Chuck Schumer has basically taken credit but as I reported for the Daily Beast, the Freeman hit was an Israel Lobby job from start to finish, originating on the blog of accused spy and former AIPAC director Steve Rosen,who now works for neocon Daniel Pipes. I will be on Al Jazeera English at 10:15 PM tonight to discuss the resignation. It is not receiving much coverage from the mainstream press — they don’t want to talk about the Lobby? — but it is extraordinarily significant. I consider the withdrawal it the first major setback of the Obama administration’s foreign policy.
Accused Israeli spy Steve Rosen was the first to attack Chas Freeman's views on Israel and, ironically, to accuse him of loyalty to foreign governments
The assault on Charles “Chas” Freeman Jr., a former ambassador tapped to lead the National Intelligence Council, is the first blow in a battle over the Obama administration’s Middle East policy. Steven Rosen, a former director of the American Israel Political Affairs Committee due to stand trial this April for espionage for Israel, is the leader of the campaign against Freeman’s appointment. In his wake, a host of critics from the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg to the New Republic’s Marty Peretz have emerged to assail Freeman’s comments on Israeli policies and demand that Obama rescind the diplomat’s appointment. The campaign against Freeman spread to Congress, where a handful of representatives including the top recipient of AIPAC donations, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), called for an investigation of Freeman’s business ties to China and Saudi Arabia.
But it was Rosen who first publicly accused Freeman of unholy ties to foreign governments and Rosen who first attacked Freeman’s relatively benign statements about the Israeli occupation. His tactics follow a familiar pattern he has displayed throughout his career, in which he viciously undermined anyone in the foreign-policy community deemed insufficiently deferential to Israel—even his own boss. But with Rosen’s indictment for spying for a foreign government, his attacks are resonating less strongly than in the past. “What’s so strange is that the face of the campaign against Freeman is Steve Rosen, and he is the weakest possible face,” said M.J. Rosenberg, a former colleague of Rosen’s at AIPAC who now serves as policy director for the Israel Policy Forum. “You couldn’t have picked anyone less credible to lead the charge.” Continue reading →
The RNC's first African American chair bows to a racist
Former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele assumed the Republican National Committee’s chair a month ago with great fanfare. The first African American elected to the position, Steele triumphed over a candidate who once belonged to a whites-only country club, and another who had distributed a CD that included the song, “Barack, the Magic Negro.” Days after taking over the party’s moribund infrastructure, Steele promised an “off the hook” PR campaign to apply conservative principles to “urban-suburban hip-hop settings”—offering the GOP a much-needed image makeover for the dawning of the age of Obama.
Hip-hop legend Russell Simmons hailed Steele’s election in an open letter, assuring his friend, “The hip-hop community remains eager to hear the views of national leaders like you…” But Simmons added a warning: “Don’t let those who are angry in your base guide your choices or let the people to the left of President Obama push your buttons.”
Of course, many of those to “the left of President Obama,” including members of “the hip-hop community,” greeted Steele’s election with a collective yawn. Meanwhile, the RNC chairman made little noise at the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference, with one exception that occurred only after he finished addressing a dinner banquet. He turned the mic over to Representative Michele Bachman of Minnesota. “You be da man! You be da man!” Bachmann repeatedly shouted to him. The awkward incident was among the evening’s top stories on cable news shows, while Steele’s jeremiad against Obama’s stimulus package went almost unnoticed.
When Rush Limbaugh basked in the CPAC spotlight for more than an hour and a half on February 28, drawing boisterous, sustained applause from conference attendees with a stemwinding speech reiterating his desire to see Obama “fail,” Steele took action. The following evening, on CNN’s D.L. Hughley show, Steele attempted to reassert control over the party. When Hughley referred to Limbaugh as “the de facto leader of the Republican Party,” Steele shot back, “No, I’m the de facto leader of the Republican Party!” And he mocked Limbaugh as an “entertainer” whose behavior was “incendiary” and “ugly.”
During day two of the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference, I encountered former McCain-Palin surrogate Joe the Plumber (real name: Samuel Wurzelbacher) promoting his new book, Joe The Plumber: Fighting for the American Dream. While I stood in line to meet Joe, a star-struck young man asked him if he had plans to run for Congress. “Not for at least six years,” the unlicensed plumber announced.
When my turn with Joe arrived, I asked him to confirm a report that he had recently addressed congressional Republican staffers. Joe described how he gave his “uninvited opinion” to a captive audience of nearly 100 staffers, deploring the lack of leadership and “politically correct” tendencies within the GOP. “They did applaud,” Joe said of staffers’ reaction. “A lot of them did seem to like it.” A new Republican leader was born.
Inside CPAC’s exhibition hall, I met James Hutchens, founder of the Christian Zionist lobbying group, The Jerusalem Connection International. Hutchens told me his group favored forcing the Palestinians from the West Bank to Jordan and from the Gaza Strip to Egypt. I asked him if he thought cattle cars would be an efficacious means of transporting the Palestinians to their new homes. “Certainly not cattle cars,” Hutchens said. “I mean, you can ride a bus across the Jordan River to Jordan.”
Phil Munger has written an open letter to professional rage-aholic “Konrad” aka John Ziegler. He points out quite correctly that Ziegler is impressed by power and by the powerful, especially Sarah Palin. Ziegler is, to paraphrase Carl Ford’s description of John Bolton, a kiss up, kick down kind of guy. However, after Ziegler released his interview with Palin in which she blamed the media for her plight (the full interview was shown at CPAC), she accused him of causing her more negative publicity. I also learned from Tommy Christopher, the AOL blogger who interviewed Ziegler and me at CPAC, that Ziegler privately admitted to using a false name to “get his foot in the door” with me; to essentially deceive me into appearing in his “documentary.” Munger’s letter is below the fold.