Newsweek’s revealing story of the Chas Freeman episode makes clear just how peculiarly Admiral Dennis Blair behaved throughout:
The resignation of Freeman represents another serious “vetting” embarrassment for the White House and a personal blow to Dennis Blair, President Obama’s national intelligence director. After choosing Freeman to head the National Intelligence Council, Blair had publicly defended his choice and insisted as recently as this week that he had no intention of withdrawing the selection. On Monday, Freeman himself was telling people on Capitol Hill that the more criticism was heaped on him, the more intent he was on fighting to stay at the intelligence council.
So to review: Blair doesn’t vet a key intelligence pick. When criticism arises, instead of investigating those criticisms, he doubles down and publicly defends Freeman. The blunder escalated as Blair ignored the firestorm:
As Blair’s pick to chair the National Intelligence Council, Freeman was in line to serve as the country’s de facto top intelligence analyst. The NIC serves as a “center of strategic thinking within the U.S government,” according to its Web site. It reviews and evaluates intelligence analysis produced by all U.S. intelligence agencies and produces reports both for Blair and the White House. . . But the selection quickly attracted noisy criticism from Obama administration critics, starting with conservative pro-Israel activists who questioned Freeman’s public criticism of Washington’s support for Israeli policies. But the controversy over Freeman mushroomed over the last two weeks with Blair’s office receiving letters questioning the appointment not only from members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees but also from congressional appropriations and oversight committees.
Yet Blair blindly persisted:
Despite this growing chorus of criticism, Blair had refused to back down and offered an aggressive endorsement of Freeman.
Offering up defenses of Freeman both in writing and at the Senate Armed Services Committee, Blair gave no sign of truly understanding the depth and breadth of the concerns. In the end Blair came out looking foolish and belligerent.
Recently, our intelligence agencies have been criticized for being impervious to facts, blinded by political bias, and unwilling to look at information contradicting previously held conventional wisdom. Obama came into office promising to end all that. So one really has to ask: Is Blair the right man for this job?