At Last: Times Covers Chas Freeman, Obama's Anti-Israel Intelligence Pick
After much taunting from the blogosphere about its total lack of coverage ofthe saga of Chas Freeman, who Obama planned to install in a topintelligence post, the Times puts Freeman's angry withdrawal from consideration on Thursday's front page.
Freeman has been under fire for days in opinion clusters both left (The New Republic) and right (National Review, The Weekly Standard) for his long hostility toward Israel, his support of the Tiananmen Square massacre, and his well-compensated pro-Saudi Arabia propaganda, a firestorm that bloomed from reporting undertaken by the Washington Times.
Finally, after Freeman withdrew from consideration to chair the National Intelligence Council with avituperative denunciation of "the Israel lobby," the Times filed a solid front-page story by Mark Mazzetti and Helene Cooper, "Israel Stance Was Undoing Of Nominee." It hit the high points, including comments by Sen. Charles Schumer saying Freeman showed "an "irrational hatred of Israel."
When Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, announced that he would install Charles W. Freeman Jr. in a top intelligence post, the decision surprised some in the White House who worried that the selection could be controversial and an unnecessary distraction, according to administration officials.
Just how controversial the choice would be became clear on Tuesday, when Mr. Freeman, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia under the first President Bush, angrily withdrew his name from consideration and charged that he had been the victim of a concerted campaign by what he called "the Israel lobby."
Mr. Freeman had long been critical of Israel, with a bluntness that American officials rarely voice in public about a staunch American ally. In 2006, he warned that, "left to its own devices, the Israeli establishment will make decisions that harm Israelis, threaten all associated with them and enrage those who are not."
He did not soften his tone even on Wednesday, saying in an interview that "Israel is driving itself toward a cliff, and it is irresponsible not to question Israeli policy and to decide what is best for the American people."
As head of the Middle East Policy Council, he was a frequent critic of policy toward Israel. In a speech in 2005 he said that "as long as the United States continues unconditionally to provide the subsidies and political protection that make the Israeli occupation and the high-handed and self-defeating policies it engenders possible, there is little, if any, reason to hope that anything resembling the former peace process can be resurrected."
Critics also unearthed e-mail messages attributed to Mr. Freeman that seemed to support the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, saying it was not "acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be."