Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson (some of you may know him by his married name, Mr. Valerie Plame) addressed the 59th Conference on World Affairs at the University of Colorado this morning, speaking on “The Politics of Truth.”
I didn’t really expect anything terribly newsworthy out of the speech, but I went in hoping he’d take the occasion to articulate a substantive and lasting lesson about … well, heck, there were a lot of things he could focus on, right? The politicization of truth is the one the announced subject suggests, and he could also have talked about the arrogance of politics, the appalling deterioration of our media, and so on. He did touch on all of these at various points, but mostly we got an entertaining round of preaching to the choir. The first 30 minutes or more were devoted to an annotated blow-by-blow of the events, sprikled liberally with behind the scenes observations that perhaps humanized the events, but that didn’t really take us anywhere new.
There were a couple fun moments, though:
- The theme of the speech, which finally emerged around the 45 minute mark, was that democracy worked in Plamegate. The Bushies did what they did, but he acted as a regular private citizen, petitioning the government for redress of grievances. The institutions that have grown up in and around our democracy over the past 230 years worked to bring massive heat down on the White House. Several examples of how the system worked, and a heavy emphasis on the need to participate in order to make the system work. He noted that the FBI and Federal attorneys in the case were his friends, having played a major role in putting some heat on the culprits.
- Wilson employed a lot of unqualified language, though. making frequent use of terms like “lie,” “treason,” and “traitor.” I think “stupid” turned up in there, too.
- In response to a (not terribly penetrating) question about the role of the media, he spent a good bit of time praising the blogosphere. He said he reads upwards of 30 each day, and called out for particular praise Firedoglake, Marcy Wheeler, Talking Points Memo and The Left Coaster. He situated the role of bloggers as part of the participatory theme noted above.
- He laid a righteous bitch-slap on actor-turned-prez candidate Fred Thompson. In talking about Scooter Libby, Wilson noted his ties to Thompson. Wilson explicitly called Libby a traitor and then added that “Fred Thompson is a member of the treason faction of the Republican Party.” So that was fun.
- Also on Libby, Wilson went after the “no underlying crime” argument aggressively, comparing Libby to Al Capone and Alger Hiss, who were actually convicted of crimes other than racketeering and spying, respectively. He got pretty animated at this point, calling Richard Cohen’s argument that there was no underlying crime “bullshit.”
- It’s a Small World/Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moment: Those of you who remember the murder case of a little girl named JonBenet Ramsey may recall that a close friend of the family named Fleet White was in the house the night she was killed. Apparently Fleet was also Wilson’s college roommate. Those of us playing Six Degrees of Separation can now put Dick Cheney two degrees from the crime scene….
Like I say, not much new here, and as landmark political oratory goes it was a nice little pep talk.
But the 2008 election cycle is upon us (has been since the middle of 2003, it seems like), and there’s probably some value in a guy like Wilson out there to whip up the troops.