Another ill-considered appointment in the Barack Obama administration has come to an abrupt halt. Dennis Blair has reconsidered his choice of Chas Freeman as chair of the National Intelligence Council:
Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair announced today that Ambassador Charles W. Freeman Jr. has requested that his selection to be Chairman of the National Intelligence Council not proceed. Director Blair accepted Ambassador Freeman’s decision with regret.
The more people found out about Freeman, the worse he got — and not just among conservative critics. His ties to CNOOC, his remarks about the Tiananmen Square protesters, and his support of a national ID after 9/11 painted a strange picture of the man who would run the process of evaulating our intelligence. That, plus the fact that Freeman had no intelligence experience — when the CIA also has a no-experience political fixer running it — doomed Freeman’s appointment.
Apparently, the Obama administration got the message from the Hill today. Dianne Feinstein requested that Freeman make himself available to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, signaling that she was not pleased with Blair’s choice. The White House had let Blair twist in the wind when Freeman started taking flack, first among Israel’s allies in DC and later as more critics began to speak out. They pointed out that the White House had no input on the choice and no opportunity to vet Freeman before Blair announced his pick.
What’s interesting is that Freeman crashed on Capitol Hill even without needing Senate confirmation. That shows how weird this selection was in the first place, and continues the feckless performance of the Obama administration on staffing the senior positions in the new administration.
Update: Pete Hoekstra started off the scrutiny of this pick, at least on Capitol Hill, and now the ranking member on the House Intelligence Commitee just released a response:
“The Director of National Intelligence has informed the committee that Charles Freeman has decided to withdraw his name from further consideration as chairman of the National Intelligence Council. The by Mr. Freeman to withdraw his name is the right decision under the circumstances. decision
“Mr. Freeman’s selection as chairman of the council was a poor choice from the beginning. Given his financial dealings with a Chinese state-run oil company and the backing of his think tank by the government of Saudi Arabia, it raises serious questions about the vetting that was done by the administration. Mr. Freeman’s extensive record of questionable public statements, including those that seemed to defend the Tiananmen Square massacre and raise questions about the American character following the 9/11 attacks, should have been more than enough to give the administration pause.
“This is yet another breakdown in the Obama administration vetting process—one more in a long series of missteps. More fundamentally, on an intelligence matter, it calls into question the essential judgments being made. As with Guantanamo Bay and interrogation, the administration seemingly reached a decision before thinking through all the issues. I hope the administration will show greater consideration in the future.”
Or maybe even some evidence of consideration at all.
Previous posts on Freeman: