Plame takes issue with those women spy characters on the big and small screen

Al Kamen
Columnist September 25, 2013

What really ticks off former CIA agent Valerie Plame? (Hint: it’s not Karl Rove .)

It’s the paper-thin — or overwrought — lady-spy-type characters great actresses are forced to portray on the likes of “Homeland,” “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Covert Affairs.”

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

Plame, portrayed by Naomi Watts in the movie “Fair Game,” is trying to broaden these characterizations in her novel “Blowback,” out Oct. 1.

Of the Emmy-winning Claire Danes, who plays CIA agent Carrie Mathison on “Homeland,” Plame tells our Post colleague David Beard: “Claire is a brilliant actress, and it’s really compelling TV. Of course, they made her manic-depressive to deepen the character, but notice that she has no friends. Of course, there’s frantic sex, but she’s kind of all alone with her jazz. If you’re going to be in human intelligence, having a high EQ [‘emotional quotient’] is kind of essential.’’

Of Jessica Chastain in “Zero Dark Thirty”: “For dramatic reasons, they focused on this intense analyst, when really it was a cast of dozens that worked together. I love the fact that she was strong and female and courageous. But I must add she was playing an analyst, not an ops officer. She was someone who essentially sits at a desk and is reviewing all the information. She wasn’t handling big assets in the field, cold-pitching assets.’’

Arrant pedantry?

Remember when that bust of Winston Churchill — borrowed from the British government and temporarily housed in the White House — caused a minor kerfuffle for President Obama?

Now a likeness of the British Bulldog is coming to the Capitol, and we’re assured that the artwork is not the same one that created controversy for Obama.

House Speaker John Boehner authored legislation in 2011 to install a Churchill tribute in the Capitol to mark the 70th anniversary of the British leader’s speech to a joint meeting of Congress. It’s set to be unveiled at an Oct. 30 dedication ceremony, and though a Boehner spokesman tells us it’s different from the one that once graced the White House, more details about the artwork aren’t being made public just yet.

In 2012, the White House was forced to apologize after incorrectly insisting it still had a bust of Churchill that had, in fact, been returned to the Brits after President George W. Bush left the premises. (The chest-beating over the bust took on overblown proportions because it had become a symbol for Republicans criticizing Obama’s foreign policy.)

When it comes to such things, folks are prone to losing their marbles.

Legally speaking

Appellate court decisions — and we’ve read far too many — are usually dreadful affairs. The subject matter is often arcane, and the authors are, well, judges.

There are exceptions, such as this gem of a lead Tuesday by Judge Raymond Kethledge , who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati. The opinion was spotted by Howard Bashman, a Philadelphia lawyer who writes How Appealing, which he calls “the Web’s first blog devoted to appellate litigation.”

“There are good reasons,” Kethledge begins, “not to call an opponent’s argument ‘ridiculous,’ which is what State Farm calls Barbara Bennett’s principal argument here.

“The reasons include civility; the near-certainty that overstatement will only push the reader away (especially when, as here, the hyperbole begins on page one of the brief); and that, even where the record supports an extreme modifier, ‘the better practice is usually to lay out the facts and let the court reach its own conclusions,’ ” the judge writes, citing a topless-bar free-speech case called Big Dipper Entm’t, L.L.C. v. City of Warren, 641 F.3d 715, 719 (6th Cir. 2011).

“But here,” he writes, “the biggest reason is more simple: the argument that State Farm derides as ridiculous is instead correct.”

Maybe not Scalia-esque, but pretty good.

Standing and delivering

On Tuesday, as Sen. Ted Cruz launched his filibuster (or faux-libuster, or silly-buster, or long speech, take your pick), we wondered about the state of his feet. As we’ve documented in our past coverage of filibuster footwear, the selection of the proper pair of shoes for a talkathon is no small matter.

We assumed he’d sport his beloved ostrich cowboy boots, dubbed his “argument boots” because he wore them to try cases as Texas solicitor general.

Our answer: Cruz confessed on the Senate floor that, on the advice of filibuster veteran Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), he wisely swapped the boots for comfy walking shoes.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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