A couple of days ago, I managed to stumble across Judith Miller’s review of Fair Game, the movie based on the Plame leak scandal (via Valerie Plame Wilson and Joseph Wilson’s books on the subject).
Given the source — and especially that she wrote the review for the Wall Street Journal editorial page — I figured the review would be a masterpiece of unintentional comedy, and I wasn’t disappointed:
There is no character based on me in the film—and that turns out to be a good thing. Although the movie is brilliantly acted, it is also a gross distortion of a complicated political saga.
I saw Fair Game last weekend, and although Miller is technically correct that there is no character with her name, her claim is a bit modest since she is a presence, nonetheless. Much of the movie’s first half, you see focuses on Plame and her CIA colleagues unsuccessfully trying to battle the bogus White House claim that Iraq had acquired aluminum tubes for use in creating weapons-grade uranium in nuclear bombs (in fact, they were for launching conventional artillery), as a parallel to Plame’s husband chasing the equally fictitious argument that Iraq had tried to purchase enriched uranium from Niger.
When after months of bureaucratic infighting, the aluminum tubes story winds up on the front page of the New York Times (in a story that Miller infamously co-wrote) — and the Bush administration promptly heralds it on the Sunday talk shows — the movie’s version of Joseph Wilson notes the laundered talking points and sneers, “It’s a coordinated leak!” Do you suppose Judy might have felt a bit angered at having her willing sock-puppetry described so bluntly?
With the same deft-but-unacknowledged irony, Miller’s review goes on to attack Fair Game‘s accuracy as an account of the Plame leak… by criticizing a separate subplot, about the prewar recruiting of former Iraqi nuclear scientists. Since the filmmakers have openly admitted having to partially invent a plotline in this regard, as the CIA forbade Plame from revealing in her memoir what her actual duties were, Miller’s straw-man assault is an unspoken prank on her readers.
The film’s director, Douglas Liman, gets in some sharp ripostes of his own in a response to the WSJ column at the Columbia Journalism Review, but misses my favorite part — the conclusion where Miller sneers, “Having bought an expensive home in Sante Fe, Mr. Wilson and Ms. Plame now make a living giving speeches about WMD and the Bush administration’s venality.”
I’m not catty enough to speculate on the price of the house Judith Miller lives in, but I know for sure that it’s not made of glass. Having once supposedly cared about WMD herself, you see, Miller’s bio at the bottom of the review informs us that she is now an “adjunct fellow at the [right-wing] Manhattan Institute and a commentator for Fox News.” Which is why she’s trotted out by the Journal‘s editorial page to perform partisan tasks like taking an ax to Fair Game.
Quite a fall from the perch you once occupied, eh, Judith? But then again, having been Scooter Libby’s accomplice in selling the invasion of Iraq to the U.S. public, and then again (as Liman notes) in trying to shield Libby from special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation, it’s no surprise to see her doing rear-guard duty against one more attempt to hold Libby to account. Some things never change.