Monday, July 18, 2005

ester and the little scandal that could

Considering that I've been waiting for two years, with my outrage on simmer, for Plamegate to break wide open, it is bizarre that I haven't blogged about it. I read everything I can get my virtual hands on: media commentary from Howie Kurtz in the WashPost and the pundits at Slate and Salon. The more I read, the happier I become: the updates drop hard and fast, like hail on Bush loyalists that appear to the rest of us as raindrops. And we're gleefully dancing through the raindrops, whoooooooeee are we dancing. The Democratic party has become frikkin Gene Kelly with these raindrops, though of course we're keeping our Stern, Shocked faces on and occasionally feeling a stab of guilt when we remember poor Judy Miller and mattress of foam.

Today I was pleased to discover that Matthew Baldwin has woven my two fixations together. Thus he has given me an opening.

This case sickens me. It has from the first day I heard of it. You lie; a man, who happens to be an expert on what you lied about, calls you on it; and in response you viciously, wantonly take down that man's wife? Shouldn't this be obvious, even if our deranged day and age: a person's family is off-limits. Christ, even in the Sopranos they understand that.

Karl Rove wanted to hit Joe Wilson in the balls and he did; he acted without the slightest concern for collateral damage even though the shrapnel would fall in his own backyard. The woman worked for the CIA! How can the people who are risking their lives to protect this country do their jobs when there's a man in the White House willing to blow their cover for the smallest, most pointless bit of political retribution? Retribution for something they themselves didn't do? Now Republicans are pissing and moaning that Rove may not have have known she was covert, as though that's a defense, as though a reasonable person, faced with even the possibility that she was covert, wouldn't consider finding out -- because whether or not it's a technical felony, it's a national security matter and on those it's important to have one's facts straight.

This may be the obvious point of all, yet I haven't sufficiently heard it raised. Karl Rove's actions paint him not only as a ethically-void, cold-blooded, cheerfully malignant plop of birdshit on the windshield of this country, but also as a sexist of the first degree. That's why, to my mind, he didn't think twice about outing Valerie. She was a woman: how vital could she possibly be to the CIA? How important could her career be? Whether consciously or not, Rove was sending her back to the kitchen, and/or the cover of Vanity Fair, where she belonged.

The press and the Republicans, whether consciously or not, have gone along with it to an alarming extent. If Joe Wilson had been Josephina and it had been her husband working as a spy, my god, can you imagine the outcry? The part of the story where Valerie suggested Joe for the trip to Niger only has teeth because of the gender dynamics. That revelation is supposed to be another kick to the balls not because of possible nepotism but because -- hee hee! -- his wife had power! Ergo pansy est. It's sick.

It's the same kind of subtle but prevalent attitudes about men and women that guarantee female superheroes have the "powers" they have. Bear with me here, I just finally saw Batman Begins and I have comics on the brain. Still, it's an interesting comment on our nation as a collective that female superheroes tend to have defensive, not offensive, capabilities. They disappear, they create force-fields, they read minds, they become -- half-cat? (Which, by the way -- what??) It seems to be because superheroes have been to believable. Sure, they're bigger and stronger than we are, but in ways that are consistent the individuals as we understand them. A man's anger could swell him up into the Hulk; a boy's tragedy and fear forms him into a dedicated crime fighter; blah blah blah. We don't like to believe women can or want to hurt people. Not really. And so their powers are correspondingly dinky and unaggressive.

That's why this story is really only gaining traction now that we have a (male) figure to focus on, and a supervillian at that. Two supervillians, in fact, and Fitzgerald's not done yet.

Valerie Plame is being portrayed as a suburban housewife who got caught up in this mess, at best a desk jockey in the CIA and ultimately just a victim with a shrill husband. But consider: what if she were Batman and Karl Rove leaked her secret identity for no better reason than because he could and it would hurt someone she loved. I hope she finds a way to strike back and, in the meantime, that everyone starts giving her a little more credit.

1 comment:

amelia said...

well said. you've put your finger on something that i have been trying to articulate for myself, namely, the fact that outing a female secret agent can't be so bad because, after all, she can't have been *that* secret -- she doesn't have the superpowers! fie (not to mention shame) on karl rove and all his ilk.