He flits about, ostensibly looking for food tidbits, perhaps some fine poop. As he sits still on a doughnut, he hears all transpiring in the room. Then he fills in The Wise I.
The Senator from New York, the senator from California and the senator from Delaware each sat in a chair in a clubby room far away from the chattering crowd of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee enjoying barbecue on the lawn. The reporter from the New York Times sat back a bit from his more honorific company but Joe Wilson noted he was there nonetheless.
Joe was excited when Val informed him that the Senator from New York phoned and invited him to a private meeting during the upcoming policy committee jamboree.
“I think they’re listening to your complaint about Niger, Joe. Finally!” Val finished with that breathless exclamation and handed her husband the phone.
Joe listened to the senator from New York as he, indeed, did want to speak to him about his trip to Niger. Now Joe sat in the room with three of the most important senators in the Democratic party and the reporter from the New York Times. Normally a chatterbox, Joe decided to remain quiet in the company of such august persons.
“Joe, as you know we’ve got a big election coming up next year,” the senator from New York said quietly. Joe nodded affirmative. It seemed a simple and true statement. Joe knew there was more. Joe hoped it involved him.
“Joe,” the senator from California said, surprising Joe who waited for more from the senator from New York. “It’s now May of 2003. By next year at this time, if we’re lucky, we may have a potent weapon to use against Bush.”
“It’s been a while since we attacked Iraq and it looks,” the Senator from Delaware said with a wink and a slight pause. Joe turned his head again to face this new speaker. “It looks like,” the senator from Delaware continued after the dramatic pause, “no one’s going to find any weapons of mass destruction.”
Silence descended and Joe sat, bewildered. He’d already turned in his report to The Agency. He knew the Nigerians weren’t selling yellowcake uranium to Saddam. The President of Niger told Wilson so in person. Besides, Abu down the hall, who Wilson could trust implicitly to give him all the dirt, told him Niger wasn’t selling yellowcake to Saddam because Niger couldn’t meet Saddam’s timeline. It made sense to Joe at the time. Wilson had been ambassador to three African countries. He was no fool. He knew that the President of Niger wasn’t selling yellowcake to Saddam for some reason beyond good sense. If the Nigerian President wasn’t selling it was because he couldn’t or wouldn’t meet the terms of the buyer.
Nonetheless, Joe felt confident that his report to The Agency was right on. While Joe didn’t do much snooping around in that godawful humid hellhole called Niger, he did ask Abu down the hall. Abu wouldn’t lie to Joe. The fact was that Niger wasn’t selling yellowcake and if Bush said or implied that they were then Bush was lying.
“Now not finding weapons of mass destruction doesn’t mean a damn thing, Joe,” the senator from New York picked up the thread. “We all know Saddam was a bad actor and we all know he was into all kinds of shenanigans. YOU know,” the Senator from New York said, pausing and pointing an almost accusatory finger at Joe, “that Saddam was sniffing around for yellowcake from Niger and whether or not the deal got struck, well still means Saddam was looking for uranium. For what, Joe? To put nuclear generators in his palaces?”
All present in the room laughed. Joe let out a small chuckle. For some reason Joe felt guilty and he didn’t know why.
“When the time came for us to cast our vote for taking down Saddam, all of us voted as we had to. But Joe, a political campaign is a whole nother animal.”
“Which is why we want your help,” the Senator from Delaware said, his words accompanied by a conspiratorial smile that made Joe comfortable.
“This is why we have Sam here, Joe” the Senator from California chimed in, nodding to Sam, the NY Times reporter. “He’s going to help us out.”
“We already planned to attack Bush as being a bigger cause of 9/11 then people thought him to be. It’s a tricky gambit because he was only President for eight months. But we have to get the heat off of our guy just because Clinton doodled in the White House for eight years. BUT…,” the Senator from New York said then paused. Everyone in the room remained silent. The Senator from New York noticed a fly on the arm of his leather chair and shooed it off, annoyed. The fly flew over and landed unbeknownst on the shoulder of the reporter from the New York Times. Joe stifled his grin.
“BUT we’ve been checking our focus groups and been floating talking points. The ‘no weapons of mass destruction’ appears to be resonating.”
“They’re just words, as we all know Joe. And Joe, we’re just as unhappy as everyone else at The Agency about Rumsfeld forming that little committee of 18 to do the job The Agency’s been doing just fine. Sure, we found a few moles. All spy agencies have moles. Did you know your pal Abu was a mole? And he was such a damn good translator.”
Joe tried not to appear shocked about Abu. Abu had lived in America most of his life. Joe would never have believed Abu was a counter-spy.
“So Rumsfeld shoves it to all of you by forming his extra-spy agency ‘The Office of Special Plans’,” the Senator from Delaware almost spit out. “We didn’t like it as much as you poor schlubs who’ve been working diligently at The Agency of State all your lives. You go all the way to Niger, investigate the yellowcake thing, write and present a nice report, and no one pays a bit of attention. But you were right, Joe. There are no weapons of mass destruction. It’s our greatest talking point.”
“What do you want me to do?” Joe asked, glad that his determined voice control had come back. He understood the plan. Joe wanted to know what was in it for him.
“We’ve got a carefully planned timeline, Joe” the senator from California said, unfolding a sheaf of papers retrieved from the side table.
“The President used the example of Saddam’s attempt to purchase yellowcake uranium in his State of the Union Speech this past January, Joe, as you of course know. And thanks for calling up Terry on this, Joe, because it’s a big help.”
Joe beamed at the praise by the Senator from New York.
“We’ve arranged for you to go on a big media blitz over the next couple of months, Joe. We’ve got our best guys at Wapo, New Republic, a liberal Blogger. Sam here,” the Senator pointed to the still silent New York Times reporter, “is going to start things off by reporting a story with you as the anonymous source. After stirring the pot, on July 1 we’ve got our best writer ready to pen a nice Op-Ed by you which Sam here will see gets lots of play. ”
Joe enjoyed the thought of the upcoming media spotlight and knew Val would love it. But something still bothered him. While the glare of the lights was nice, it didn’t pay the bills.
“Now don’t be thinking we don’t have a plan for you, Joe” the Senator from Delaware said, almost reading Joe’s mind.
“We’ve got a real nice book campaign in mind. By April of next year you’ll have a book out and it will be on to a best seller.”
“I hardly think a book of mine about yellowcake and Niger will be a best-seller,” Joe said, now in full control and no mind this heady company, this was looking more and more like nothing for him.
“Now Joe,” the Senator from New York said, shooting Joe a kindly, almost fatherly look. “We’ve got a fine plan for books hitting, bingo, six months before next year’s election. We’ve got the biggest publishing houses in the business on our side. ”
“No, a book on yellowcake uranium won’t be a hot item,” the Senator from California said, fiction being a California specialty. “But if we add a nice scandal, Joe, it’ll sell nice.”
“What scandal?” Joe asked, now wary.
“Joe,” the Senator from New York said softly, “we know Valerie got you that trip assignment. The Agency was desperately fighting against that group of Rumsfeld. God knows Tenet didn’t know what was going on.”
Joe remained silent. Val had gotten him the job and it was a nice vacation and a plum assignment. And Joe really did trust Abu, damn him.
“What we’ll do,” the Senator from California began the fabrication, “we’ll blitz you over the next couple of days with our guys in the media. Then your Op-Ed in the New York Times. We’ll get you as much air time as possible. Sometime in the middle of July we’ll let it slip that Valerie got you the job and that she works at The Agency.”
Joe jumped from his chair in anger.
“Joe,” the Senator from New York said, holding up his palm as if it were the instrument of peace, “hear us out.”
“Everybody that knows where K street is knows that your wife works at The Agency. She’s not highly classified but she’s got enough security clearance to make releasing her identity a crime. See the beauty of the timing, Joe? You get the media blitz, Joe we’ve got Russert biting on this. Then boom, someone tattletales and reveals Valerie’s Agency connection. That’s when you go boo-hooing all over the place, Joe. That’s when you claim victim status. That’s when you mention that you’re writing a book about your mistreatment.”
The room fell quiet again as all within pondered the sequence of events as depicted by the Senator from New York.
“Joe, we’ve got a really good ghost writer lined up. Give the book a snappy name, something with ‘truth’ in the title. See, we want our guys seen as being on the side of truth while at the same time inferring lies on the administration.”
“When would the book be released? And how many do you think will sell?”
“We’ll get the teachers’ unions on it,” the Senator from Delaware said. “I think easily we’ve got a half a mil, maybe a mil. Heck, coming out during a campaign year, could be three or four million. Even if you get a buck a piece, Joe, and you’ll get more, isn’t that at least a million, probably more?”
Joe mentally did the math. Indeed it was, he figured.
“It’s win-win, Joe,” the Senator from Delaware said. “We win. You win.”
“Who’s going to release the bit about Valerie?” Joe asked.
The Senator from Delaware waved his hands as body gesture that this was no problem. “We’ve got a bunch of reporters all lined up. They’ll put the buzz out and soon enough somebody will print it. ”
“Now Joe,” the Senator from New York said, then paused, his head lowered in thought. “Sam here is going to run the drill for you and give you some pointers on the media blitz. But may I suggest a few, ah, talking points?”
Joe nodded, his head spinning with the couple of mil he’d be putting in the bank soon.
“Somebody, probably some cohort of Saddam, released a bill of sale supposedly between Saddam and Niger for purchase of yellowcake uranium. It was a big forgery. Problem is, the forgery wasn’t found until October 2002 and you visited Niger in February, before the forgery came out.”
Joe knew all about the forgery that was soon considered to be efforts to cloud any actions between Iraq and Niger. Whoever released them knew the forgery would be discovered. Thus any truth about Saddam and Niger will be clouded with doubt. Joe was kind of glad when the forgery was discovered as it tended to prove what Abu had told him.
“It might be better, Joe,” the Senator from New York said, stretching his stiff neck, ” if you try to confuse things by mentioning how you told The Agency it was a forgery. Don’t come out and say you noticed the forgery. Keep it vague but make it sound like the discovery of the forgery and your report to The Agency were concurrent.”
Joe nodded. He was an expert at doublespeak. He could handle it.
“And Joe,” the Senator from California said, “deny any hints that your wife was behind your trip to Niger. When the time comes for the leak then you can handle it however you want. Oh, and be sure and hint that you think the administration leaked your wife’s name. Demand an investigation, Joe. Sam will tell you how. Do it right Joe and you’ll sell more books.”
Sam rose and waited. Joe assumed Sam was waiting for him so he stood up. Sam left the room and Joe followed behind. Right before going into the hall, Joe stopped and turned.
“Suppose, assuming everything goes according to plan,” Joe said to the three Senators, “and I demand an investigation. Suppose they really want to find out who leaked Valerie’s name? What then?”
All three Senators looked at Joe as if he grew two heads.
“Joe,” the Senator from California said as if talking to a dolt. “That’s not going to happen.”
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