As I said before, I wasn't paying attention to the Charles Freeman imbroglio, but, even though it's been over for awhile, every time I look into the Washington Post, its editors are still talking about him as if he had set fire to the Declaration of Independence. Now, WaPo editorial board member Charles Lane (formerly, one of Marty Peretz's many bright young men who served as editor of The New Republic) is trying to force Obama into denouncing public mention of the power of the Israel Lobby.
There's been much talk about Charles Freeman and the angry parting shot he aimed at the "Israel Lobby," which he blames for forcing him to withdraw as President Obama's choice for chairman of the National Intelligence Council.
Amid the hubbub, however, no one seems to have noticed that Freeman's broadside against "unscrupulous people with a passionate attachment to the views of a political faction in a foreign country" was also a not-very-implicit indictment of the president himself.
To be sure, Freeman protested his "respect" for both Obama and Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence directly responsible for picking Freeman. But if Freeman's attack on the "Israel Lobby" means anything at all, it is that the president and his staff are either too weak to resist the machinations of these foreign agents -- or are in cahoots with them. The same would go for the senators and House members who also opposed Freeman.
Freeman himself wrote that the affair "will be seen by many to raise serious questions about whether the Obama administration will be able to make its own decisions about the Middle East and related issues. I regret that my willingness to serve the new administration has ended by casting doubt on its ability to consider, let alone decide, what policies might best serve the interests of the United States rather than those of a Lobby intent on enforcing the will and interests of a foreign government."
So far, however, President Obama has had exactly nothing to say about this extraordinary claim -- either in his own defense, or in defense of the American citizens whom Freeman has impugned.
Asked on Tuesday whether Obama agreed that Freeman was "unfairly driven out," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said he hadn't talked to the president about it and left the briefing room. When I contacted the White House press office on Friday, a spokesman e-mailed back that they "don't have anything additional to add."
No doubt the president faces a dilemma. I imagine that he finds Freeman's comments repugnant ...
Why would you imagine that? I would imagine that Obama, deep down, sympathizes more with Muslims than Israelis: his emotional ties to various Muslim individuals and his interest in the Black Muslims are a major theme in Dreams from My Father, while his few remarks about Jews are neutral. But he's calculated, sensibly, that the Israel Firsters are vastly more powerful in American politics and media, so he'll try hard to give the Israel Lobby enough that it won't make trouble for him.
... but to say so publicly would raise questions about why the man was appointed in the first place. And Obama has other things on his plate. If I were him, I'd rather deal with Citibank than dive into the nasty Freeman fight.But the administration's silence is disappointing just the same. The president needs to knock Freeman's insinuations down hard ...
How? By shouting "Pay no attention to that Lobby behind the curtain!"?
This is just a ploy by the Israel Lobby to show off their power, to make Obama dance to their tune, to humiliate the President by forcing him to make a big speech claiming he's not dancing to their tune, that there's not even a tune playing, that only Bad People hear any music. They want him to say like Richard Pryor to his wife, "Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying ears?"