Charles Freeman, former ambassador to Saudia Arabia and a longtime State Department official, was targeted for destruction by neoconservatives for being anti-Israel and soft on totalitarian regimes such as China. Now he has indeed been destroyed. The Obama administration had chosen Freeman to become head of the national intelligence council, which drafts strategic assessments for the president. Today Freeman withdrew after coming under severe fire in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, and Weekly Standard, among other publications, which depicted him as essentially a mole for the House of Saud.
It's a big victory for the neocons--and an even bigger embarrassment for the Obama administration, which clearly was caught by surprise and never fully vetted Freeman. Despite the common notion that the neocons are a spent force, the destruction of Freeman's nomination shows that they continue to wield substantial influence in Washington. Freeman had made inflammatory statements about the 1989 Tienanmen Square massacre, which indicated that he sided with Beijing against the students. He also publicly denounced Israel for seeking, in his words, to "pacify" the Palestinians rather than reach a peace agreement with them and he praised the work of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, authors of The Israel Lobby.
All of this was more than enough to draw the ire of the neocons. Freeman's name was a red flag to them. The administration, however, was caught napping and turned out to be unwilling to do battle for Freeman. Now he has become the latest failed appointment. For their part, the neocons can enjoy the satisfaction of having claimed a fresh scalp. Who's next?