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.
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.