"Absolutely Immoral, Absolutely Immoral," Valerie Plame Tells BuzzFlash in New Interview. Of Trump, She Says, "He Can't Be Gone Soon Enough in My View." Now, Plame is Running for Congress.
July 19, 2019
Long-time readers know that BuzzFlash has had a special relationship with the Valerie Plame Wilson case since shortly after she was outed in July of 2003 as a CIA operative in a Bob Novak column, in a leak orchestrated by Dick Cheney’s staff and Karl Rove, and it likely appears with the knowledge of George W. Bush.
David Corn, then with The Nation, first wrote a commentary about the dangerous significance of the Plame disclosure by Novak -- and BuzzFlash quickly followed up with a series of commentaries about it. It remained low on the radar of the Internet and the mainstream press outside of the Nation and BuzzFlash, until the CIA -- and the right wing loves to overlook this fact -- formally filed a request with the Justice Department to launch an investigation as to whether a CIA operative had been illegally exposed.
BuzzFlash conducted three interviews with Joe Wilson, Plame’s then husband, who wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in the summer of 2003 that debunked Bush administration claims that Iraq had sought yellowcake uranium for Niger. In retaliation, the Busheviks decided to retaliate against Wilson by outing his then wife, Valerie Plame, who was a CIA operative. Ironically, the Bush administration curtailed her work and endangered her contacts that focused on — yes, it’s hard to believe the cynicism of this — reducing weapons of mass destruction around the world.
In 2007, we interviewed Plame about her book, Fair Game : How a Top CIA Agent Was Betrayed by Her Own Government. You can read the 2007 interview by clicking here.
Fast forward to 2019. Valerie Plame is now running to become Congresswoman for the Third Congressional District in New Mexico. Her twins, a young man and young woman, are in college. Plame and Joe Wilson quietly divorced in 2017.
BuzzFlash: I wanted, before we get into the Third District race in New Mexico, to ask how you felt about president Trump's pardon of Scooter Libby?
Valerie Plame: Well I don't think that that pardon had anything to do with Scooter Libby. I doubt Trump knew exactly who he was. It certainly had nothing to do with me. From my perspective, it had everything to do with Trump sending a signal to his cronies that if you take care of me, I'll take care of you. I believe that that's what he was trying to convey. It's shameful.
BuzzFlash: What sort of message does that send to the intelligence community?
Valerie Plame: It just reinforces the denigration that Trump has done -- even when he was a candidate -- of the intelligence professionals, either in the CIA or the FBI. He has called them all sorts of names, has undermined them, eroded confidence and trust. It makes the jobs of my former CIA colleagues that much harder to do, to collect good intelligence for our national security, because of his words, because of his tweets. He can't be gone soon enough in my view.
BuzzFlash: What does that do for morale when people are out there, as you were, before Robert Novak exposed you. You were working to reduce the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, which is allegedly the reason we went to war with Iraq. What does it do to the morale of people in the intelligence community?
Valerie Plame: It's very discouraging, right? When your Commander-in-chief is attacking the professionals who are truly trying to keep America safe. He's just made it so much harder and morale has to suffer.
I know in the intelligence community they did a big reorganization. They brought in a consultant, this was a few years ago, and no one is happy about it. It has not made things better. It's not more efficient or more effective, but the consultant's richer for it, that's for sure.
I feel that our intelligence apparatus is too big, too sprawling, morale is suffering and as a result, the core mission, of at least the CIA, is undermined and it comes from the top down. I mean, the CIA is there to provide intelligence to the Commander-in-Chief and other senior policymakers, good actionable intelligence. And the way that this White House has conducted its foreign policy is maddening to say the least.
BuzzFlash: Now, you've decided to enter a new stage in your life and run for Congress in the Third Congressional District in New Mexico, which is an open seat, because the current congressman, Ben Ray Luján, is vacating the seat to run for the Senate. What made you come to your decision to seek elective office on a national level?
Valerie Plame: Well, I think first and foremost, I can get to work in Washington on day one. For better or for worse, people know my name and I know how Washington works. I want to put that experience to work for my community and the entire district of northern New Mexico.
This is my home. I've lived and worked all over the world, and I have never felt so much at home here in New Mexico, and I want to be able to apply my life experience in representing the district. Granted, I'm not a professional politician. I'm not a lawyer. I'm not a lobbyist, I'm not a business person, but I do have some pretty interesting life experience.
As you noted, I was a covert operations officer. I was chasing bad guys around the world, made sure they didn't get nuclear weapons and I certainly have experience of speaking truth to power. Joe Wilson and I took on the Bush Administration and there lies that got the American public into the war in Iraq ,for which we are still paying dearly. So I, like millions of Americans, when Trump was elected in 2016, I was deeply dismayed. It felt like It became an America I didn't recognize anymore.
The level of civil discourse is vicious and vile and vulgar. How do you like that for alliteration? And when this opportunity presented itself, I jumped at it because I think I can make positive changes, have a positive effect.
BuzzFlash: Now, obviously you're running as a Democrat, what do you see as the primary issues in the 3rd Congressional District in New Mexico?
Valerie Plame: I think they fall into three broad categories. The first one would be education. New Mexico is ranked 50th in the nation in child well-being. This is immoral and it's outrageous. We have started to improve, but we have a long way to go. We can focus on the Pre-K, but it has to continue all the way through higher education, so a lot needs to be fixed there. We have a new governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is doing her best, but it takes time to right the ship.
The second large basket would be the economy, because if we do a better job at educating our kids, we don't want to lose them to the better economies of the surrounding states, Colorado or Arizona or Texas. A lot of young people, a lot of talented young people leave, because they can't get the jobs that they need here in New Mexico. So, we want to not only educate our population, but retain them, retain the inherent talent that is here.
Acequias, by the way, are community resources. So, in a lot of our rural communities in northern New Mexico, there's someone who oversees them and he determines essentially who is going to get what water when, but it has to be handled in a very, as you might imagine, in a very community-minded way. And these are really an important part of the traditions of rural New Mexico. Ben Ray Luján had done a lot to help and provide federal funding as well to help maintain them. And still more can be done. But, of course, water in the Southwest truly is precious.
And thirdly, the environment is a big concern in the district. Again, these are really big baskets, but it's easy to think of them in this way. New Mexico is extraordinarily beautiful and protecting our air, our land, our water, which is a truly a precious resource in the southwest is absolutely critical. If we don't get that right, then the other two don't matter. And this means, you know, protecting against fracking around the sacred lands of Chaco Canyon, protecting our acequias, particularly in the northern part of the state. So, these are things that I have had first-hand experience talking to people about and learning what's working and what's not. So those three things are where I'm concentrating my efforts.
And a separate but equally important issue -- and I think it goes for every Democrat in United States running for office is -- emphasis on affordable and accessible health care, as well as affordable prescription drug prices.
BuzzFlash: And in the debate that is currently going on among Democratic presidential contenders, where, where do you fall? What should the health care system look like?
Valerie Plame: I'm for Medicare for all, but of course that is such an amorphous phrase. It means something different to everyone who says it. I think we can take Obamacare and build upon it. I think it would be a huge shock to the system if overnight we did away with private insurance. I think that there are ways, and there are candidates who have talked about this of doing a hybrid system. What I'm hearing from a lot of people, it's not just accessibility, but it's also affordability. They want to be able to afford their premiums and their co-payments, and having that public option is absolutely crucial to the well-being of our country.
BuzzFlash: Now, New Mexico is a border state, although you're in the northern part of the state, what do you think of the way that Trump is handling migration?
Valerie Plame: Absolutely immoral, absolutely immoral. The vast majority of people who are coming over the border are fleeing violence, crime, life threatening situations. They're not criminals. They're just like everybody who comes to America to try to make a better life for themselves and their children. The conditions that we're all reading about in these holding camps in Texas and southern New Mexico, are absolutely horrific. It's embarrassing that this is how we are greeting people.
The system is clearly overwhelmed, but spending $7.5 billion to build a medieval wall seems completely a waste of money. We know that so many, of the immigrants, the undocumented, the people coming across the border, are from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala. Cutting off aid to these countries is exactly the wrong thing to do, instead let's concentrate on making their lives better there so that they stay.
This administration does not seem to understand the push-pull of what is driving the people to come to the border. Here in New Mexico for the most part, the citizens are opening up their hearts, providing needed supplies. The system is clearly just overwhelmed and everything the Trump administration is doing about this is incorrect.
BuzzFlash: When is the primary? And do you have any other announced candidates who are running for the position in the Democratic side?
Absolutely. The primary -- and in this case it's all about the primary in this district because it's a Democratic seat -- will be in June, 2020. There are six or seven declared candidates at this time.
I would say everyone has their own particular natural advantage. Mine happens to be that I am a nationally known figure, and I know how Washington works, so I get to work on day one. And I don't think of myself, honestly as running against any other particular candidate. I'm just running my own race. I want this job because I want to make my community better.
BuzzFlash: You lived a life out in New Mexico, away from Washington. Do you have any trepidation about jumping back into the club?
Valerie Plame: Well, for sure the allure of the job is not Washington, but that's a where I need to go. Yes, I moved, my family and I moved to New Mexico in 2007 after Scooter Libby was convicted and we made our lives here. As I said, I've lived all over the world, moved countless times and this is my home, and I feel like I still have something to contribute, so I want to give it my best try.
BuzzFlash: Let me ask you this question, again, BuzzFlash, with David Corn, kept the story of your outing by Robert Novak alive until the CIA filed a request with the Justice Department to investigate this.
Valerie Plame: I know, I appreciate that.
Yeah, that was July and I think they filed in September, I want to say.
BuzzFlash: What do you think it is? You know, here we had the Bush Administration that really had a contempt for the intelligence community, and certainly in outing you, as we pointed out again, in several interviews with your former husband, Joe Wilson, and then also with you. The Bush-Cheney White House jeopardized national security.
I mean this nation was lied into a ruinous war with Iraq. The Bush administration ginned up "evidence" that Saddam Hussein allegedly had weapons of mass destruction. And you were working as a covert op to try to reduce the proliferation weapons of mass destruction. And now we have Trump, who regularly derides and belittles the intelligence community. But think about these two administrations: they claim that they're all about protecting the United States, but they do things that harm our national interest.
Valerie Plame: Well, I do see parallels in the run up to the war with Iraq, to which I had a front row seat, and the incentive warmongering of John Bolton and others in this administration vis-à-vis Iran. I think in many ways the Trump administration is sui generis. I don't believe Trump has an agenda; he's not an ideologue. He has no ideology. He is simply an opportunist; he's a snake oil salesman. He does whatever he thinks might reflect well on him or his base. I find his presidency to be a complete embarrassment. When I speak with Trump supporters, and I do, I ask them, you know, why are you supporting him? And they all, they almost uniformly say, well he's un-presidential but, and then they go into whatever their rationale might be.
And it's really a head scratcher to me, because how we present ourselves to the world and our diplomatic relations, and how we are seen in the past is a steady, peaceful, powerful nation who could be relied upon, has completely vanished. Our friends and allies alike are befuddled and anxious, as we just saw in the leaked cables with the British ambassador. So, they're just mortified at how he has conducted himself in his administration and his policies.
BuzzFlash: Thank you for your time and good luck in your primary for Democratic Congresswoman in the Third Congressional District in New Mexico.
Valerie Plame: Thank you, Mark. I really appreciate that.
Interview conducted by Mark Karlin