It was disappointing to see this in the news today. Ambassador Chas Freeman withdrew from consideration for a top intelligence post in the Obama administration yesterday. I don’t know him but the way he was kicked around is shameful. His long experience in public service and the personal endorsement of 17 former U.S. ambassadors and seven former senior intelligence officials did not seem to matter.
The interest of the many outweighs the interest of the one? Even if he was not “encouraged” to withdraw from consideration, this is not a good sign. I expected more from this administration especially in terms of welcoming dissenting and beyond the beltway views. Now more than ever, we need people who can speak bluntly and truthfully even when it is inconvenient. I think less of this administration today than I did yesterday.
When Admiral Blair asked me to chair the NIC I responded that I understood he was “asking me to give my freedom of speech, my leisure, the greater part of my income, subject myself to the mental colonoscopy of a polygraph, and resume a daily commute to a job with long working hours and a daily ration of political abuse.” I added that I wondered “whether there wasn’t some sort of downside to this offer.”
I am not so immodest as to believe that this controversy was about me rather than issues of public policy. These issues had little to do with the NIC and were not at the heart of what I hoped to contribute to the quality of analysis available to President Obama and his administration. Still, I am saddened by what the controversy and the manner in which the public vitriol of those who devoted themselves to sustaining it have revealed about the state of our civil society. It is apparent that we Americans cannot any longer conduct a serious public discussion or exercise independent judgment about matters of great importance to our country as well as to our allies and friends.
Ambassador Charles Freeman
Wall Street Journal │March 10, 2009
Read the full piece here.
David Rothkopf in Foreign Policy writes: “Further, those who celebrate keeping out Freeman or any others whose views do not align with theirs or who feared his associations would do well to remember that the same kind of criteria can be applied by other groups. The result is not a government of people without conflicts of interest or troubling ties, rather it is a government full of people whose conflicts and ties are with groups powerful enough to protect them. This among other reasons is why I, as a Jew with a memory, was so opposed to the attacks on Freeman. But for the record, the most compelling reason I found for believing Chas Freeman would have been a superb Chairman of the National Intelligence Council was one that seldom came up in all the articles I read. I actually know him.”