Trying Times for Wilsons, Too

Valerie and Joe Wilson, seen last year.
Valerie and Joe Wilson, seen last year. "I think we will sleep better tonight," he said yesterday after the Libby verdict. (By Lawrence Jackson -- Associated Press)
By David Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Joe Wilson was at the Bombay Club, two blocks from the White House, waiting to have lunch shortly after noon yesterday with a friend and former National Security Council staffer, when his BlackBerry rang. It was his wife. She skipped right over "Hello."

"Four out of five. Guilty," Valerie Plame Wilson said evenly.

"There you go," Wilson recalls responding, with the same understatement.

He did not, he says, let out a whoop and dash around the swank Indian restaurant exchanging high-fives. But the conviction of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was a vicarious victory for the couple, the close of a chapter in their 3 1/2 -year struggle to hold government officials to account for what they say was a smear campaign against them and a coverup of bogus reasons for taking the nation to war.

And it was the beginning of a busy, blurry day for Joe Wilson, the former acting ambassador to Iraq, whose 2002 report debunking claims that Saddam Hussein sought nuclear materials from Niger started the whole drama.

"I don't take any satisfaction in other people's trials and tribulations," Wilson said. "I would hope that the administration would learn from this that the abuse of the public trust to engage in personal political vendettas is inappropriate."

And yet he was definitely in a good mood. As he told NBC during an afternoon round-robin marathon of interviews in the offices of his lawyers, "I think we will sleep better tonight, knowing the jury has done its job and knowing Mr. Libby is a convicted felon." And his wife? "She wept," Wilson said later.

That BlackBerry call cut short his lunch, and Wilson went home to change into a double-breasted gray suit, raspberry tie and black ankle-high boots. Then he reported to the spare office suite at the corner of 14th and I streets NW that is home to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the legal watchdog group handling the Wilsons' civil suit against Libby, Vice President Cheney, presidential aide Karl Rove and former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage.

If this trial has provided evidence of just how expertly the administration could command the press's attention, it also has offered new media ops for this administration archnemesis.

First came the teleconference with print and radio reporters, then three offices in the suite were cleared for TV crews to set up. The space filled with filtered lights, cables snaking under doors, equipment dollies and a rotating cast from various networks.

Wilson drifted between the rooms, his suit coat open, holding a cup of water, giving an interview in one room while crews were setting up in the other two. There was a smile on his face. It was not a gloating smile, but it was a smile of great contentment.

As for who might play him and his wife in the Hollywood movie that's reportedly in the works, he said, "I only ask that Jack Black be cast in a role other than that of Joe Wilson."

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