Presidential candidate-in-waiting Hillary Clinton already has backing from top politicians, influential celebrities — and from a famous former spy.
Former CIA agent Valerie Plame and her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson, were special guests of honor at a fundraising event Wednesday in Santa Fe, N.M., for the pro-Hillary Clinton Super PAC Ready for Hillary. The couple supported Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primary, and they’ve made their renewed endorsement for 2016 known early.
Since being “outed” as a CIA operative in 2003, Plame and her family relocated to New Mexico. Over the past decade she’s written a best-selling memoir, which was adapted into a major Hollywood film, and has made multiple public appearances to speak about issues of nuclear proliferation and women’s role in intelligence. She’s currently the director of community outreach at the Santa Fe Institute, writing a second spy-thriller featuring a strong female CIA officer — and now, getting ready for Hillary.
Approximately 30 people with wide areas of influence in northern New Mexico, along with some elected officials, attended the breakfast fundraiser Wednesday, which included remarks by the head of the group’s financial committee, Craig Smith, and a Q&A with Plame and Wilson.
ABC News spoke with Valerie Plame, 50, this week about her involvement in the growing Super PAC, why she wants Clinton to run for president, and her thoughts on the CIA’s most recent policy change.
So, you just got out of your first fundraiser for the group. How’d it go?
It was very informative for me personally to learn about how a Super PAC works and how they plan to build on mistakes from the 2008 campaign. I don’t think it’s any secret that the 2008 campaign was very slow to enact and build a really vibrant grassroots campaign. I mean Obama just ate their breakfast. The disparity was shocking. And they don’t want to be caught out again.
Does Hillary Clinton know you’re part of Ready for Hillary?
I imagine she does. I dare say Hillary Clinton has many, many friends. But she has to know that we’re engaged. She was very kind to us when Joe and I went through the darkest days of the leak of my name in 2003. And of course Joe worked in the Clinton White House.
Any secret spy-intel on whether she decides to run or not?
I don’t have any more insight than anybody else. I really think that she is still weighing the pros and the cons. Like anyone else she’s human and probably wakes up one day convinced and then the next day not so sure. But I think it seems pretty obvious that she’ll have to wait to make any sort of announcement until after the midterms.
What should her platform be if she does run?
Well she’s hardly an unknown quantity. She’s not going to go off in an unknown direction. And what she’s been advocating for, for literally decades at this point, for me personally really resonates.
We have amazing momentum here in New Mexico on zero to five education and Pre-K. And Hillary has been a strong voice, well along with Jeb Bush for that matter, in how important that piece is. Also, as a woman, her rousing call to action at the 1996 Beijing women’s conference was prophetic. I’m at the Santa Fe Institute right now. There are lots of nuclear scientists here, and I can tell you it doesn’t take one to figure out that women empowerment in terms of education and opportunity around the world make the world a better place.
Which past president would you compare Hillary Clinton to?
FDR comes to mind as a person who has such a sweep of experience as she does. I mean, across the board: legislative, executive policy. Even those that hate Hillary admit she is a work horse and not a show horse. She gets down into the nuts and bolts and figures out “what’s the policy, what’s the substance?”
What would you say were Hillary Clinton’s successes at the State Department?
My husband, Joe, would be in a better place to answer that. He’s more a foreign policy guy. But it’s the inside baseball that you don’t see. The morale at the State Department was really lifted while she was there. Also what she did in terms of outreach. There’s lots of ways to convey U.S. power and influence, soft versus hard. I hope that doesn’t come across in any way sounding sexist.
Republicans have been pretty critical of her tenure lately.
We’re going to hear Benghazi only about a million more times between now and any sort of announcement. But I’d be really surprised if any more investigations on Benghazi sway anyone. Republicans clearly see her as the biggest threat to a Republican victory in 2016. They’re going to throw everything at her. And they’ve already started with Karl Rove’s vicious and vile attacks about her mental well-being.
But if elected for two terms, Hillary Clinton would be 77 when she leaves office. Are you worried at all about her age?
No, not at all. The campaign itself is vicious, but if there’s anyone who has walked through fire and epic storms and has persevered, it’s Hillary. Her face is next to that definition.
Let’s say she doesn’t run. Who’s your next pick?
I think someone like Elizabeth Warren. She’s awfully articulate and very attractive. And there is a strong populist feel through the nation right now. And she taps into that.
But might not be interested.
She has said that repeatedly. But we might as well be talking about the next century. Because in politics, anything can churn over in a day. Who knows.
On a different note, the CIA announced this week they’re ending vaccination programs as a cover for spy operations. Good idea, bad idea?
I agree with their decision. I am personally not aware of other campaigns where this was used other than the one quite publicly for when they tried to hunt down Osama bin Laden. While it was extremely effective there, for reasons I don’t understand, the identity of that doctor was revealed and the consequences for him were dire. And in more places in the world there’s a strong string of conspiracy-minded culture that tends to see the hand of the CIA in almost anything. And now we see that the NSA is in fact in many places we hadn’t quite realized before. So many times genuine health workers and genuine NGO folks are really just trying to help other humans in whatever capacity they can. But they are perceived as being CIA and therefore it blocks their effectiveness.
And you believe the CIA will actually cease these operations?
I have no doubt they will. But the problem is there’s a global mistrust in statements made by the CIA and NSA. Through the missteps of the intelligence community at large, their trust has been severely eroded.