Fame Game: Plame Protests Too Much

With a little help from Joe Scarborough, Valerie Plame Wilson tried this morning to paint herself as someone who, far from seeking "Vanity Fair" fame, had celebrity thrust upon her in a moment of distraction. Right.

And try this quick quiz:

Q. Is it possible to get through an extended interview of Valerie Plame Wilson without mentioning Richard Armitage?

A. Yes, if Joe Scarborough is the interviewer.

During the 7:30 A.M. EDT half-hour today, the "Morning Joe" host conducted a 15-minute conversation with and about Plame, much of which focused on her "outing" as a CIA operative. But the name of the State Department official who first disclosed her identity was never uttered. That wouldn't have fit the template that her name was leaked as the result of a nasty White House plot to punish Plame's husband Joe Wilson. Armitage, at State, was anything but a partisan GOP operative with an anti-Wilson axe to grind.

Give guest panelist and MSNBC military analyst Jack Jacobs credit for being willing to rock the boat -- at least during the panel's chitchat that immediately preceded Plame's introduction:

JACK JACOBS: There's an argument that says inside the beltway, everybody knew that she was employed by the CIA. And so the disclosure that she was employed by the CIA was common knowledge and is no big deal. And it raises the significant issue about what that was all about.

When she came on, Plame addressed Jacobs's point with a classic non-denial denial.

VALERIE PLAME WILSON: You had mentioned earlier about this notion, again, by supporters of this administration that everyone knew who I was and this is really no big secret. I was covert up to the day Mr. Novak printed his column, but you really don't need to take just my word for it. There was -- Director of the CIA General Michael Hayden said I was covert, the judge in Mr. Libby's trial [said] I was covert, and Mr. Fitzgerald in his filings in Libby's trial said that I noted I had travelled extensively overseas under a variety of covers, a variety of aliases, doing covert operations work right up until the point when my name was betrayed by these senior administration officials.

That for official purposes Plame continued to be classified as "covert" is far from a denial her CIA work was common knowledge on the DC cocktail circuit.

Note that while Jacobs had the gumption to raise the issue before Plame appeared, when she came on he didn't challenge her assertion and to the contrary lobbed this softball regarding the disseminaton of her identity: "how does Robert Novak get a pass on all this?"

Turning to how Plame gloried in the celebrity status flowing from the "Vanity Fair" shoot, Scarborough set the stage in a Plame-friendly manner, suggesting she was so distracted by other obligations as to be virtually oblivious as to what "Vanity Fair" was up to.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Let's talk about another thing that is brought up, that you explain in the book also. That is the famous, or the infamous, "Vanity Fair" spread, which of course when I first saw it I said "my God, what's she doing?" and you talked about how you were just rushed into the home, you had two kids -- and that's the thing that is so remarkable about this, is, you were raising two twins at the time, a very chaotic time for you personally, as well as professionally. So talk about this "Vanity Fair" photo spread came up.

Right. Raising two kids. Well, that completely explains why Plame was so distracted she would want to exploit her sudden fame with a "Vanity Fair" shoot. End of story!

VALERIE PLAME WILSON: They were taking, it was a piece on Joe, and as I write about it in the book, uh, they came in, uh, asked me to do it, and, uh, I -- just too much was going on at that time. Um, you have to remember this was months after the damage had been done, after the senior White House officials had already talked to many journalists, given them my name, my cover was blown, I wasn't interviewed in the article. But honestly, the whole thing has been more trouble than it's worth. But I do think it is a testament to the supporters of the administration that this continues to come back up as actually a serious question. This really should all be about how those erroneous 16 words got into the president's State of the Union address.

Plame's admission that the "Vanity Fair" shoot didn't occur till months after the story broke undermines her claim that she just got carried away in the rush of breaking events. And please spare us the "more trouble than it's worth." How much was the ensuing celebrity worth in Plame's seven-figure book deal?

A bit later, Plame returned to the theme that she has been dismayed by the sudden bout of fame.

PLAME: I had no need for the external recognition, I derived all the satisfaction I needed from a career I loved. I was working on the issues, I was called to serve my country, I loved my career. And I literally went overnight from being a very private person, which was fine by me, to being this public persona.

The lady Plame doth protest too much.

Note: Patterico is underwhelmed by the coverage of the Plame book and Chris Matthews' interview of her.

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.