Since yesterday's item on Chas Freeman, more commentators have sallied forth to attack and defend President Obama's controversial pick to run the National Intelligence Council.
In today's Wall Street Journal, Gabriel Schoenfeld of the Witherspoon Institute says that Obama wants to place "a China-coddling Israel basher in charge of drafting the most important analyses prepared by the U.S. government." He argues that Schoenfeld's views on China should worry us as much as his thoughts about Israel and ties to Saudi Arabia:
On the massacre at Tiananmen Square in 1989, Mr. Freeman unabashedly
sides with the Chinese government, a remarkable position for an
appointee of an administration that has pledged to advance the cause of
human rights. Mr. Freeman has been a participant in ChinaSec, a
confidential Internet discussion group of China specialists. A copy of
one of his postings was provided to me by a former member. "The truly
unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities," he wrote there in
2006, "was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the
demonstrations in the bud." Moreover, "the Politburo's response to the
mob scene at 'Tiananmen' stands as a monument to overly cautious
behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash
action." Indeed, continued Mr. Freeman, "I do not believe it is
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."
The Daily Beast's Ashley Rindsberg explains another political strike against Freeman, his past business dealings with the bin Laden family:
As chairman of Projects International Inc., a company that develops international business deals, Mr. Freeman asserted in an interview
with the Associated Press less than a month after September 11 that he
was still “discussing proposals with the Binladen Group—and that won't
In the same interview, Freeman also contested the notion that
international companies who had business with the bin Laden family
should be “running for public-relations cover,” noting that bin Laden
was still “a very honored name in the kingdom [of Saudi Arabia]”,
despite its family tie to the Al-Qaeda leader.
The New Republic's Martin Peretz adds his take, calling Freeman "bigoted and out of touch."
The Nation's Robert Dreyfuss defends Freeman here calling the campaign against him "scurrilous":
If the campaign by the neocons, friends of the Israeli far right, and
their allies against Freeman succeeds, it will have enormous
repercussions. If the White House caves in to their pressure, it will
signal that President Obama's even-handedness in the Arab-Israeli
dispute can't be trusted. Because if Obama can't defend his own
appointee against criticism from a discredited, fringe movement like
the neoconservatives, how can the Arabs expect Obama to be able to
stand up to Israel's next prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu?
My co-blogger David Rothkopf also takes up the issue, noting that while he vehemently disagrees with Freeman's views on Israel, Saudi Arabia, and China, his continued willingness to utter uncomfortable truths to power make him the perfect pick for Obama's intelligence briefer:
Part of the reason he is so controversial is that he has zero fear of
speaking what he perceives to be truth to power. You can't cow him and
you can't find someone with a more relentlessly questioning worldview.
His job will be to help present the president and top policymakers with
informed analysis by which they can make their choices. His
intellectual honesty and his appreciation for what is necessary in a
functioning policy process is such that he will not stack the deck for
any one position. He wouldn't last five minutes in the job if he did.
(And Denny Blair, the wise and canny Director of National Intelligence
wouldn't tolerate it.) Further, the chairman of the NIC does not
directly whisper into the president's ear in a void. He helps prepare
materials that will become the fodder for active debate among a
national security team that is devoid of shrinking violets.
FP's Laura Rozen is also following the Freeman debate closely. Stay tuned to "The Cable" for more details as they emerge.