Obama Honeymoon-Over Watch: Jon Stewart and Chas Freeman

I’ve been neglecting the “Honeymoon-Over Watch” category of my blog because the notion of “watching” for something implies infrequent sightings, not a target-rich environment. The media certainly has not been hounding Obama as mercilessly as it did his predecessor, and I’m quite confident that will never happen. But the stimulus fight and economic news have been bruising, and now even the New York Times editorial page has seen fit to take a few jabs at the still-new administration. Last week, in discussing AIG Bailout 4.0, the Times snarked:

This time, the Obama Treasury Department — sounding a lot like the Bush Treasury Department — promised another $30 billion to the American International Group, the giant insurer….

What no one is saying — the Bush folks wouldn’t, and the Obama team seems to have taken the same vow of Wall Street omertà — is which firms would be most threatened by an A.I.G. collapse.

Also last week, comparisons of Obama and Bush spread to the late-night comedy shows (hat tip: Pajamas Media). Jon Stewart is a very funny man, and is backed by a team of writers and researchers who expertly suss out whiffs of hypocrisy by comparing current news footage with embarrassing older footage. Stewart is a stalwart leftie, but I admire his craft even though I frequently disagree with his views.

When Obama announced his plans for withdrawal from Iraq recently, I wrote that it was exactly the same as the plan President Bush announced last year. Last week, Stewart made the same point, only much funnier (4:16):

Perhaps the true test of the “overness” of the honeymoon will be found in the reporting of the Congressional testimony today of Dennis Blair, the Director of National Intelligence, who will be asked (by Republicans) about his appointment of Chas Freeman to chair the National Intelligence Council. So far only conservative media outlets — including the Wall Street Journal editorial page and the Washington Times — seem to have made note of the impending testimony. From the National Review’s editorial:

Charles Freeman is a career diplomat, a Saudi apologist, and a savage critic of Israel. He also argues that Beijing did not strike down the Tiananmen Square protesters with sufficient swiftness. Barack Obama proposes to make him head of the National Intelligence Council. It’s an abominable appointment. …

He has distinguished himself as a rabid Israel-hater who regards the Jewish state’s defensive measures as the primary cause of jihadist terror. He is a shameless apologist for Saudi Arabia (where he once served as U.S. ambassador) despite its well-documented record of exporting terrorists and jihadist ideology. And he is a long-time sycophant of Beijing, where he served as Richard Nixon’s interpreter during the 1971 summit and later ran the U.S. diplomatic mission.

As Jake Tapper notes on his ABC News blog, Freeman appears to blame “the Israel Lobby” for the 9/11 attacks.

Freeman in 2006 wrote of the U.S.-Israel relationship, “We have paid heavily and often in treasure for our unflinching support and unstinting subsidies of Israel’s approach to managing its relations with the Arabs. Five years ago, we began to pay with the blood of our citizens here at home.”

At Commentary’s blog, Contentions, Jennifer Rubin notes describes the scanty coverage of the appointment, then asks:

[H]ow long can the rest of the mainstream media hold out without reporting on an embarrassing debacle for the Obama administration? This is the John Edwards story on steroids — a virtual conspiracy of silence with little if any journalistic justification. And here the issue is really important — the appointment of a key intelligence official who is alleged to harbor serious conflicts of interest and extreme views.

How long? We should know later today. Blair’s testimony is already under way.

Update: In today’s hearing, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., pursued the Chas Freeman issue in a lukewarm challenge to Dennis Blair. Here are transcript and video (begins at about the 87-minute mark). Blair said:

We’ve found over time that the best way to inform policy is to have strong views held within the intelligence community and then out of those we come out with the best ideas.

As Lieberman closed by saying, “to be continued.”

Updated Update: Late this afternoon, apparently shortly after I left my global headquarters in Maplewood to go into Manhattan for an event, Chas Freeman withdrew his nomination. The earliest timestamp I can find is on a Wall Street Journal blog at 5:29 p.m. Eastern. More than four hours later, there is no mention of the withdrawal on the homepages of the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN or MSNBC. The Times and the Post are probably keeping their powder dry while they prepare articles for their print editions, but I have no idea what the excuse is for CNN and MSNBC. Yet another high-profile Obama appointee has to withdraw? That isn’t news?

Next-Day Update: Unbelievable.

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