Commentary Magazine


How Long?

Jake Tapper appears to be one of the few (only?) mainstream reporters keeping current on the Chas Freeman story. You would think it would be hard to ignore the growing tidal wave of protest and controversy. The latest is a letter signed by the Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee taking issue with the appointment. And one wonders how the civil libertarians on the left who are apologizing for Freeman and smearing his critics will respond to this from Huffington Post:

One new development, revealed here for the first time, which is likely to further damage Freeman’s already battered standing is that the former ambassador advocated creating a national identity system in the US as a part of the war on terror. During a 9/11 Commission interview, Freeman remarked that of three major changes the US government should make to effectively combat terror, one was that “the United States should implement a national identity system, so we better know who is who.”

This all raises several questions. First, how long can the rest of the mainstream media hold out without reporting on an embarrassing debacle for the Obama administration? This is the John Edwards story on steroids — a virtual conspiracy of silence with little if any journalistic justification. And here the issue is really important — the appointment of a key intelligence official who is alleged to harbor serious conflicts of interest and extreme views. I have made inquiry at two prominent, national newspapers about the lack of coverage and have received one “I’ll pass it on” from the ombudsman and only an automated response acknowledging receipt from the other. I wonder how mortified they’ll be if the story comes and goes, causing greater public controversy and embarrassment for the administration with nary a report from them.

Second, where are the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee. Does Diane Feinstein think Freeman is an acceptable pick? It is interesting to note how lacking in — what’s the word? ah yes — “oversight” the government is now that Congress and the White House are controlled by the same party. Imagine if George W. Bush had nominated someone whose earnings depended on the largess of the House of Saud or who advocated crushing Chinese dissidents — indeed faster than the Chinese government.

And finally, one has to wonder what’s going through the minds of the president and his top team. Is the Freeman choice the sort of “unpoliticized” advice they are looking for? One suspects eventually they will retreat. In the meantime, they have alienated former supporters who took their campaign promises seriously, put the Congressional Democrats in a tough spot and revealed themselves either to be horrendous vetters or lacking sound judgment. Or perhaps, if they prolong this, both.