July 13, 2004

Joe Wilson: Tinker, Tailor, Plumber, Leaker

CLIFFORD MAY'S In the Media column gives a useful insight into the current small question of "What makes Joe Wilson lie?" It turns out the his resume isn't as lustrous as Wilson would lead one to believe.

I don't think Joe Wilson is an evil man. I do think he is an angry partisan and an opportunist.

According to my sources, during most of his diplomatic career he specialized in general services and administration, which means he was not the political or economic adviser to the ambassador, rather he was the guy who makes sure the embassy plumbing is working and that the commissary is stocked with Oreos and other products the ambassador prefers.

Just prior to the Gulf War, he did serve in Iraq, a hot spot to be sure, but that was under Ambassador April Glaspie, who failed to make it clear to Saddam that invading Kuwait would elicit a robust response from Washington.

I doubt that Wilson advised her to do otherwise. I rather doubt she asked.

As he says in his book, she was giving him an "on-the-spot education in Middle Eastern diplomacy. It was a part of the world in which I had no experience."

In 1991, Wilson's book jacket boasts, President George H.W. Bush praised Wilson as "a true American hero," and he was made an ambassador. But for some reason, he was assigned not to Cairo, Paris, or Moscow, places where you put the best and the brightest, nor was he sent to Bermuda or Luxembourg, places you send people you want to reward. Instead, he was sent to Gabon, a diplomatic backwater of the first rank.

After that, he says in his memoir, "I had risen about as high as I could in the Foreign Service and decided it was time to retire." Well, that's not exactly accurate either. He could have been given a more important posting, such as Kenya or South Africa, or he could have been promoted higher in the senior Foreign Service (he made only the first of four grades). Instead, he was evidently (according to my sources) forced into involuntary retirement at 48. (The minimum age for voluntary retirement in the Foreign Service is 50.) After that, he seems to have made quite a bit of money - doing what for whom is unclear and I wish the Senate committee had attempted to find out.

But based on one op-ed declaring 16 words spoken by the president a lie, he transformed himself into an instant celebrity and, for a while, it seemed, a contender for power within the chien-mange-le chien world of foreign policy.

That dream has now probably evaporated. It is hard to see how a President John Kerry would now want Wilson in his inner circle. But if he desired to return to Gabon or Niger I, for one, would not be among those opposing him.

"... he seems to have made quite a bit of money - doing what for whom is unclear and I wish the Senate committee had attempted to find out."

Yes, that would have been interesting. What would also have been interesting, given Mr. Wilson's penchant for rabid self-promotion, would be to determine if the nefarious and unknown person who leaked Mr. Wilson's wife's employment to Robert Novack was, in fact, Joe Wilson.

After all, as we are enjoined by the ultimate Washington insider, Deep Throat, "Follow the money."

Posted by Vanderleun at July 13, 2004 7:05 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

"doing what for whom is unclear"

Not *that* unclear. He worked for the Middle East Institute. And who funds the Middle East Institute? Why, our Partners in Peace (tm) fund the Middle East Institute!

It's a mystery to me why anyone in the country can utter the phrase "investigative reporter" at this point without horking with uncontrollable laughter.

Posted by: jaed at July 15, 2004 8:19 AM