The condensed Joseph Wilson.

How to read juicy books.
May 6 2004 6:33 PM

The Condensed Joseph Wilson

Slate reads The Politics of Truth so you don't have to.

BOok cover

Joseph Wilson didn't write the first tell-all about the Iraq war, nor the best, but he did write the longest. His new memoir, The Politics of Truth, weighs in at a lumbar-cracking 514 pages—34 more than Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack and 194 more than Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies.

This is odd since Wilson, a former diplomat, played no more than a cameo role in Saddam's ouster. In short: He wrote a New York Times op-ed rebutting the Bush administration's claim that Saddam had tried to purchase uranium in Niger. Eight days later, the columnist Robert Novak revealed that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA agent—a tip leaked by "senior administration officials." This leak was meant to suggest that Wilson was the beneficiary of nepotism and couldn't be relied upon, or else was a partisan hack, or something—the logic was never entirely clear.

Advertisement

Wilson's book is perhaps best summarized as a 19th-century bildungsroman: Wilson styles himself as a virtuous man, starry-eyed and innocent, journeying out to confront the savage world of Washington politics. Slate zips you straight to the good parts.

Wherein the Diplomat, Our Hero, Meets a Strange Bald Man

Page 28: Wilson travels to Niger and turns up no evidence of Iraqis trying to purchase uranium. The closest thing to the goods: A source tells Wilson he spoke with buffoonish Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf—also known as "Baghdad Bob" and "Comical Ali"—about expanding trade with Niger. The source says uranium might have come up in the course of conversation, but he doesn't remember.

Page 334: Wilson's op-ed, "What I Didn't Find in Africa," appears in the New York Times on July 6, 2003. The following Sunday, Wilson spots Bob Novak in the Meet the Press greenroom.

Page 343: A friend of Wilson's hails Novak on Pennsylvania Avenue. Novak casually tosses out charges of nepotism: "Wilson's an asshole. The CIA sent him [to Niger]. His wife, Valerie, works for the CIA. She's a weapons of mass destruction specialist. She sent him [to Niger]."

Page 344: Two days later, Novak phones Wilson to apologize for the outburst. He asks Wilson if his wife works for the CIA. Wilson demurs, and then Novak apologizes again and hangs up.

Page 348: Novak's column runs on July 14 and outs Plame as a CIA agent. At the moment, Wilson can muster only weak anger: "I felt that punching the man in the nose would not have been an unreasonable response."

Page 394: Wilson again encounters Novak on the set of Meet the Press. They shake hands. Wilson writes, "Around Washington his critics call him Bob 'No Fact' for his sloppy tabloid-gossipy articles. … Having long since prostituted himself to the Right as its uncritical shill, he offers little original insight." Now, that's more like it, Joe!

TODAY IN SLATE

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
History
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 30 2014 6:00 AM Drive-By Bounty Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend demands she flash truckers on the highway.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:36 AM Almost Humane What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath The Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.