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What’s Wrong with Blair?

Newsweek has decided to go back into the news business. The rest of the mainstream media show little if any interest in examining how Chas Freeman came to be appointed. But, sure enough, a decision this bad appears not to be an isolated incident. Newsweek reports:

Now both Republican and Democratic intel experts are raising questions about another Blair pick: John Deutch, a former CIA director once accused of major security lapses, who’s been appointed to a temporary panel reviewing troubled, top-secret spy-satellite programs.

Yes, this was the same Deutch who “stored hundreds of pages of classified files on his home computers, despite repeated warnings that they could be intercepted via the Internet” and thereby lost his top secret clearance.

This leads to the real issue at the heart of the Freeman matter: what is wrong with Admiral Dennis Blair? It is one thing to make an uninformed and unwise choice, but it is quite another not to recognize the error of your ways and then dig in your heels in a Congressional hearing. Outside critics are not alone in worrying about Blair’s fitness:

Congressional critics, including some Democrats, say the two appointments illustrate Blair’s tin ear. As he vigorously defended Freeman, Blair also downplayed evidence of substantial financial ties between the Middle East Policy Council, a think tank Freeman used to run, and Saudi interests. Blair had told Congress that “no more than one 12th” of the council’s $600,000 budget came from the Saudi government. But Freeman told NEWSWEEK that the council had also received a $1 million endowment from Saudi King Abdullah in 2005, plus another $1 million pledge for operating support from Saudi Prince Al Wahleed.

(So did Freeman, or Blair, or both misrepresent the extent of Freeman’s financial conflict of interest?)

Obama, having no executive experience himself, was thought to be putting together an all-star team. But Blair is now joining Tim Geithner (and perhaps others) who are showing themselves to be lacking the skills and judgment needed to lead in perilous times. If the president is unwilling or unable to do something about it, Congress should step up to the plate. That’s what Congressional oversight is all about.



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