Tied to the mast
…but orange now and black

In which I become one of those netizens who write indignant letters to the Times

(Article in question pasted below)

I wanted to comment on the incongruity between the NYT’s coverage of Charles Freeman’s withdrawn appointment to the NIC versus that by some of the most widely respected blogs on both sides of the debate. In his article, Mark Mazzetti identifies Freeman’s claim that pro-Israel lobby groups had targeted him, and throws up a vague counter-claim by an AIPAC spokesperson that the organization had not taken a stance. Readers are with that left to decide for themselves. The subtext of this juxtaposition is that either Freeman is a paranoid crazy person, or that AIPAC is being conspiratorial. This is a journalistic failure, providing none of the nuance necessary for readers to actually engage with the issue. And this is not for lack of available relevant information; see the bloggers at Salon, Politico, The Atlantic, TNR, and the National Review among other. In comparison to the muck raked on this issue by these bloggers, the Times falls pathetically short.



Nominee Ends Bid for Key Job in Intelligence

Published: March 10, 2009

WASHINGTON — Charles W. Freeman Jr., the Obama administration’s choice for a major intelligence post, withdrew his name on Tuesday and blamed pro-Israel lobbying groups, saying they had distorted his record and campaigned against him.

Mr. Freeman had come under sharp criticism for his past statements about Israel as well as for his association with the Saudi and Chinese governments.

Mr. Freeman’s withdrawal from consideration as chairman of the National Intelligence Council came just hours after Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, vigorously defended him and said that his comments had been taken out of context.

In a message to colleagues and friends, first posted Tuesday evening on Foreign Policy magazine’s Web site, Mr. Freeman blamed pro-Israel groups for the controversy, saying 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.”

Joshua Block, a spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a lobbying group, said Tuesday that his organization had not taken a formal position on Mr. Freeman’s selection and had not lobbied Congress members to oppose it.

A former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Mr. Freeman had in recent years questioned Washington’s steadfast support for Israel. He had also been deputy chief of mission at the American Embassy in Beijing. His critics unearthed past statements that they contended had seemed to support the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Critics in Congress also questioned Mr. Freeman’s financial ties to China; he had served for four years on the board of the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation. He also led the Middle East Policy Council, a Washington-based group that receives financial support from the Saudi government.

In the intelligence post, Mr. Freeman would have overseen the production of national intelligence estimates, which represent the consensus of the government’s 16 intelligence agencies.

Opposition to Mr. Freeman’s appointment had been building on Capitol Hill, and several lawmakers said they had been lobbying the White House to withdraw its support for Mr. Freeman.

On Tuesday morning, Mr. Blair told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Mr. Freeman’s strong views and “inventive mind” would be important ingredients in producing sound intelligence assessments rather than “precooked pablum judgments.”

NYT editor on the decision not to plunge into the fray: http://www.politico.com/blogs/michaelcalderone/0309/NYTs_Baquet_defends_handling_of_Freeman_saga.html?showall

Meat from the NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/12/washington/12lobby.html?hp I’m sure it was my letter that did it.


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