Binky and Scooter

25 March 2011


Against my better judgement, I watched the Valerie Plame movie “Fair Game” on my way back from Zambia to London. I was afraid it would reawaken all the old feelings of outrage I felt during the Iraq War (like when I stumbled into the rear dining room of the Capitol Hilton restaurant where about 50 young amputees getting a free dinner from the owner, just two blocks from where the people who put them there walked the halls of the White House on two legs) and, of course, it did.

That said, I thought it was remarkably well done, leaving instead of a rancourous aftertaste just a profound sadness that the definition of patriotism has somehow morphed from “doing the right thing” into “covering up everything”.

I should issue a disclaimer: I don’t know how closely the movie adheres to the facts, but then again, niether does anyone else, apparently (see

To partially pre-empt this debate, the film employs the brilliant device of using actual newsclips of Bush and his cabinet making pronouncements about the WMD, which are far more outrageous — knowing what we know now (and what THEY knew THEN) — than anything Penn could make up. The only stand-in is for Karl Rove, played by Adam Lefevre, who looks frighteningly like the real thing.

Perhaps I connected in an unusually strong way since I met Naomi Watts at a Hollywood party just after she had become famous for “The Ring”, and I have a nodding (will explain) relationship with the real life Scooter Libby.

Scooter is one of those Preppie New England names (my Dad’s was “Binky”; he thought his real one, Francis, was too close to Frances) that are fast falling out of favor, as are preppies themselves. When I saw Scooter, in the D.C. Coast restaurant near FINCA’s office, lunching with someone who was probably his lawyer, he was just a few months from being convicted for obstructing justice and sentenced to 30 months in prison — a sentence which was, predictably, commuted by the man he helped to shield from accountability for allowing his henchmen to put Plame and all her networks at risk, George W. Bush. I recognized him immediately, but couldn’t place him until, meeting my eyes, he nodded, as if to say, “Yep, it’s me.”

Scooter reminded me of Elliot Abrams, who took the fall for Reagan on Iran Contra, providing, in many ways, a template for Scooter. Both were politically liberal in their early days, had Ivy League pedrigrees, and then later became staunch conservatives, willing to go down for the cause. I had regular contact with Abrahms during during the Central America War days, and liked him. I suspect Scooter and I would have hit it off.

So what are we to make of it when likeable, smart, well-educated LAWYERS knowingly flout and subvert our rule of law — and then get forgiven by the President?

How about a law that says the President CANNOT pardon members of his own administration when they break the law? Who knows what we would learn about what really happened if that were in place? Just a suggestion.

Much has been made of how well Penn and Watts (sounds like a Law Firm or Utility company) portrayed the impact of the Bush administration’s vilification campaign on their marriage, their spats in front of the children etc, but to be honest, 99% of married couples probably could have carried that off.

What impressed me was the scene where Penn (playing Wilson) was trying to close a deal with two African diplomats for some kind of consulting work when he was interrupted by a strident, air head reporter, presumably from Fox News, accusing him of “spilling the blood of our troops”. (How do they get away with that stuff?) No stranger to altercations with the press from his Madonna Days, you could feel Penn ready to explode, exercising every erg of restraint drilled into him at the State Department, when what he wanted to do was crack the two bit harridan into nickel seats. Instead, he just accused her of being a “hack” — an upgrade for any Fox reporter.

Returning to that restaurant at he Capital Hilton, the most remarkable thing about talking to those brave young men who were forever altered by Bush’s war was that they seemed to harbour absolutely no ill will towards their Commander-in-Chief, or their country for sending them into that misguided conflict. They all said the same thing:

“I’m just happy to be alive. The guys with me are all dead.”

Rupert Scofield


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