Plame Game Recap

Michael Kinsley has a down and dirty–and amusing–summary of the events up to now in the Novak-Wilson-Plame-Libby-Rove affair.

Throw Another Plot on to Boil (WaPo, A23)

Confused? Sure. Who isn’t? One entertaining aspect of the story that is expected to reach some sort of climax today is the struggle of the media to summarize or label it. Once upon a time someone went to Niger, which is not Nigeria, and off we go in time and space. Even Fox News has been driven to compound sentences.

All the glam elements are there: a secret agent, international intrigue, sex if you know where to look, blogs, moral dilemmas, movie-of-the-week dialogue at the White House. (Aide: “Mr. President, somebody has inserted a lie into your State of the Union address!” The President: “This is clearly the work of al Qaeda. We must invade Iraq immediately. Or is it Iran?”) But somehow all these elements don’t cohere. Alfred Hitchcock coined the term “McGuffin” to describe the gimmick that keeps the plot moving. He said you need one. The trouble here is not the lack of a McGuffin but a surplus of them.

You can’t knock the names, though. Above all, there is the wonderfully Pynchonesque Valerie Plame. And yet the eponymous heroine of the affair has actually been offstage the entire time. Except for a brief appearance in Vanity Fair, posed rakishly with her husband in a sports car, it’s been “Hamlet” without the Prince of Denmark.

The husband’s name is forgettably bland. Joe Wilson? Then there is the aide to the vice president who answers to the call of “Snooker.” Or is it Smoky? Or maybe Sunshine? In the typical movie about Washington, a character labeled as an aide to the vice president might just as well carry a sign saying, “I get killed off in the first five minutes.” And yet Skipper, or Snappy, starts out as an obscure minor character and floats up steadily to the point where he is the central figure of the entire drama.

Anyway, let’s recap. Two and a half years ago, Robert D. Novak published the name of an undercover CIA agent in his column. He then joined Plame offstage, where he has mysteriously remained ever since. Since he has known the answer all along, he may have been murdered to ensure his silence. Although there is no evidence for this, it makes as much sense as any other explanation for his disappearance from the story line.

Click the link for the rest.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.