Just when you think the news out of Washington can’t get any more bewildering… I hear that Tom Cruise’s name, and that of his then girlfriend Penelope Cruz, have surfaced during testimony in the recently begun Scooter Libby trial. A CIA official who appeared as a witness recalled a June 14th, 2003, intelligence briefing with Libby where the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney bragged about just having had a sitdown with Tom and Penelope. Libby told Craig Schmall, who was responsible for putting together the material for the daily morning briefings from the Agency for Libby, how excited he was that he had just met the actors, according to the briefing notations. The subject of the tête-à-tête was Cruise’s concern about Germany’s treatment of Scientology. cruiseappt.JPGMeanwhile, it was revealed last August that former State Department No. 2 Richard Armitage had a private afternoon appointment with Cruise the day before the sitdown with Libby in 2003. (See photo) Here’s what I find so utterly nauseating about this news: that the meetings coincided with a first wave of media stories about how morale was plummeting among U.S. soldiers three months after crossing into Iraq because there seemed to be no American postwar plan to control the chaos. I’m also infuriated by the obvious hypocrisy: after all, no White House has publicly hated Hollywood more than the Bush administration, yet here were its highest ranking officials privately star-struck by movie celebs. Nor can I forget that these meetings followed by just a few months the GOP’s mid-term election strategy of taunting the Democrats for being “too Hollywood.” (See my LA Weekly column, The Bully Pulpit, from that time.) Remember, one of Libby’s defenses is that he was too busy dealing with national security issues to pay attention to Valerie Plame Wilson. Yet he made time for Cruise and Cruz. (Who knew that my satirical LA Weekly column, Strange Love, imagining a GOP/Hollywood embrace, would turn out to be true.) Libby/Cheney illustration ©CL/