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Nov 01, 2005

All's War In Vanity Fair


It's beginning to look like yesterday's SCOTUS announcement marked the beginning of a Rovian counteroffensive. 

If the most obvious first strike involved the base-rallying nomination of Sam Alito, a less noticeable action that got underway involves the undermining of Joseph Wilson.  If the cabal couldn't discredit  Wilson before, it seems Rove and Company are going to do it now.  One weapon in their arsenal --  which seemed to "coincidentally" appear in at least two places yesterday -- was "the photograph."

Long circulated in the 'sphere as red meat for the wingnuts, the image was featured yesterday in a USA Today background article (link)
on the Plame affair. Tactically, it seemed a perfect placement, considering the publication was likely giving many readers their first
explanation of the mess.  The other exposure was a lot less innocent.  Last night, Wolf Blitzer had Joseph Wilson on "The Situation Room"
and grilled him like a defense witness. At one point, the photograph
popped up on a screen behind the guest's head leading the two men to
tangle over it.

Here's the portion from the transcript:

BLITZER: Even though some of your supporters were on this program
last week -- Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer; Pat Lang, a former
DIA intelligence analyst. They say your decision and your wife's
decision to let her be photographed represented a major mistake
because, if there were people out there who may have been endangered by
her name, certainly when people might have seen her picture, they could
have been further endangered.

WILSON: Her contacts and her network was endangered the minute that
Bob Novak wrote the article. The photograph of her did not identify her
in any way anybody could identify.

Now you asked me this question -- you've asked me this question three or four times...

BLITZER: About the photograph?

WILSON: About the photograph.

Now, I have never heard you ask the president about the layout in
the Oval Office when they did the war layout. I've never heard you ask
Mr. Wolfowitz about the layout in Vanity Fair. But you ask me all the

So let me just get this very clear: When one is faced with
adversity, one of the ways one acts in the face of adversity is to try
and bring a certain amount of humor to the situation. It's called

And if people have no sense of humor or no sense of perspective on that, my response is: It's about time to get a life.

But in no way did that picture endanger anybody. What endangered
people was the outing of her name --her maiden name -- and,
subsequently, the outing of the corporation that she worked for.

BLITZER: So you don't have any regrets about the Vanity Fair picture?

WILSON: I think it's a great picture. I think someday you will, too.

BLITZER: It's a great picture. But I mean the fact that...

WILSON: I think someday it, too, will be in the International Spy Museum.

BLITZER: But you don't think it was a mistake to do that?



"The photograph" appeared in the January 2004 edition of Vanity Fair
when point Wilson was actively trying to drum up attention in the MSM
to Cheney's vendetta. The image is controversial because, although his
wife's undercover status had been exposed, the public fact of her
identity was effectively still secret. To be fair to Wilson, questions
over the tact of the photo are neither new, nor were they confined to
the right wing press. Slate, for example, called it out in December '03 (link), as did The Washington Post (link). 

At this point, there are two problems with the photo. First, it gives
glossy ammunition to the right to diminish Fitzgerald's investigation
in the court of public opinion. Second, Mr. Wilson abets Rove's smear
campaign through his own misunderstanding of the image. This picture is
not an ironic appeal which draws attention to the White House. If
anything, the shiny jaguar, the fancy watch, the car keys, the stylish
scarf and the elegant coat sleeve causes the White House to recede even
further into the background. Lets be honest. To the typical USA Today reader,
at least, this picture has to look like two well-off status seekers
seeming to making a game (or, a fashion statement) out of a deadly
serious situation.

Clearly, Wilson could have done a better job containing his ego
and social aspirations in defense of the crime perpetrated against his
wife. That said, the exploitation of the photo is a cheap shot. But
it's a desperate White House he's up against.

(image: Jonas Karlsson. Photo dated November 8, 2004.  Publication date: January 2004. Vanity Fair.)


I always thought that Mr. Wilson looked like Johnny Cash in this shot. And I mean that in a good way!

I thought the Vanity Fair article was a great bit of personal marketing. The Wilson's couldn't go directly toe to toe against the White House. They had too many shills repeating the same talking points. To this day they are still repeated on wingnut blogs even though they have been throughly debunked for years now. Wilson is a lier! His wife sent him on a vacation to drink mint tea! Iraq really was trying to buy yellow-cake! And so on.

The appearance in VF was a side step around all that--a return shot made from friendly territory. It did more then just tell their side of the story: it sent a message back to Karl Rove. It said "We can play this game too." It worked for awhile.

I'll also mention the template the Wilsons are following: Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers in the TV series Hart to Hart.

Elegant coat sleeve?

The "problem" here is that both of the Wilson's exude exceptional style and panache, so even if it weren't a shiny jag, the scarf would still look stylish, they would still be a pair you can't take your eyes off of.

I learned this once in a dressing room at a clothing store. As I stood studying my reflection in a mirror, two women appeared from two different dressing cubicles behind me. They had both tried on the same blouse. Both women were thin, attractive, with long dark hair. On one, the blouse looked bland, uninteresting...just nothing. On the other, it glowed...perfectly fabulous. That's the day I realized how an aura infuses matter. --- The thing is, most people who carry the aura rarely see it in themselves.

Put your aunt and uncle or any other random couple in that car in the same pose, identical scarf... It won't be the same picture.

(Or look at shots of Karl Rove in his jag...which looks more like a Toyota when he's behind the wheel.)

Yes, this ended up being a glamour shot and there's a bit of a problem there, but, even so, the bigger stupidity is Wolf Blitzer wasting our time by serving the Republican spin on this.

not nearly as provocative as the (San Francisco Mayor) Gavin Newsom & Kimberly Guilfoile spread for Harper's Bazaar :

"...Harper's ... dubs the San Francisco mayor and his wife, television legal analyst Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom, "The New Kennedys." They represent "one of the most glamorous political unions since Jack and Jackie," claims the fashion mag, "extravagantly blessed with brains, drive, charm, humor and dedication to public service."

One photo evokes a Calvin Klein Obsession ad, showing the couple lolling on the carpet in a mansion owned by philanthropist Ann Getty. In the interview, Gavin is revealed to be his wife's biggest booster, and vice versa..."

Maureen Dowds's latest lament (to wit: men don't want nothin' to do with babes with brains) notwithstanding... Whaaaaa ?

(is she bragging or, complaining :)

The thing is, at that time there was nothing, absolutely nothing, that the Republicans wouldn't do to smear these good and faithful Americans.

If it weren't the Vanity Fair layout, they would have found something else, or fabricated something.

There is nothing too trivial for the Republicans and their media partners like Wolf Blitzer and Andrea Mitchell to use as a bludgeon against someone who is in their gunsights. It's their classic MO and we are getting reeled in like a hooked fish just by revisiting it.

The photo gave me the creeps when I first saw it. But Wilson/Plame are not stupid people. In fact, they're just as smart as Rove. They both have amazing auras, especially Valerie. 60 Minutes had pictures of her as a younger woman. She wasn't nearly as bombshelly at 22 as she is at 40 whatever. All that spycraft and foreign capitals travel has definitely polished her very nicely. Also, her collegue from the CIA was handsome too. What is it about these spooks? A good dental plan that pays for capped teeth? Custom tailoring? The ability to speak several languages?

The Wilsons represent the time-worn Republican nemesis: limousine liberals. To Republicans, the only Democrats who should be driving expensive cars are Welfare Queens in the inner city. That way they can self-righteously cut government funding that aids the poor.

Perhaps the Wilsons showed a lapse of judgement when they posed for this slick photo, but it personalizes them to the American public in a way that less flattering, candid photos of them wouldn't. It shows that they are holding their own (even thriving) against the onslaught of the Administration's slime machine. The Republican base, the disgruntled NASCAR dads and dour evangelicals, would still hate them just the same or would have concocted something worse, as Phredd points out. As the proverb says--"May as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb."

I never claimed to have “debunked” the allegation that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa.

- Joe Wilson

While this photo is rather bad PR, one wonders about the effect of Wilson's original opinion piece, which thrust him, and by association his wife, in to the national spotlight. Given how, for modern media, no detail of a public figure's life is too small to put on the front page, what did Wilson think would be the end result? And apparently there was no point to it at all, at least according to a later Joe Wilson.

Who says only Republicans can flaunt their wealth? And OF COURSE they look good - only Republican wives look like they've been dressed in the 1960s resale store!

I am reminded of the British TV series, "The Avengers".

Cue up theme music.

To my mind, there is a completely different meme fed by this photo, and one that doesn't necessarily hurt the Wilsons- it's the glamorous James Bond spy world, in which all the players who matter are sexy and sophisticated. Valerie is presented as one of our 007s, and what an alpha male Joe must be to be married to her!

If this were "The Avengers," Emma would be in the driver's seat.

How can you look at any of the pics of Joe and Valerie Wilson and not understand the seething highschool jealousy of the balding doughboys (Cheney & Rove) who tried to take them out?...thekeez

Compare the picture of "balding doughboy" (thanks, Jeff) Rove reflected in the side mirror of his Jaguar posted here a few days ago, with this photo of the glamorous Wilsons. Like Jeff says, it's easy to understand why Rove and Cheney despise Joe and Valerie (but especially Joe). If the Wilsons do file a civil suit, I'm sure the defense will use these photos to help "prove" that the Wilsons haven't suffered irreparable harm. But what are they supposed to do, wear sackcloth and ashes? Living well is the best revenge.

"If this were "The Avengers," Emma would be in the driver's seat.

Posted by: GKoutnik"

Hey, GK, if this were "The Avengers", the auto's steering wheel would be on the right, so Emma is in the driver's seat. ;-)

I'd prefer to see them IN the White House.

Agent99, I wish we had a first couple this sexy. Bill and hillary might have pulled off this shot, but these two are more photogenic.

I find it interesting that - questionable taste aside - the Wilsons are not at all fake in this glamour shot. They don't look like Joe and Val Sixpack because they aren't, but they don't seem to make a big deal of it either.

How much sympathy would we give to Valerie as victim of Le Grande Cabal if we perceived her as less attractive?

Compare poor, short, plain Lynndie England, for example.

Time (and bad lighting) does take its toll, though, which may be one reason why VF chose to portray Valerie in a highly-styled shot with soft artificial lighting, fashion scarf, dark glasses, upscale car, and blurred White House background. (Owing to the total lack of natural highlights on the couple and car, the whole thing may be studio work.) There's probably a little spot, blemish, and wrinkle work on the final image, also.

The title of the magazine, after all, is Vanity Fair. Gotta keep that old mystique alive...

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