SANTA FE, N.M. – In this liberal-leaning tourist town known for its handmade turquoise-and-silver jewelry, Joseph Wilson has just bought his wife something special in a downtown shop: a red-and-blue pin that reads, "I'm not anti-Bush. I'm pro-intelligence."
Wilson and his wife, outed CIA spy Valerie Plame Wilson, are finally getting a chance to unwind. Three weeks ago, they arrived at their new 4,600-square-foot hilltop adobe home and have traded in their Jaguar for a pickup truck. Their 7-year-old twins already have found new friends and spotted three snakes.
There's a book deal in the works, a movie on the horizon, and a pending federal lawsuit that names Vice President Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and others.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Wilson said it will take a couple of years to sort through the remains of this recent period, in which the couple was "dropped into the political maelstrom."
In July 2003, Wilson, a former ambassador, accused the Bush administration of twisting prewar intelligence on Iraq, and Plame's covert CIA identity was leaked to reporters. Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was convicted last month of lying to a grand jury and to FBI agents investigating the disclosure.
Perched on the window sill of his downtown office, having offered the only chair in the otherwise empty room to a reporter, Wilson said: "What has changed is, as we look at all this, we look at it from Santa Fe, rather than downtown Washington. And that in and of itself is positive."
In Santa Fe, the weather's better. The traffic's better. It's not as hectic and all-consuming. Being a step removed provides a healthier perspective, he observed.
"How nice to be able to think about things other than the daily grind of what people increasingly call 'the swamp' in Washington," he said, sporting jeans and wearing a close-cropped beard.
"I still have my BlackBerry. ... Valerie's trying to wean me from that," the business consultant admitted.
Wilson, 57, said he and Plame, 43 — who declined to be interviewed for this story — always planned to leave Washington when she retired from the CIA; the events of the past few years just speeded up the move.
"We were not Washingtonians," said Wilson, who noted that much of Plame's career, and nearly all of his, was spent overseas. "We always thought about moving someplace where we could raise our kids. And we're not enchanted with the political game. We don't suffer — and never suffered — from what they call 'Potomac fever."'
They were familiar with Santa Fe — Plame, whose specialty was weapons of mass destruction, had visited during work trips to nearby Los Alamos National Laboratory — and they decided the city offered ethnic and economic diversity, privacy, an intellectual and cultural life and "a community that was extraordinarily welcoming," he said.
"There are always enough people around who want to talk about the fate of the nation, so I don't worry too much about that," Wilson added.
That could well include New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who is running for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Wilson, a career diplomat and self-described policy wonk, said he is fond of Richardson both personally and professionally — they both worked in the Clinton administration when Richardson was U.N. ambassador — but has no plans to campaign for him.
Plame's book, with a working title of "Fair Game," should be out this fall from Simon & Schuster, according to Wilson.
The couple is consulting with screenwriters as Warner Bros. develops a film based on their lives.
Arguments in their civil lawsuit against Cheney and others are scheduled for May 17, and one of them likely will attend.
But mostly, the Wilson family is just settling in.
High on his to-do list is to meet the mayor, the city manager, the police chief and the fire chief, Wilson said. "I'm a big fan of first responders, and I want to go introduce myself and introduce my kids," he said.
Neither he nor Plame see the events of the past four years as being a final chapter, but rather look forward to giving it "its proper place in our lives."
Wilson, who was acting ambassador to Iraq when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, likes to tell audiences there was a time when the first line of his obituary would have read, "the last American diplomat to confront Saddam Hussein before the first Gulf War." Now, he said, it would read, "the husband of the first American spy to have her identity betrayed by her own government." But he hopes to live long enough to see that line rewritten a third or fourth time.
"Be nice to have it read... 'good father, good husband,"' he said.