoria Toensing, who
served in the Reagan administration. "She worked for two and a half years
(at the CIA) after the revelation. Nobody fired her. She's got a book deal
she would not have had."
And, I'll add, Plame's deal to write her memoirs for Simon &
Schuster -- after a $2.5 million deal with Crown Publishing fell through --
is not stopping the Wilsons from making online solicitations to bankroll
"counseling them for their potential witness testimony" in Libby's trial
and/or their dubious lawsuit. They need counseling to testify?
At least Plame emerges with a deal to write her memoirs, whereas
Jones' contribution to publishing entailed posing for Penthouse -- an odd
choice for a woman who claimed to be suing Clinton to restore her
reputation. Then again, Plame's photo spread in Vanity Fair didn't quite fit
with her alleged desire to stay under the radar while she worked at the CIA.
Both women have played along with partisans out to damage the
president. Jones aligned herself with Susan Carpenter-McMillan and other
Clinton bashers. Joe Wilson stumped for Democratic presidential nominee John
Kerry, Bush's opponent.
The Left bashed Jones for enjoying her new-found fame. The Right
bashes the Wilsons for the same.
There was some truth in both women's stories. Whatever did or
did not follow, Jones did establish that Clinton invited her to a hotel
room. As for Plame, she had a legitimate beef in complaining that Bushies
outed her identity as a CIA employee -- even if the leak was not illegal.
(Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's failure to prosecute the man who
first leaked Plame's identity suggests the leak was not illegal. Note how
Fitzgerald has charged Libby for lying to and obstructing investigators in
the federal probe.)
And there is an element of fiction in both women's stories.
Jones' tale about Clinton's retaliation never did hold water. If Plame's job
depended on anonymity, her hubby should not have penned an op-ed piece for
the New York Times.
The biggest similarity between Plame and Jones, however, is that
both the Clinton and Bush administrations could have spared themselves a
long legal nightmare if either one had not tried to make itself seem more
virtuous than it was. Clinton should have refused to allow Jones' attorneys
to depose him. If he had not lied to Jones' attorneys, Ken Starr would have
had no cause to question Monica Lewinsky.
If Bush had not promised to fire anyone who illegally leaked
Plame's info, or if staffers had told the media, that, yes, they had talked
about Plame, but they did not realize her job was classified -- then, as one
insider told me, it could have been a one-day story. Well, maybe not a
one-day story, but surely not a three-year story.
That said, Bush haters are mistaken in putting Wilson on a
pedestal as his lawsuit is clearly misleading. To wit, the suit cited a May
2003 New York Times column written by Nicholas Kristof about Wilson's 2002
trip to Niger to check out allegations that Iraq had tried to obtain uranium
from Africa: "According to the column, the ambassador reported back to the
CIA and State Department in early 2002 that the allegations were
unequivocally wrong and based on forged documents."
Yes, that is what Kristof wrote, but the column was off. As the
Senate Intelligence Committee reported, the CIA did not find Wilson's oral
report to unequivocally come down against Saddam Hussein trying to procure
uranium in Niger. And Wilson could not have even known about the forged
documents at the time that he made the report.
Like Paula Jones with the anti-Clinton crowd, Joe Wilson always
has been happy to mislead Bush haters. From the start, Joe Wilson was Paula
Jones. Alas, now Valerie Plame is, too.