Chas Freeman Withdraws (Updated)

President Barack Obama’s nominee for the position of chairman of the National Intelligence Council, Charles (Chas) Freeman, who has been praised by some for his foreign policy realism and criticized by others for his ties to the KSA and China, has withdraw his name from nomination:

Another top Obama administration appointee pulled the plug today on their nomination, and this time it has nothing to do with unpaid taxes.

Charles Freeman, picked as chairman of the National Intelligence Council, withdrew after criticism over policy, specifically his opprobrium for Israel and his ties to Saudia Arabia.

“Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair announced today that Ambassador Charles W. Freeman Jr. has requested that his selection to be Chairman of the National Intelligence Council not proceed. Director Blair accepted Ambassador Freeman’s decision with regret,” Blair’s office said in a statement.

That’s the complete statement from the DNI’s office. There’s no further explanation.

One of his sharpest critics says it’s Mr. Freeman’s business dealings that got his nomination into trouble:

But Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), one of Freeman’s leading critics, said the appointee could have “withstood” the attacks on policy grounds, but ultimately was torpedoed by the fact that he headed an institute funded by Saudi royalty and sat on the board of a Chinese state oil company.

“The administration made yet another mistake not doing its homework before nominating someone to a senior position of unique sensitivity, and then learned from the press further and further embarrassing details,” Kirk said. “He was heavily encumbered by multiple conflicts of interest involving Chinese, Saudi and other business dealings that all should have been disclosed long before.”

“No drama” is apparently a pretty hard plan to stick to.

UPDATE

Andrew Sullivan has offered two comments on Freeman’s withdrawing of his name from nomination or, more accurately, three comments (one a comment within a comment). First, most if not all of the discussion of the Freeman nomination took place within the blogosphere. Second, Israel is becoming the third rail of U. S. foreign policy:

The second is that Obama may bring change in many areas, but there is no possibility of change on the Israel-Palestine question. Having the kind of debate in America that they have in Israel, let alone Europe, on the way ahead in the Middle East is simply forbidden. Even if a president wants to have differing sources of advice on many questions, the Congress will prevent any actual, genuinely open debate on Israel.

and here’s the comment within a comment:

…the Obama peeps never defended Freeman. They were too scared.

I’m not sure that’s the case. For one thing he wasn’t Obama’s nominee—he was Blair’s. However, I’ve been predicting since before the election that President Obama wasn’t likely to go to bat for his people when they got into trouble and here’s a little confirmation of that. If it causes the “chilling effect” that Andrew points to, well, I predicted that, too.

UPDATE (James Joyner):  For a variety of reasons, I’ve avoided commenting on the Freeman matter.  I have, however, written many times on the broader matter of US-Israeli relations, most recently  in “The Lieberman Question” at New Atlanticist.  Money quote:

The Obama administration is, by American standards, quite to the left on Israel, with Jim Jones, Hillary Clinton, and others having been quite candid in the past about Israel’s need to make concessions on such controversial issues as Jerusalem and the settlements if a peace deal is to get done.   But that’s a leftist position only insofar as American politicians seem to consider anything short the Likudist positionto be anti-Israel, if not anti-Semitic.

More at the link.

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. Eneils Bailey says:

    All you have to do is perform a criminal history check …

  2. PD Shaw says:

    I note that Mark Kirk was mentioned in one of the recent posts here as a Republican Congressman elected in a Democratic District (one which voted for both Obama and Kerry). I don’t live in the district, but I met him briefly once and he struck me as a straight-shooter. Nevertheless if this is an over-the-top partisan attack, then the seat is vulnerable perhaps.

  3. John Burgess says:

    You can find Freeman’s statement on withdrawing at this link to Crossroads Arabia.

    Freeman is a strong believer in the unequaled power of the ‘Israeli Lobby’ in DC. That, and his e-mail on Tienanmen, are what got him crosswise and int he crosshairs.

    I don’t consider his leaving with the least bit of sadness. I do object, however, to the now accepted implication that if you work for a think-tank that gets money from a foreign government (in this case, the Saudis), you have been bought. Regional think-tanks have to depend on deep pockets within the regions for the most part, the same way that area studies programs in universities must. It’s a similar argument used to discredit scientific studies because an industry may have funded part of the research or even the university behind the research.

    That is very scary.

    Note, please, that while I write about Saudi Arabia, I receive no money from any Saudi source. I’m afraid that if I did, what I write would be thrown into the same maelstrom of conspiracy thinking.

  4. Our Paul says:

    Do not know much about “Chas” Freeman, except he was chosen by Admiral Blair to do a job. Strikes me that the good Admiral should be able to pick his men without political interference…

    Know a tad bit more about Israel, more than what I know about “Chas” Freeman. I know that newspaper accounts report that they really wished to bomb Iran, but that the Bush Administration prevented that folly. Even the Bush Administration was able to realize that flying American planes with the Israeli insignias, and dropping American made bombs on nuclear facilities on a mid-East country was maybe not the smartest thing to do…

    Do not know much about “Chas” Freeman other than he was a voice that opposed the carnage that Israel periodically delivers against its neighbors. What was worse during the most recent Lebanon incursion, the massive bombing of civilian targets, or the wanton shelling during the last two to three days of the boarder area with cluster bombs?

    Don’t know much about “Chas” Freeman, but I do know that the cluster bombs used against civilians in Lebanon were manufactured in the United States — and that the Israeli stockpile of this dreaded weapon has been replenished by the U.S.

    Turns out I know a tad bit more about Israel, really more than I know about “Chas” Freeman. For example, I know that despite most civilized nations ban the use of phosphorous incendiary ammunitions in civilian areas, the Israeli’s used such shells liberally in their recent Gaza incursion.

    Just happen to know a tad bit about the Israeli health care system. It is a single payer, government supported “freebee” to all Israeli citizens which in the U.S. (gasp, groan) would be labeled socialized medicine. And how much of our 4 billion dollars in yearly aid to Israel goes to health care, or for buying up Palestinian property remains unknown,

    Do not know much about “Chas” Freeman, but he strikes me as the kind of guy who just might say that using U.S. built Apache Helicopters, with Israeli insignias, to destroy Gaza, may not be what we should encourage.

    Do not know much about “Chas Freeman”, but judging from the people who forced his resignation before he spent a day on the job, he must have been a very dangerous man.

    I quite agree. The question is whether he is dangerous to the Israelis, or to the United States.

    Dona nobis pacem

  5. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Our Paul, how many nations would like to see Israel erased? Paul, concerning Israeli plans to bomb Iran. Would you think it wise to Iran to threaten Israel with elimination? Paul, how many times would your neighbor have to threaten you and your family before your would do something about it? How many members of your family would your neighbor have to kill before you struck back? If you were fighting for our survival, which weapon is it you would not use?

  6. Bithead says:

    First, most if not all of the discussion of the Freeman nomination took place within the blogosphere.

    The point Saint Andrew misses in that is of course the reason behind it…that the Dnosaurs rfused to cover the story because they’re still in the tank for all thongs Obama. Hard as hell to be a cheering section fro this white house and all things liberal when their apponntees keep melting down like cheap candles.

    Freeman is a strong believer in the unequaled power of the ‘Israeli Lobby’ in DC. That, and his e-mail on Tienanmen, are what got him crosswise and int he crosshairs.

    Deservedly so, I think.

    I don’t consider his leaving with the least bit of sadness. I do object, however, to the now accepted implication that if you work for a think-tank that gets money from a foreign government (in this case, the Saudis), you have been bought. Regional think-tanks have to depend on deep pockets within the regions for the most part, the same way that area studies programs in universities must. It’s a similar argument used to discredit scientific studies because an industry may have funded part of the research or even the university behind the research.

    That is very scary.

    It’s not so much that he was getting money from a foreign source… but which. Given his oft stated anti-Israeli views it is clear which way that was headed.

    Let’s see, here. Britain, Israel… and a few others along the way… it’s enough to make one wonder if this administation isn’t about alienating us from all our freinds.

  7. PD Shaw says:

    Strikes me that the good Admiral should be able to pick his men without political interference…

    His appointment must be ratified by Congress, no?

  8. Our Paul says:

    My thanks to PD Shaw for pointing out that the appointment of “Chas” Freeman to head the National Intelligence Council was a staff appointment and that confirmation by the Senate is not required. That is why the concerted attack by the Neocon establishment, and the hard right elements in the GOP is so telling.

    That his intellect is recognized as being powerful and open is recognized by his colleagues. Of course if you are a firm believer that Israel can build walls on Palestine land, blockade Gaza and starve the population into some type of submission, seed Lebanon with cluster bombs, and decimate the infrastructure of Gaza, a guy like Mr. Freeman might well prove to be very dangerous.

    Neither Dave Schuler, nor James Joiner, point out that this attack on Mr. Freeman came shortly after the Clinton visit to Israel. Perhaps the Israeli hard right did not particularly like the message she delivered. A plausible postulate, if we can believe an indicted Israeli spy coordinated the attack on Mr. Freeman.

    Nice to see that character assassination is still in vogue.

  9. davod says:

    I read today of 23 left wing organizations who talk every morning to coordinate their activities.

    Was the “coordinated” attack against Freeman in this league.

    What is telling about this episode is that few, if any, bothered to defend Freeman until it was to late.

    I did read somewhere that the MSM reporting of the possible appointment was negligible.

    If the media had done some reporting earlier then maybe Ambassador Freeman’s generous record of service and his colleagues praises would have been before the public in advance of the opposition to his appointment.

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