Charles "Chas" Freeman, a former ambassador and President Obama's nominee to head the National Intelligence Council, withdrew his name from consideration yesterday, as a group of critics questioned his links to Saudi Arabia and the Chinese business community. One of them, Marty Peretz, the editor-in-chief of The New Republic, called Freeman "bigoted and out of touch":
But Freeman's real offense (and the president's if he were to appoint him) is that he has questioned the loyalty and patriotism of not only Zionists and other friends of Israel, the great swath of American Jews and their Christian countrymen, who believed that the protection of Zion is at the core of our religious and secular history, from the Pilgrim fathers through Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy. And how has he offended this tradition? By publishing and peddling the unabridged John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, with panegyric and hysteria. If Freeman believes that this book is the truth he can't be trusted by anyone, least of all Barack Obama. I can't believe that Obama wants to appoint someone who is quintessentially an insult to the patriotism of some many of his supporters, me included.
Freeman said that remarks like those prompted his withdrawal. The Cable, a Foreign Policy blog, excerpted a memo from Freeman. In it, he concludes "that the barrage of libelous distortions of my record would not cease upon my entry into office. The effort to smear me and to destroy my credibility would instead continue. I do not believe the National Intelligence Council could function effectively while its chair was under constant attack by unscrupulous people with a passionate attachment to the views of a political faction in a foreign country."
He goes on to criticize the Israel Lobby, which he believes is behind the campaign against him:
The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth. The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views, the substitution of political correctness for analysis, and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those that it favors.
On his blog, James Fallows, a correspondent for The Atlantic says that "the Chas Freeman matter," as he calls it, "has ended in an ugly way." "Freeman's departure statement is intemperate, but even calmer people might sound testy if they had been accused of "hostility toward Jews generally" without, to my knowledge, any evidence for that claim."
As Fallows says, the fallout from this nomination — and subsequent withdrawal — will continue for a long time. What do you make of it?