The screenplay concerns a spin doctor and a Hollywood producer who fabricate a war in Albania to distract voters from a presidential sex scandal. The screenplay by Hilary Henkin and David Mamet was loosely adapted from Larry Beinhart‘s novel American Hero.
Wag the Dog was released one month before the outbreak of the Lewinsky scandal and the subsequent bombing of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan by the Clinton administration in August 1998, which prompted the media to draw comparisons between the film and reality. The comparison was also made in December 1998 when the administration initiated a bombing campaign of Iraq during Clinton’s impeachment trial over the Lewinsky scandal. It was made again in the spring of 1999 when the administration intervened in the Kosovo War and initiated a bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, which coincidentally borders Albania.