Having taken Chas Freeman's scalp, the neoconservatives, GOP hardliners, and the Israel lobby are looking for fresh blood, and they might feel emboldened enough to start taking the the whole of Barack Obama's foreign policy.
The newest target in their sights is Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, who is the man who appointed and defended Freeman. According to Newsweek Blair is under attack not only over Freeman, but because he's named John Deutch to a temporary post reviewing US spy-satellite programs. The unnamed "critics" cited by the magazine aren't after Blair because of Freeman and Deutch, of course, but because they're feeling enough oats to try to knock off a much higher-level target. Report Mark Hosenball and Michael Isikoff:
Add president Obama's national intelligence czar, Dennis Blair, to the list of embattled top-level appointees. Blair, a retired four-star Navy admiral who attended Oxford with Bill Clinton, courted controversy among pro-Israel and anti-China activists this month when he named Charles (Chas) Freeman, an outspoken former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, to chair the National Intelligence Council, a committee of the government's top intel analysts. After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other pols complained to the White House, Freeman abruptly withdrew. Now both Republican and Democratic intel experts are raising questions about another Blair pick: John Deutch, a former CIA director once accused of major security lapses, who's been appointed to a temporary panel reviewing troubled, top-secret spy-satellite programs.
Congressional critics, including some Democrats, say the two appointments illustrate Blair's tin ear.
The start of an attack on Blair is just one aspect of the beginning of the assault on Obama's foreign policy, as Fareed Zakaria points out. Yesterday, Zakaria invited Freeman to appear on his CNN program, Fareed Zakaria GPS. Today, writing in the Washington Post, Zakaria has a remarkable op-ed saying that the "Washington establishment" is beginning to worry about Obama's plans:
The Washington establishment is mostly fretting, dismayed in one way or another by [Obama's] moves. The conservative backlash has been almost comical in its fury. ...
The problem with American foreign policy goes beyond George Bush. It includes a Washington establishment that has gotten comfortable with the exercise of American hegemony and treats compromise as treason and negotiations as appeasement. Other countries can have no legitimate interests of their own. The only way to deal with them is by issuing a series of maximalist demands. This is not foreign policy; it's imperial policy. And it isn't likely to work in today's world.
Dick Cheney's statement on CNN yesterday that Obama has put Americans at greater risk of a terrorist attack may be an opening shot. "He is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack," Cheney warned.
UPDATE: Here's an exchange from today's White House briefing on Cheney's complaints, when a reporter asked the White House spokesman about what Cheney said
Q If I could follow up, former Vice President Cheney was on "State of the Union" yesterday -- and a lot of criticism of this White House. To boil it down, on national security, he said the President's policies are making the country less safe. And on the economy, he was charging that the President is taking advantage of the financial crisis to vastly expand the government in all kinds of ways -- health, education, energy. How do you respond to those kinds of allegations from the former Vice President?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I guess Rush Limbaugh was busy -- (laughter) -- so they trotted out the next most popular member of the Republican cabal. (Laughter.)